1 Mar 2011

Following GI’s Lead: My Top 10 Must Have Garden Plants for 2011

Just when I was ready to call out the RCMP, the February issue of Gardens Illustrated finally arrived in the post box. I drew myself a hot bath, in which to soak my aching joints and muscles [today was the first day of the 2011 season at LittleTree!] and settled down to see what Alys, Fergus, Roy, Carol, Piet, Dan, Sarah, Juliet and Tom [if you’re a loyal subscriber you’ll know who I’m talking about!] chose as their favourite plants. I was happy to see a few of my own favourites on the list, and this led me to compile this post.

Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Shockwave’ leaves me gasping for breath from the moment its distinctively blue infused buds appear in late May. I adore the genus at large, but find that this one is by far the strongest grower for me, and best of all, it doesn’t seem to mind my partial shaded placement. Very robust with stems at least .75m in height, this sultry beauty holds it’s own, no questions asked! Zone 4.

Dracocephalum ruyschianum ‘Fuji Blue’ is often mistaken as belonging to the Penstemon family with its fabulous hooded flowers that are held in whorls above delicate pinnate foliage. It too prefers a sunny disposition, with sharply draining, lean, gravel infused soil. Hardy to Zone 5, full to partial shade.

Salvia sclarea var. ‘Turkestanica’ rounds out the list of the ‘sunnier’ dispositional plants on the list. A biennial, this architectural specimen sends forth flower spikes that can easily surpass 1m in height, whose stunning floral presentation consists of fabulous papery bracts, delicately infused with green and pink that all but camouflage the periwinkle spurred flowers reminiscent of the species. Fabulous tomentose slightly scalloped foliage is but an added bonus! Zone 4 [Biennial – let it seed around to appreciate its beauty every year!]

I adore Thalictrum, and when I stumbled across Thalictrum delavayi ‘Splendide’ I knew I’d found the best of the best! I love the fact that each flower actually consists of four petals encircling a wonderful boss of yellow stamens. Its lacy, fern like blue green foliage provides a perfect foil for deep purple infused stems that at maturity can reach 2.5-2-3m in height. While not a total naysayer, I have planted this at the front of the border where it’s delicate beauty can be fully appreciated front and centre.

Anemonopsis macrophylla is one of the most appealing and regal woodland plants that resides in my garden. Its attractive, glossy, dark green foliage, and ebony stems are topped with eloquent, cup shaped nodding flowers. Each flower has waxy, lilac sepals over rows of smaller violet petals. One of the true aristocrats of the woodland garden. Native to Japan. Part sun to shade. Zone 5.

Cypripedium reginae. Heaven knows I’ve pontificated on her beauty before, so I’ll leave her to win your heart on her own. She’s not nearly as temperamental as some would have you believe, but PLEASE, do not unearth her from her natural habitat so you can appreciate her in your garden. Seek out reputable, ethically and morally conscious growers. You’ll pay more, but at least you’re ensuring that future generations of gardeners will be able to share the thrill of discovering this regal Princess in her natural habitat! Hardy to Zone 4 with deeply amended slightly acidic soil.

Diphylleia cymosa, or Umbrella Leaf is a magnificent North American native with fabulous large palmate foliage that demands attention in the somewhat ‘green’ Shaded Walk. Inconspicuous white flowers give way to dramatic metallic blue berries held atop ruby infused petioles. This one is quick to bulk up when happy!

Spigelia marilandica causes a stir as soon as it is in bloom! Just look at those pleated, tubular flowers that end with that fantabulous whipped butter yellow star! If ever there was a Diva in the garden, this one wins the award hands down! Another North American native, over time [and patience is a virtue where this one is concerned!] it forms a wonderful clump of handsome blue green foliage, rising between 35-40cm. If ever you wanted the presence of hummingbirds in the garden, look no further. Sun to part shade. Hardy to Zone 5.

Arisaema candidissimum represents only one of an ever increasing number of members of this dramatic genus that I could not garden without! Perhaps this one because aside of their somewhat sinister appearance, with their cobra like spathe and tongue like spadix, this one comes across as being utterly feminine and bewitching! Much later than most within the genus, it’s large foliage offers the perfect ruse for its gaping pink, green and white suffused spathe. This one is reputedly fragrant, but only to the male of the species…… did I mention her bewitching femininity? Hardy to Zone 6, she will want a warm blanket of leaf mold and mulch for the winter!
and yes, I need not even post a photo of the absolute one plant, above all else that will forever reside within my garden repertoire
Corydalis flexuosa ‘Blue Panda’ can only be described and appreciated as follows:
A shoal of icy blue sea horses set adrift atop waves of lacy blue green foliage!’
I couldn’t have said it better…. oh wait a minute, that IS my signature pontification that I use when introducing it to the unknowing masses…. and thankfully, that number seems to be decreasing, well, at LittleTree anyhow!
So, as we go into a new gardening season, I’d love to know what your Top 10 Must Have Garden Plant selections are! Come on, don’t be shy!


Garden Sense said...

You've compiled quite an impressive list! Thanks for sharing it.

Christine B. said...

What a great idea, sir. As I have no plants (worth mentioning) at my new place, my top ten at this point might be hard to pin down.

Those Corydalis sure are cute! We grow them here in the far north, but hardiness is sometimes an issue. The Penstemon selection is a new one for me, so I'm excited to snoop around for it.

Christine in Alaska, no plants worth speaking of

Dejemonos sorprender said...

Hi) as always very nice your plants.. the flowers are really beautiful )

Anonymous said...

I still want me a Spigelia, darn it. Great post as usual, Barry.

CanadianGardenJoy said...

I have Spigelia coming with my Canning order and I am so excited .. but I am also looking for Splendide thalictrum .. mine sadly passed away and I need to have another .. I missed it so last year. I have no arisaema .. I NEED one !! plus the blue blue corydalis .. BIG sigh !
Do we ever stop needing plants ?LOL