Still stinging from your last water bill? Good news! As promised in my last post on drought tolerant trees and shrubs, here is my report on those annuals and perennials that came through our crazy 2017 PNW summer with style. That means they coped with:
- three months without rain
- no irrigation or hand watering (although annuals received water every few days for the first month after they were planted)
- clay soil that bakes dry like a river bed in summer
- many weeks with 80' – 90' temperatures and several days over 100'
- daily visits from hungry, inquisitive deer
All the plants listed were planted in the ground – not containers.
Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii)
What can I say? It is outstanding. if you see it – buy it. Buy lots. At least three – or thirty. Plant, stand back and wait for three years. Then thank me. Details and lots of great photos here. Combination ideas in our latest book Gardening with Foliage First.
Kudos Mandarin hyssop (Agastache 'Kudos Mandarin')
I have grown many varieties of hyssop over the years (Agastache sp.) but few survive my clay soil that bakes in summer and becomes a sticky goo in winter, so I consider them annuals in my garden. Kudos Mandarin hyssop surprised me – all of last years plants returned with vigor! The hummingbirds and I were most impressed. You will be too.
Tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
Love, love, love this perennial that self seeds politely in gravel or soil and creates a magical scrim effect in the garden. Looks fabulous no matter where it lands but I especially love it in combination with orange flowers. The photos above depict it combined with butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Flasher daylilies (Hemerocallis 'Flasher'). In another part of the garden I have it with an orange blooming cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa 'Bella Sol').
Details for this fabulous perennial here and check out the combination called Golden Threads in Gardening with Foliage First for ideas too. WARNING: This has been listed as invasive in some areas – check before planting.
Zagreb tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata 'Zagreb')
I have several varieties of tickseed in the garden but Zagreb is my favorite for its feathery green foliage that turns gold in fall and its sunny yellow daisies.
Sea holly (Eryngium sp.)
I need more of these! Of those shown I currently have all but the last two in my garden. Here's the rundown: Sapphire Blue (Eryngium 'Sapphire Blue') is my favorite for color and its gentle self-seeding which gives me free plants (- have to love that)! I do like Neptune's Gold (Eryngium xzabelli 'Neptune's Gold') for the chartreuse foliage but the leaves seems to get a fungal disease mid-summer and I have to cut them back which is disappointing. I wonder if other gardeners/areas fare better? Jade Frost (Eryngium planum 'Jade Frost') has lovely variegated foliage but I am noticing some reversion. The delicate flowers are attractive though. Rattlesnake master is a different species (Eryngium yuccifolium) and looks stunning! Best for the middle of a border as it is taller and the lower leaves can get significant slug damage if not controlled. Wonderful architectural plant.
On my serious wish list is Silver Ghost (Eryngium giganteum 'Silver Ghost'), seen in Portland and totally lust-worthy! Also shown is one that I suspect is Miss. Wilmott's Ghost -(Eryngium giganteum 'Miss Wilmott's Ghost') the classic I first grew in England. (Feel free to correct my ID though if you recognize nuances I've missed).
Overall the beauty of this species to me is that although they would be happier in sandier soil, they thrive in my clay garden with minimal care – even in half day rather than all day sun. Drier climates can enjoy the seed heads well into winter too (Hint: there are two fabulous combinations in our book Gardening with Foliage First that showcase Sapphire Blue and our book cover shot/combination includes Neptune's Gold!).
Blanket flower (Gaillardia sp.)
These have surprised me. I grew the first two varieties (Arizona Sun and Arizona Apricot) from seed last year and enjoyed them in my vegetable garden where they went from seed to gallon sized, blooming plants in less than six months. You can read about them and get design ideas here. This year I transplanted most of them to other areas of the landscape where they were subject to tough love i.e. no water and lots of deer. A few didn't like being transplanted but most did just fine and looked fabulous despite benign neglect – and clay soil! (We'll see what happens this winter in the clay soil though – that may be the kiss of death) I don't have Fanfare Blaze (the last photo) in my garden but included it as it is just so darn pretty!! A friend had this in her container last year and both the color and petal form was really eye catching – another one for my wish list!
Whirling Butterflies (Gaura lindheimerii 'Whirling Butterflies')
For sheer flower power and pure romance in the garden you can't beat Whirling Butterflies. The slender stalks of blooms dance in the slightest breeze, forming an enchanting scrim effect that is utterly feminine. They would prefer sandier soil but cope with mine. In fall I trim lightly to about 24" then put up with the less than attractive stalks all winter. In spring when I'm sure there are no more frosts likely I cut down to the uppermost bud – or about 12" if I want to manage the mature size (which can be at least 4' tall in my garden). Blooming starts late May and the plants still have lots of flowers even now in early October.
Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost')
Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Silvery stems, fragrant leaves and blue flowers. Lots of named varieties of Russian sage to choose from with varying heights to suit every site. I treat pruning the same way as my whirling butterflies (Gaura sp. )above.
Other honorable mentions:
Variegated lemon thyme, hardy succulents, sedges (Carex sp.), Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Spider Flower (Cleome sp.)
Taller varieties of spider flower are great for filling a gap at the back of a border during summer. Shorter varieties work well for the front of the border. Attract bees and butterflies and make great cut flowers too.
Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare)
I rely on this inexpensive annual for a rabbit resistant, deer resistant, drought tolerant summer groundcover in my large garden. One 4" plant can quickly fill a space at least 3' x 3'. Several varieties including a soft lemon-yellow and a mini-leaved form. There is a great idea for this in our book Gardening with Foliage First too! Details of this annual here
Rockin' Playin' the Blues sage (Salvia longispicata x farinacea 'Rockin' Playin' the Blues')
I haven't grown a sage yet that isn't drought tolerant and deer resistant, but this annual from Proven Winners was a new variety for me to test this year and I give it full marks for appearance, bloom power and low maintenance. At a glance it is similar to the well known Victoria Blue, but it's stature is greater and color deeper. Looking at the hardiness rating this may be a perennial for many – but an annual for me. Loved it as part of an informal floral meadow effect in the front garden this year (second photo above).
Jasmine alata, Jasmine tobacco (Nicotiana alata ) – an heirloom variety with unforgettable jasmine-type perfume in the evening.
Save money on your water bill next year by replacing your thirstier plants with these~
You may have noticed our book Gardening with Foliage First mentioned a few times….. Seriously if you haven't got this yet, why not? There are 127 great ideas in there! Buy one for your BFF for Christmas while you're at it!
For more ideas on drought tolerant plants do refer back to my last blog post which includes links to several other outstanding books that cover different parts of the country.
For more ideas on deer resistant plants, Ruth's book is a great start:
You'll have to wait for MY next book on Deer Resistant Drama (working title only) for inspirational deer resistant gardens from across the country (Timber Press, 2019). Be sure you sign up for my newsletters to hear when it is released.
Note: These Amazon affiliate links save YOU money – and earn me a few pennies