I’m as guilty as anyone of impulse buying. Sometimes I go to nurseries just to look around and see what’s new. I don’t suffer much from plant lust, but I do have love affairs with certain plants.
I try to grow a handful of new-to-me plants every season, just to keep learning and – you never know – one of those new plants could turn out to be a my new fixation. But there are a handful of flowers I rely upon to keep my garden in color and my soul in rapture. I’m sure you have your favorites, too, and I would love to hear about them.
My 5 indispensable flowers would be:
❦ Geranium ‘Rozanne’ – I’ve loved perennial geraniums ever since I stumbled upon them in my English Garden envy period. I no longer resent the English for their perfect gardening weather, but my infatuation with hardy geraniums remains strong. I tried several before ‘Rozanne’ came out. Truth be told, the first year I planted ‘Rozanne’ I killed her. Twice. But the next season was more amenable to gardening and she stuck around. So I bought 2 more. And each year I buy another one and divide the others. I tuck them everywhere.
This plant forms a tidy mound that seems to be perpetually covered in purplish-blue flowers. The shade of purplish-blue that makes all the other colors look better. I admit to having a soft spot for any flowers that even comes close to a shade of blue, but ‘Rozanne’ more than earns her spot in the garden. Except for dividing the plants, I have done nothing else with them. I don’t deadhead or shear or give them extra water or food. They just bloom their hearts out. You don’t even have to divide them, unless like me, you want more.
❦ Salvia ‘Victoria’ – I’m not overly enthusiastic about annuals in borders. Most need a lot of TLC to get established and even more water throughout the season, to stay in bloom. ‘Victoria’ is a slow starter, but once she gets going, she is queen of the garden.
I buy seedling in cell packs every year. They are just about the last plants to appear on the shelves and I think a lot of people have already finished shopping by the time they arrive. That’s too bad. These really are an almost true blue. They get bushier and more prolific as the season goes on and they aren’t the usual temperamental, demanding annual.
The plants can easily get 18 inches high, in my zone 6 garden. Every now and then, although not recently, they even over-winter and remind me that they are perennials in warm climates, it’s just my weather than makes me treat them as annuals. ‘Victoria’ is drought tolerant, I’ve never seen them eaten by either a 4-footed animal or an insect pest, and once again, no deadheading required.
❦ Rose Flower Carpet ‘Yellow’ – I love old fashioned roses and roses with a scent still make me swoon. But I am also a lazy gardener and a rose that stays good looking in my hot, hazy, humidity is a treasure. There are many new rose series that deliver on that promise, but it’s the buttery color of the Flower Carpet ‘Yellow’ that won me over. It’s the perfect foil for my penchant for bluish flowers. ‘Rozanne’ weaving through my yellow roses makes me want to grab the whole bunch and hug them tight. I wouldn’t recommend that, though. While Flower Carpet roses don’t get black spot or mildew, they do have thorns. They bloom in clusters that cover the whole plant. After each bloom I cut back all the branches and the plants repeat bloom all season. They bloom again without pruning, but they bloom faster and more profusely if you do.
Pruning is the only real maintenance. Each spring I cut them down to about 6 – 8 inches, partly to rejuvenate them and partly to keep their size in check. After the harsh winter of 2014/15, the plants died back to the ground, but re-sprouted as soon as spring showed up. That’s the first time that happened.
[Full disclosure: I was given my original Flower Carpet roses as samples. I was given several colors, all of which were yummy. Since then, I have shared some of the plants with other gardeners, since I only have so much space.]
❦ Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ – I don’t care how pedestrian it is, I love catmint. Talk about low maintenance. And the newer cultivars are such dependable, well-behaved plants. ‘Walker’s Low’ is my favorite, although I used to grow Siberian catmint (Nepeta sibirica) and ‘Six Hills Gian’. They are both good plants, but both disappeared after a few years.
By the way, Walker’s Low refers to a place (although I’ve never found it) and not the size of the plant. It can easily reach 2 ½ – 3 ft. tall and wide. They waft in the breeze, but don’t flop over. They haven’t spread, the way weedier varieties of Nepeta do. I do shear them back after flowering, but they re-bloom within a few weeks and then we repeat the sequence all over again.
❦ Peonies – I am a sucker for peonies. I prefer the less flashy varieties, especially pale pink and yellow. Oh… my… God, the yellows. I haven’t bought a yellow yet – something about spending $40 for a handful of eyes that are totally dependent on me getting it right has made me hesitate. But I know it’s only a matter of time.
I first saw a yellow peony when I went to visit Hollister House Garden, in Washington, CT. This amazing garden is an absolute must see. The owner started by trying to recreate what he loved about Sissinghurst, but it’s not a copycat garden, it is exquisite in it’s own right. Nearby White Flower Farm had the peonies for sale, when we stopped on the ride home, but I don’t have a place of honor for it yet, so I held off. I don’t think my resistance will last much longer.
I didn’t think to check the fragrance of the yellow peonies, but scent is one of peony’s big attraction for me. I’m also enamored of the single varieties, rather than the fuller doubles. The singles stay standing after a rain and you can see the whole flower. But I’ll take any peony.
I know they don’t have the longest bloom season, but I enjoy the cycle of seasons and mid-spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Peonies, iris, Amsonia, bleeding heart – they all seem to be glad to see one another and meld into a heart melting welcome back to the garden.
These are my Favorite 5. I don’t say they’re the best plants or the easiest to grow, only that I can’t imagine gardening without them. I really would love to hear what your favorites are.