annuals

Contemporary Container Design

Contemporary Container Design

Thanks to YOU and your great ideas I finally got my new container planted. I’m not usually stumped – it was more that I had too MANY ideas, and your input helped hone them down perfectly. (In case you’ve forgotten you can revisit my original post Imagination Needed here. )

The criteria

Plants for the container needed to be:

  • Deer resistant
  • Reasonably drought tolerant (occasional blast with the hose)
  • Tolerant of full sun
  • Work with the surroundings plants and color scheme (sunset shades with silver and white accents)
  • Be visible from a distance but also interesting up close

 

How I got started

It is so important to stand back! I set out the plants, still in their pots then went to view them from the window. I loved the low profile of the design, how it moved in the breeze, how it left the shape of the container clearly visible and how it allowed the surrounding foliage to frame but not compete with it.

From 75′ away the details are not obvious – but the effect is.

Getting closer

Even though this is newly planted, and the plants are still small it doesn’t look too sparse even when viewed close up. There’s a sense of anticipation – a promise – of what’s to come. Bear in mind this is still May – it will look STUNNING by the time we are truly in summer mode.

The plants I chose – and why.

The inspiration for the whole design came from Lomandra ‘Platinum Beauty’, a gorgeous grass-like perennial from the Sunset and Southern Living collections which I used as the centerpiece. I am testing this to determine winter hardiness this year, but until now have assumed it is only a luscious annual fin Seattle. Gardeners are optimists though, right?

The delicate green and cream variegated foliage moves in the breeze – like a kinetic sculpture when set in this contemporary container. 

I flanked the finely textured Lomandra with two Senecio ‘Angel Wings’, whose bold, felted silver leaves are foliage-lovers eye candy on steroids. This is still in limited supply as it is so new to the market so if you see it – BUY it! The large heart-shaped leaves have a scalloped edge and the plant itself is said to be fast growing. In slug-infested Seattle, you will need to bait for those slimy, lace-making invertebrates but otherwise this promises to be the Plant of the Year for sheer beauty.

Senecio candicans ‘Angel Wings’. Photo courtesy Concept Plants

Adding a petticoat effect to the Senecio is Quicksilver hebe, whose tiny blue-grey leaves are held on stiff black stems, the color echoing that of the pot.

I could have left it at that, but it wasn’t quite “Karen” yet. I happened to have one pot of Kirigami ornamental oregano so I squeezed that in front of the Lomandra. The lavender and apple-green hop-like flowers will tumble nicely over the container edge while the round blue-green leaves works well with the monochromatic color scheme.

The finishing touch was Red Threads Alternanthera, sometimes called Joseph’s coat, whose purple foliage repeats the oregano blooms and adds contrast to all the paler shades. This is the least drought tolerant plant of the design so I’ll need to keep my eye on it! Here’s the funny thing about this annual; from a distance it disappears into the shadows. Yet up close the deeper color definitely enhances the overall combination.

Looking ahead

As a rule I don’t show you my freshly planted’ designs – preferring to “wow’ you with the fully grown version! But I wanted to say “thank you” for your inspiring ideas and also to show you that even a newly planted container using smaller than ideal plants can look beautiful if you know how to do it.

Which begs the question – how confident are YOU that every container you are planting will look amazing from the day you plant it, until frost?

  • Do you know how to plan efficiently,
  • shop effectively ,and
  • design like a professional?

Why don’t you check out my NEW online workshop where I teach all this and a whole lot more;

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New (and newly discovered) Deer Resistant Annuals

New (and newly discovered) Deer Resistant Annuals

When six plant-crazy women (collectively known as #NGBplantnerds), six overstuffed suitcases, numerous bulging camera bags,  a LARGE  bag of yummy snacks, and rather a lot of plants squeeze into a minivan for a Californian road trip, you can bet there’s going to be some laughs, plenty of wine, and lots of fun. You can also expect a few funny stories along the way: let’s just say that one unfortunate lavender plant got squished so many times it earned the nickname “Chernobyl” for it’s somewhat mutated shape….

Chernobyl sacrificed her good looks for a worthy cause, however. This was the annual road trip, hosted by the National Garden Bureau and All America Selections (AAS) to the California Spring Trials (CAST) This week long event is an opportunity for 59 plant breeders with displays at 16 different locations, to showcase their latest seed and vegetatively propagated annuals, perennials, edibles, and shrubs, hoping to tempt plant distributors, growers, and retail buyers into selecting their treasures for their customers. How many of the plants displayed actually make it to the retail nurseries and box stores? About 12%. Yikes – I had no idea, had you? Think of all the years that have gone into selectively breeding the latest speckled petunia – and it may never make it beyond CAST.

My role in this adventure

I was one of four garden writers selected to accompany Diane Blazek and Gail Pabst, both from the National Garden Bureau and AAS. As garden writers we are the link between these plant breeders and you, sharing the plants we were most excited about and giving you an insight into what we hope will be coming to retail nurseries near you either later this year or in spring 2019.

My two primary areas of interest were plants with great foliage (if they had flowers that was a bonus but not essential) and  anything new that was deer resistant. I was not disappointed as my 1000 or so photos will attest! To narrow it down I’m focusing this post on new deer resistant annuals. Some are new colors, a few have improved breeding, and one isn’t really new to the market, but it was new to me and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you.

You don’t have deer? Lucky you – enjoy these beauties anyhow!

Cool Shades of Violet, Blue and Aqua

Senetti® Magic Salmon

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Senetti® Magic Salmon by Suntory

You’ll probably recognize this flowering pot plant although this colorway is quite remarkable. The plant itself has a bewildering number of names. In the UK I knew it as Cineraria, but I see that today it is also referred to as a Senecio and a Pericallis hybrid. Regardless – did you know it is also deer resistant? That makes it a worthy container candidate in my view and this color was blow-your-socks-off amazing. Almost luminous, the violet-blue daisies have a distinctive salmon-pink eye.

Expect this to bloom late spring-early summer, so possibly a useful transitional plant for the container shoulder season? Unlike earlier introductions, the Senetti® series is unique in that it re-blooms. Introduced by Suntory.

Hot® lobelia series

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Snow Flurries combo of  Hot lobelia from Westhoff

I had pretty much dismissed lobelia from my radar until I discovered a few newer varieties that had been bred for improved heat resistance. That means they don’t peter out in August -my main complaint. Once I also realized they are deer resistant I got really excited and now look to include them in my designs!

This Hot series is said to be the most durable and heat tolerant lobelia on the market today. Bred by Westhoff these annuals are an upright form but as you can see from the photograph will gently mound over and soften container edges. I especially loved this color mix offered as a pre-planted combination called Snow Flurries, a blend of Hot Snow White and Hot Waterblue.

Surdiva® fan flower series

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Surdiva fan flowers from Suntory

I’ve always been a fan of fan flower (pun intended) (Scaevola sp.). They do well in full sun -part shade and are great minglers in mixed container designs, blooming non-stop for the entire summer planting season. They do tend to throw out long “arms” which can be a problem in smaller containers or more “disciplined” designs, however. Surdiva changes all that with more compact yet equally floriferous plants. Suntory is the breeder behind these award winning annuals. Shown here are three colors from that series that play especially well together: Blue Violet, Sky Blue, and White Improved.

No deadheading is necessary – and they will still have flowers when you get the first frost in fall.

Salvia Cathedral® Blue Bicolor

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Salvia Cathedral Blue Bicolor from Greenfuse

Salvias were one of the most popular new introductions – both annual and perennial varieties. All of which is good news if you share your garden with deer as they are typically ignored by those four-legged pests. I am always drawn to the two-tone varieties of Salvia farinacea such as this one called Cathedral Blue bicolor from Greenfuse, which is scheduled to reach nurseries next year and as yet is not listed on the breeder website (which goes to show how new it is!). This series performs well in hot and humid conditions as well as more temperate areas such as the PNW and starts blooming early in the season. At 12-16″  tall it is ideal for the border or pots.

Shimmering Silver and White

Makana Silver artemisia

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Artemisia ‘Makana Silver’ from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.

This one had me so excited I was positively giddy! Feathery, finely dissected, aromatic foliage that opens sea-green before maturing to a beautiful silver  – just imagine what I could do with this!! Well imagine no more as I have purchased FOUR of these samples from my local wholesale grower to experiment with – stay tuned! A new introduction from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., this annual is set to become a favorite of foliage lovers everywhere.

Drought tolerant, deer resistant and a delicious, fluffy mound of loveliness.

White Delight bidens

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White Delight bidens from Danziger

A few years ago, bidens were the last annuals standing on the nursery shelves. No-one wnate dthem or knew what to do with the overly-vigouros rather straggly things. Today, with improved breeding that has changed and bidens have  become popular trailing annuals for baskets and container. Colors are typically in fiery shades of orange or yellow – white is much harder to come by so I was pleased to see White Delight being offered by Danziger – one of their Timeless collection. Unlike those earlier introductions, White Delight appears less gangly, yet as cheerful, and floriferous as you’d hope. What do you think?

Rosy tones

Tattoo™ Papaya Vinca

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Tattoo Papaya vinca from PanAmerican seed

I’m not a fan of tattoos. Sorry. They make me squeamish just thinking about the needles involved. But this annual flowering Vinca Tattoo had me smitten to the point that I have begged one of our local production greenhouses to grow them! Unlike the trailing vinca (commonly called periwinkle) which is a shade loving, evergreen, trailing groundcover (Vinca spp.), this flowering annual is literally another genus (Catharanthus roseus) and prefers full sun.

We don’t usually see them in the Seattle area, but are very popular in states such as Florida and Texas. I’d love to see that changed because this deer resistant annual is a powerhouse of color. I especially loved the Papaya colorway shown here – and it is available this year from several sources including Burpee Seeds! Introduced by PanAmerican Seeds it is sure to become a firm favorite. Just look at the color blending in those blooms…. Like ink blots diffusing on a wet background.

(Also check out this page which lists mail order companies that sell a range of the PanAmerican seeds)

Joey lamb’s tails

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Just call me Joey – from Benary

As cute as a fuzzy pair of slippers – I was totally entranced by these when I saw them on display at Benary. Granted they are not new to the market but it was the first time I had seen them and loved this container combination using them.

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Joey and friends: design by Benary

Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey’ is a bit of a mouthful to remember. But it’s worth the effort to make a note of this Australian beauty that is drought tolerant, heat loving and deer resistant. And pettable. Just ask for Joey.

Hot and Spicy

Margarita African daisies

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Margarita Solar Flare and Margarita Rioja Red from Dummen Orange

That’s one sizzling combo right there. Pour the tequila – it’s time for a FIESTA!! African daisies (Osteospernum) are drought tolerant, deer resistant annuals (or perennials depending on where you live). This duo comprises Margarita Solar Flare and Margarita Rioja Red from Dummen Orange. A squeeze of lime and I’m yours.

Golden Empire & Blazing Glory bidens

Also from Danziger, these two varieties made an eye catching display. Golden Empire was noticeably upright and compact while Blazing Glory had  a spreading/trailing habit. Quite remarkable. I like to use bidens in my deer resistant container designs and have two large glossy orange pots where these would be great summer additions.

And in closing…

Yes we had lots of laughs along the way. I mean who doesn’t need a feather boa or two?

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Left to right: Four of the six #NGBPlantnerds –  Erin Shanen, Diane Blazek (our fearless leader), yours truly, Marianne Willburn. Playing at being canaries, with the new Canary Wings begonias from Ball Ingenuity.

2018 #NGBPlantnerds:

Diane Blazek – Executive Director, National Garden Bureau

Gail PabstNational Garden Bureau

Erin SchanenThe Impatient Gardener

Marianne WillburnThe Small Town Gardener

Tracy BlevinsPlants Map

 

You might also be interested in this post featuring new FOLIAGE plants at CAST

New Fine Foliage to Watch For

 

Big Ideas for Using Color in Small Spaces

So much color, so many ideas, so little time! That’s the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in a nutshell. Thank goodness for my camera because that’s how I can look back on special visual highlights to glean ideas for my own garden and share some of my favorites with you. In this post I’m focusing on some of the details from the City Living displays that caught me eye. These displays are created within an 12′ x 6′ footprint and intended to represent a typical city size balcony or condo patio, showing that a small space doesn’t mean compromising on style.

If you enjoyed my last post on Fearless Design – secrets for using bold color in the garden but wondered how those ideas could be translated to even smaller spaces, this post is for you

Crayola Colors

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Vibrant scarlet and golden-yellow tulips set the theme for the garden called “Seattle Style

Camden Gardens won the award for Best Design in the City Living Displays this year and I can understand why.  A border of glossy, golden yellow containers framed the space and brought instant sunshine to this petite grey Seattle patio. These were planted with a simple repeating combination of chartreuse conifers, vibrant red and gold tulips, yellow begonias and bi-color primroses.

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Award winning display “Seattle Style”  by Camden Gardens

Clusters of tall, white, circular containers were the perfect counterpoint to the linear display while one single bronze vessel with unique geometric lines took the container display from well done to exceptional. The red and yellow color scheme was continued in all the containers – except a single bronze one, which included blue flowering accents.

A unique bronze container added blue grape hyacinths (Muscari) as an accent color

A unique bronze container added blue grape hyacinths (Muscari) as an accent color

I also loved the use of a sculptural piece of driftwood inserted into one of the tall containers, its organic shape acting as a  frame for several colorful glass balls while also introducing the juxtaposition of a natural element within the man-made.

All the finishing touches were pulled together with an artistic eye for both repetition and contrast. It’s a perfect oasis for an Seattle couple – and their pampered pup, as this patio includes a comfy dog bed and water bowl for the furry family member too.

Color for Cocktail Gardens

Dee Montpetit is no stranger to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, and her display this year, “A Botanical Soiree” had all her usual hallmarks of  great use of color, interesting container combinations, and attention to detail.

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“A Botanical Soiree” designed by Dee Montpetit

 

The silver chairs, table, and buffet had an airiness to their design, the transparency enhancing the sense of space on the small patio.

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A wall-hung, mosaic framed mirror reflects the taller plantings opposite, suggesting a much larger garden space.

Turquoise is the key color, featured in containers, a tall bubbling fountain, the mosaic mirror frame, and soft furnishings. Being used on different elements throughout the patio, the eye  moves from one splash of blue to the next – a key design trick to create a sense of cohesion but also making a small space seem larger.

Silver reflects light, and grey Seattle days  – and evenings – need all the help they can get, so it was a wise use of color for the furniture while matte black containers anchor the design.

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Great use of space: oval pots and light-wrapped tree branches

Against one wall, in place of a traditional screen or fence Dee wrapped tiny LED lights around cut birch branches. I’m seriously going to copy that idea somewhere!! Can you imaging the tiny twinkles of light at night?

Notice her use of oval containers too – they take up a smaller footprint than round or square pots so are ideal where space is at a premium yet can still be planted with trees, shrubs, perennials, succulents and bulbs – all top-dressed with sparkly blue glass pebbles.

Charming color and plant combinations

Charming color and plant combinations

A restrained color palette of silver, blue, and pink  doesn’t translate to boring when Dee is let loose! I loved her intriguing textures and unique combinations that included fragrant lavender and hyacinths, with spring daffodils and primroses all nestled within a gorgeous foliage tapestry of astelia, spurge, cushion bush (Calocephalus brownii), succulents and more.

Spring isn't spring without hellebores

Spring isn’t spring without hellebores and fragrant sweetbox.

Dee chose colors for the container plantings that would work well after dark as well as being beautiful during the day . White, pale pink, and soft lavender all glow softly at dusk, which together with the twinkling lights and silver elements ensure this patio is ready for any soiree.

Final Shout Out

I have to commend Grace Hensley for this fun detail in her City Living  garden. You KNOW you want to copy this idea. If you have kids, grandkids – or are a child at heart, don’t you want to tell the story of the little mouse who lives behind the teeny tiny black door…..

Design by Grace Hensley

Design by Grace Hensley

 

Are you ready for spring now?

More Ideas

If you want more ideas for designing for small spaces check out Susan Morrison’s latest book The Less is More Garden, You can also read my review here.

 

Lessons from Chanticleer – when a Path becomes an Experience

The Teacup Garden features exotic plantings

The Teacup Garden features  plantings with a tropical flair

Have you ever visited a garden that literally took your breath away? The sun was barely cresting the horizon when I drove into Chanticleer Garden, affording the merest glimpse of what I would ultimately see. Although I had enjoyed slide presentations, photographic blog posts, and books on this unique place I still gasped a little as I entered the renowned Teacup Garden.

Yet as a designer I was looking for more than just photo opportunities – I was looking for ideas that the home gardener could glean and re-interpret to suit their budget and style, and that is where Chanticleer both excels and sets itself apart. So with that in mind, I’ve distilled my 500 images down to a handful to illustrate some of the many design tips that inspired me, focusing in this post in what is often overlooked for artistic expression – paths.

Pathways

The simplest path can be made more interesting by the addition of a sweeping curve

The simplest path can be made more interesting by the addition of a sweeping curve

Every garden needs paths as a means of getting from A to B. Whether utilitarian (getting the garbage cans to the sidewalk), leisurely strolling paths or directional (the primary path leading guests to the front door for example), there is an opportunity to add a level of detail and artistry.

Obscuring the final destination by curving the path and adding billowing plantings adds intrigue as shown in the photo above.

If the path necessitates a more abrupt change of direction, why not enhance that? In the photo below, notice how the spiral theme is repeated on the low stone wall, the pavers and the handrail. The introduction of new materials (stone pavers cut into the path) adds interest which is especially appreciated since one needs to slow down to turn the corner.

Why merely turn a corner when you can do this?

Why merely turn a corner when you can do this?

Incorporating new materials or a design element at a transition in the path can also help visitors find their way, such as the circle detail indicating a side path to the Tennis Court Garden. Notice how this secondary path continues in pavers, again distinguishing its purpose.

The circular motif makes it clear that this is an intersection

The circular motif makes it clear that this is an intersection

Bridges

What happens when your path needs to cross a seasonal stream, dry creek bed or culvert? Do you head to the nearest box store for the ubiquitous Japanese style bridge? Chanticleer designs and creates far more exciting ideas to get us thinking of the possibilities!

The stone-topped bridge shown below is in the Asian Woods. Notice the bamboo-inspired detail on the railing. This combination of metal and wood craftsmanship is a recurring theme at Chanticleer.

Asian-inspired brudge

Asian-inspired bridge

In another area, the organic form of the surrounding forest inspired these trunk-like posts. Notice the cobble detail in the pathway enhancing the experience and transition.

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Tree-like posts support the railing on this bridge

 

Steps

Changes in elevation necessitate a series of steps or a ramp. Once again Chanticleer seizes the opportunity to add artistic detail.

The Gravel Garden was alive with color and movement when I visited late October. Billowing clouds of pink muhly grass competed with bold stands of seedheads from black eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia sp.) for my attention, as did architectural specimens such as beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata) and late blooming asters. Clearly I was not looking where my feet were going – my head was on a swivel!

Glorious color and exciting textures in the Gravel Garden

Glorious color and exciting textures in the Gravel Garden

This garden is carved out of a hillside. The designers at Chanticleer knew they needed a clear, safe path to navigate the steep, rocky terrain – but they also knew how to make it beautiful.

Creating a journey - not just a path

Creating a journey – not just a path

Wide, shallow steps, clearly defined by stone ledges help the distracted visitor explore the garden with ease, while the casually curved route transforms this from a flight of steps to a memorable experience.

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View of part of the Gravel Garden from above

Plants are allowed to encroach lightly onto the pathway, softening the hardscape  while the choice of materials integrates the steps into the gravel-topped landscape.

Steeper flights of steps may need a handrail – an opportunity for the Chanticleer artisans to get creative once again. Just one of many examples is depicted below, organic plant forms inspiring the design.

Creating a journey, not just a pathway

Inspired design

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Fern fronds, woodland mushrooms – and a snail adorn the base of this delightful railing

Chanticleer is not just a garden. Every detail, every moment is memorable. Yes, there are wide open vistas, remarkable foliage combinations, pleasant walks, colorful flower-filled borders, an inspiring vegetable garden, reflecting pools, portals, outstanding use of ‘borrowed views’ and axial sight lines. Chanticleer is all that and more. It is an experience.

When to Visit

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Notice the detail on the bench that overlooks the cutting and vegetable gardens….

I was fortunate to be able to visit before the gardens closed for the winter and am grateful to my friends Bill Thomas and Dan Benarcik for granting me early morning access. The gardens re-open to the public on March 28th 2018. Full details and directions here

Perfect Holiday Gift

This is a garden you need to visit often. Check out the website to get a sense of what each season offers – and still expect to be surprised.

If you live within easy traveling distance of Wayne, Pennsylvania, I recommend you treat yourself and a friend to a 2018 season pass.

Live farther away? I love their latest book The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer (Timber Press, 2015). It would be a truly inspiring gift for any occasion and any gardener and is choc-full of dreamy photos by the talented Rob Cardillo. Use my affiliate link to find out more and to save a few pennies:

Best Drought Tolerant Perennials & Annuals – that are Deer Resistant Too!

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A corner of my fall garden featuring reliable deer resistant and drought tolerant selections

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
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My front garden features a broad selection of drought tolerant, deer resistant plants including many of those recommended here

All the plants listed were planted in the ground – not containers.

Perennials

Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii)

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Mingling with Petite Licorice (Helichysum petiolare ‘Petite Licorice’)

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’)

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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’)

IMG_4503 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’)

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A haze of blooming Whirling Butterflies surrounds a glass birdbath created by Seattle artist Jesse Kelly

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’)

A ‘must have’ for every shade garden – you NEED Jack Frost! And yes there is a fabulous combination idea in Gardening with Foliage First.

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)

Annuals

Spider Flower (Cleome sp.)

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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)

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Seen here with Lime Glow barberry (in its remarkable rosy fall color)

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).

Honorable mention

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~

Resources

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