As always, I’m truly honored to be included as a Contributor to The Garden Designer’s Roundtable for April. This month we decided to take a look at some of our favorite plants. The Top Ten “Go-To” plants for my landscape or container design work are precious to me like children. In reality there’s no possible way that I can realistically keep my choices limited to only ten. That’s like asking a mother which child she loves most or which arm is your favorite. Though I do have my list whittled down for this post, these are my picks for the most reliably hardy performers here in the Northwest USDA Zone 7. These picks also have a wide variety of cultivars to choose from and in many cases possess the multiple personality traits that I require for great plant selections in my design planning.
My choices are in no particular order of favorites that would just be asking for trouble in the ranks. Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge.
- First up is Euphorbia. Almost any and all are welcome to my garden unless they seed SO prolifically that they take all the fun out of life. The particular cultivar above is certainly one of my absolute favorites, Euphorbia Myrsinites or Donkey Tail Spurge. It has personality for season after season of interest, and then some! When used as a ground cover or trailing over the edge of a pot, its frequently the plant that garners the most attention in many of my designs, spring summer, and fall.
Second up is a two-fer bonus. Hardy Geraniums and Nepeta or Catmint. The two go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly. Pictured here are 'Magnificum' for its fantastically large blue flowers that are uber showy. And not to be outdone, the large foliage on my favorite 'Magnificum' gets the most de-lish fall color! Plus, if you whack it back half way through the season, she just says "Bring it on!" And keeps flowering until frost while showing those fall jewel tones. Catmint, 'Walker's Low' is just a no brainer. Silvery foliage that looks great well before it ever blooms, drought tolerant, blooms ALL season until frost and Deer won't eat it! What more could you want?
Third is Sedum. How do I love thee? Let me count the names. Angelina, Voodoo, Chocolate Ball, Neon, Autumn Joy, Autumn Charm, October, Blue Spruce, Vera Jamison, Black Jack, Bertram Anderson, aaaaahhhh. Drought tolerant, tough and forgiving of bad soils. Need I say more? OK, foliage color, winter color, bloom colors, texture...
Fourth is the Hosta. One of the most architecturally perfect plants I know. If the seduction of the foliage and variety of colors and textures were not enough, the flowers of whites and lavender surely would be right? No? How about intoxicating fragrance as a cut flower in a vase? See, got ya!!!
Fifth is Robinia Pseudoacacia 'Frisia'. I desperately wish I had more pictures of this tree that I so dearly adore. This was taken in my last garden a number of years ago just as it was maturing. In the home before that I had three. I really should try to cram one into my "Barbie's Dream Garden" sized home now. The color is stop traffic gold. This picture really doesn't do it proper justice. I was introduced to it many years ago for the first time at the original beloved and now legendary, Heronswood in Kingston Washington. It took my breath away as I came upon it in the forest under a shaft of sunlight. yes, it was THAT stunning!
Sixth is Salvia Officianalis 'Tri-Color'. I think it pretty much speaks on its own behalf here. But, I will say this, drought tolerant, excellent foliage interest, summer blooms, not interesting to deer. I buy more of them every year. Period.
Seven is the Japanese Maple. I live in Japanese Maple country. The nursery I work for sells hundreds upon hundreds every year. Small ones, short ones, tall ones, fat leaves skinny leaves of red, yellow, green and orange, even coral! our cool and mild weather her in the NW is perfect for them here. My collection is small compared to my friends, not to mention my friends who are collectors! Yowza! This weeping one pictured was my birthday gift to myself a few years ago along with the pot.
This Japanese Maple was an Orphan looking for its third home. It's a very not so Coral, Coral Bark Maple or 'Sango-Kaku'. One of the traits for this cultivar is that as they age they lose the coral on the lower trunk line. This one was quite thoroughly abused before coming home to me. It had a major crack in the bark at the base and I thought for certain it would die in the first year. I consulted with experts who all gave me the same short-term diagnosis of certain death as well. I put an entire yard of gravel under her, along with an entire yard of brand new soil/compost mix, her very own soaker hose and lots of loving alfalfa meal and minerals. She's on year four now and her gash is healing and she's putting on new growth every year! It's a horticultural miracle Charlie Brown!
Eight is the Hydrangea Paniculata. My goal is to have as many of these in all varieties as I can fit into my tiny landscape. This defines the perfect Tri-Fecta plant for me to a T. OK, your challenge, read this all in one breath: It's easy-going from sun to part shade, it has lovely foliage that never wavers with disease issues. It has a huge number of flower styles, sizes and colors to choose from. It blooms forever (almost) AND it gets tremendous fall color all while holding those magnificent blooms into winter. -Phew, that exhausted me. :-)Pictured here: 'Quick-Fire' and 'Angel Blush' before the blush.
Heuchera is number nine, but not in my heart. These plants are a small addictive issue that I am trying to come to terms with every year. But then, dang it if they don't introduce a new one that I HAVE to have!!! Pictured here is 'Velvet Night' and 'Caramel'.My latest obsession is 'Rave On', appropriate eh? She flowered for over 5 straight months last year! Usually you don't really get them for their spectacular blooms but for the striking foliage and texture. But, 'Rave On' had me at her waving little cherry colored bells. I think I have to lay down now.
Number ten is Leucothoe, my beloved shrub that I can't live without. Pronounced 'Lew-co-the-way', it comes in a few cultivars, but I mostly use 'Rainbow', pictured above. These shots show it in both its fall color going into winter with the truck driver chick of Coleus 'Big Red Judy' and to the right in spring coming out of its winter color into it's lighter marbled shades to come of cream's and greens. It's softly arching growth habit and fragrant flowers in spring are bonus points for this glorious plant that takes shade to part sun and plays nicely with others. I have heard recently that some have deer trouble with it, but the deer have never once bothered it here in my yard. Maybe they're too well fed by the time they get here?
Number eleven, yes 11, is Ilex Crenata 'Golden Helleri'. This is one of my newest friends as of last year, I am fully invested in obsession after it utterly sailed through our really rough early winter last season. In our gray climate this gold is a stand out above all else- 'nuff said.
Number twelve is the Euonymous family. This one pictured (Euonymous Fortunei 'Emerald Gaeity') is in my garden and she's putting on quite the show of her winter colors here even though I took this last week! this tells how cold it's been here lately. The whole family has been a useful addition to the landscape though I have amended my feelings about some of the larger shrub varieties that have performed weakly in the last few years of winters. But, if given just the right spot, THIS is what CAN happen.
Lucky number thirteen is Physocarpus 'Ninebark'- that MUST bode well right? This one is 'Diablo', but I also have 'Coppertina' and 'Center Glow' which are equally great if not better. The blooms, the seed heads, the foliage, the drought tolerance, the soil tolerance, it's simply an easy to please plant that delivers every year! Pretty peely bark and with proper pruning technique it can be an elegant screening plant too.
Be sure to read the other posts from talented designers from across the globe who contributed to the Garden Designer’s Roundtable this month! Here’s links to make it easy:
What a HUGE honor for us here in the GDRT Gang- Don’t miss this months’ super special guest poster, none other than Nancy Ondra http://hayefield.com/
Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA
Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO
Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA
Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK
Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA
Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA
Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA
Also don’t forget to check us out on Facebook too!