What makes a beautiful perennial garden? There is no recipe or guarantee, but I can list a few things I noticed over the years that all thriving gardens have in common.

Work with the land you have

I know this ingredient can be supplanted by a simply unreasonable amount of work and earth moving, but growing a garden is a love story, not a conquest war. Your garden will tell you what it wants to grow if you take a moment to pay attention to it. Test your soil, notice which plants are thriving, plan according to its natural levels of moisture and remember: if your plantings can't survive without your constant intervention for even a season, you don't have a garden, you have a hostage situation.

Cultivate harmony

Companion planting is very important and there are so many sources of information about how to find successful combinations. You may be surprised to learn that some plants really hate each other and they won't stop until they take each other out, not exactly a desirable long term result. Harmonious plant combinations work on all levels: underground, where their roots have to negotiate the common resources, at ground level, where they need to parcel out their living space, and in their aerial parts where the plants compete for the sunshine. Once the plant combination reaches balance and all the denizens' needs are met the garden can thrive for decades with very little input from the gardener. Humbling, I know.

Use scale and variety

A beautiful garden has a little bit of everything from the tiny moss between the stepping stones to the tallest trees. It has drifts of color and specimen plantings, different textures, climbers and groundcovers, changes through the seasons.

Diligent maintenance

Sadly, there is no way around this, not if you want to maintain any semblance of the original design. Perennials are messy living things and they need cleaning, pruning, pinching and dead heading to look their best and if you don't tend to the weeds on a regular schedule, they will take over because they are relentless and highly motivated to stand their ground.

Last, but not least, if you should be so lucky to have a particular plant thrive beyond your wildest imagination, that's a plant you plan the garden around. Don't move thriving rose bushes, flowering lilacs, established peonies that bloom every year, climbers that have gotten settled on their supports. No amount of gardening expertise will reestablish the balance the plant had reached naturally with its environment in order to flourish like that, basically if it ain't broke...

Author's Bio: 

Main Areas: Garden Writing; Sustainable Gardening; Homegrown Harvest
Published Books: “Terra Two”; “Generations”; "The Plant - A Steampunk Story"; "Letters to Lelia"; "Fair"; "Door Number Eight"; "A Year and A Day"; "Möbius' Code"; "Between Mirrors"; "The Blue Rose Manuscript"
Career Focus: Author; Consummate Gardener;
Affiliation: All Year Garden; The Weekly Gardener; Francis Rosenfeld's Blog

I started blogging in 2010, to share the joy of growing all things green and the beauty of the garden through the seasons. Two garden blogs were born: allyeargarden.com and theweeklygardener.com, a periodical that followed it one year later. I wanted to assemble an informal compendium of the things I learned from my grandfather, wonderful books, educational websites, and my own experience, in the hope that other people might use it in their own gardening practice.