I am asked on a nearly daily basis which plants are favorites, which ones I grow in my home gardens, and which plants I consider must-haves in every garden. While not all plants are suitable for every garden, here are is the first installment of a list I'm working on to present some of my favorite tried-and-true plants that perform beautifully in our area with relatively little care:
1. Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum
Switchgrass is a native perennial grass indigenous to the Tallgrass Prairie, but with several wonderful hybrids and cultivars, including 'Dewey Blue', 'Heavy Metal' and 'Northwind' among others. It has a naturally deep, strong root system and uses a particular method of carbon fixation, each of which serves as an asset in making it very well-suited to drought and high temperature. The foliage has an incredibly soft, flowing texture, but is strictly clumping and the long, graceful blades are held in an erect column. It makes a beautiful statement mixed with both other grasses and broadleaf perennials, as well. It's a true staple of the garden and looks beautiful even in winter dormancy, when the foliage turns coppery-brown.
2. Drift Roses, Rosa X 'Drift' (Meiggili PP# 18542)
Drift Roses are one of the newest landscape rose hybrids, bred from Flower Carpet Roses and miniature roses. These wonderful, carefree shrubs are smothered in blossoms from last frost until first frost, throughout the season, and require minimal care. Growing to approximately 2' x same, we've given them only two light annual shearings and the occasional dose of organic fertilizer. The color is ethereal, as though they're lit from within, and the fragrance is lovely, too. A wonderful asset to any garden.
3. Million Bells, Calibrachoa
Yes, so it's not a perennial (at least not in our area) but this tough, heat-loving, sprawling annual will amaze you with its floriferous habit. It deserves its common name; producing millions of tiny Petunia-like flowers all season (it's a very close relative of Petunias, belonging to Solanaceae, the Nightshade family, along with Peppers, Tomatoes, and Eggplant). There are loads of recent hybrids of Calibrachoa, including 'Terra Cotta,' a highly-popular orangey-red flowered variety that's particularly tough. Wonderful in containers, hanging baskets, and as border edging, Calibrachoa doesn't disappoint.
4. Daylilies, Hemerocallis
Daylilies are a tried-and-true old-fashioned garden favorite. Their clumps of grassy foliage and lovely, trumpet-shaped blossoms are eye-catching in every perennial border, and they're wonderful in containers, too. They're very heat and drought tolerant, and although the foliage is best and their bloom rate is better with watering, the rootstock is very tough and can survive and impressive amount of abuse, flushing forth to provide blossoms again when conditions are right. And with the thousands and thousands of hybrids, forms and colors available today, everyone can find a favorite.
5. Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia
Oakleaf Hydrangea is among my top five favorite garden plants: they're tougher than Japanese Mophead hydrangeas, they produce large, interestingly dissected leaves, they put forth an awesome bloom display in spring and a gorgeous splash of foliar color in fall, and they get better every year they're in the ground. Maxing out at about 5-6' with similar spread, they're very elegant and make a statement in any border or woodland garden.
6. Mexican Feather Grass, Nassella tenuissima
This fantastically soft, delicate grass is unmatched in producing a softening, water-like effect in beds and borders--and containers, too. Highly adaptable, this tough, drought- and heat-tolerant native perennial grass produces extremely fine, hair-like silvery blooms at the tips of it's thread-like stems in spring. These persist all season, and the clumps take on an ethereal sweeping, wave-like character all the way through dormancy. It's tough to beat this grass when established, requiring only one annual cutting back and almost no artificial irrigation. Truly a must-have in our area.
More to come as the season progresses! Photographs of these and other plants as used in our designs can be viewed on our web site at www.terrainhorticulture.com, as well as a contact email address for any questions.