Dan Hinkley, Richie Steffen and I spoke on a "Plant Lust"panel this morning, and while I wouldn't wish it on anyone, I have to admit I was relieved it was they and not I that struggled with technical problems. It's usually me! I wish we could have repeated the panel, as it sold out quickly and people were upset they couldn't get in. I'm sure we all would have been happy to talk again, and use the first go-round as practice to get the bugs out.
Here are the kind of plants I lust after – isn’t this a tempting scene? It’s a Bay Area garden by designer Yeong Lee, and full of glorious succulents that, had I attempted to grow them in my Whidbey garden, I would have been cleaning up their black mushy corpses yesterday. Most of these beauties would never have survived our December freezes.
Sometimes I think plant lust is nothing more than a raincoat we slip on this time of year to protect us from our rational minds – we know we can’t fit all those plants we desire into our gardens, and all too often they aren’t even appropriate– like these succulents that are my newest craze ….so I’m glad Janet asked me to talk about plants I can’t live without, because the plants I really love are much easier to care for and more dependable than the ones I lust after…
Really, I love flowers, and old-fashioned plants that taste and smell good. I’m far most interested in how plants work in the garden, and in combination with other plants than in how new or unusual they are..
I adore the dainty, early-blooming, fragrant narcissus that are so intensely colored they warm up chilly spring gardens. ‘Golden Dawn’, ‘Falconet’ are two fragrant favorites that are tough and persistent. I also love ‘Precocious’ which has paler petals and a ruffled orange cup. I plant hundreds of these, my whole garden is filled with them in April.
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ interplanted with the slight bigger and less iridescent ‘Globemaster’ for many weeks of bloom, with ‘Purple Sensation blooming a couple of weeks earlier with a nice overlap with ‘Globemaster’.
Fox tail lilies – This one is Eremerus ‘Cleopatra’ – never could grow them before in heavier soil – they’re the most gorgeous things that grow from spider-like tuber things….really this baby gets to be 4-5 feet tall….
Sweet peas bloom all summer long if you keep them picked and watered – this is the heirloom ‘Black Knight’ which is especially fragrant, but I love a variety of old-fashioned kinds.
My new favorite annual is Begonia boliviensis – there are several cultivars, I believe this one is ‘Bonfire’ – I know it looks like a fuchsia, but it isn’t. Smothered in flowers all summer long. I grew a bunch of them in pots all around the outside of a raised bed full of raspberries – they even made raspberries look good…
An ode to nasturtiums – they grow easily from seed, they bloom all summer if you don’t overfeed or overwater them, you can eat the flowers and the leaves…here are a few ways to grow them…the pale ones are ‘Moonlight’, and ‘Tip Top Scarlet’ favorites because they start blooming in May and continue til frost, and they hold their flowers up above the leaves.
Fancy-leaved geraniums - I love Mrs. Pollock with tri-color leaves that looked good well into December this year.
Annual poppies are beautiful– ruffled bread seed poppies, ‘Double Raspberry Blush’ and Shirley poppies – all grow easily from seed – although the seed isn’t always easy to obtain…
Coleus – ‘Rustic Orange’ only kind I grow besides the little, brown and chartreuse ‘Inky Fingers’
It can be invasive, I know, but Icouldn’t do without nigella, or love-in-a-mist – striped seed pods and fluffy foliage let alone those shades of blue…
Sunflowers – to add height, attract birds, and even on overcast days you know it’s really summer if you have enough sunflowers blooming. Every year I try different kinds, but I really love the bronze ones like this ‘Cappuchino’
This newer ligularia ‘Britt Marie Crawford is s stunner with real chocolate colored leaves…
Heuchera ‘Caramel’ has proven sun-resistant and truly evergreen – ‘also ‘Marmalade’ but too much of a pink tinge for me.
Lobelia tupa – so showy and gratifying
Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’ – the essence of hosta –
Eryisimum ‘Apricot Twist’ - I grow this long-blooming wallflower in ribbons all through the beds
Acanthus mollis – Lauren Hall Behrens garden – takes advantage of its architectural quality.
Zauschneria californica (California fuchsia) – hummingbirds love it – so thickly flowered it has great impact and kicks in late when many flowers have faded – drought resistant.
Sedum ‘Ogon’ – takes shade, stays chartreuse and can grow anywhere
Japanese forest grass – Hakonechloe macra ‘Aureola’
Anementhale lessoniana – New Zealand wind grass is a beautiful russet grass
Stipa gigantea – blooms in June
Lavender – fragrant gray foliage, long bloom – Rabbit ear or Spanish lavender blooms earliest…
French heirloom ‘Cinderella’ pumpkins – don’t take up too much room
Rainbow chard for its beauty – nothing like it
Artichokes – Italian purple ones called ‘Violetto’ stay compact with lovely dark coloring at base of the artichokes and toothed gray foliage.
Raspberries - I grow delicious ‘Cascade Delight’ that are loaded down with berries
Cherry tomatoes – ‘Sungold’ – always wins the taste test – the sweetest tomato ever
Cut-and-come-again lettuces, also call Mesclun blends – a variety of textures and colors, come easily from seed, and just keep snipping on them for weeks.
(Photos courtesy of Jacqueline Koch)