Ten Favorite Stars for Sunny Gardens
In my last post I wrote about an article in the current issue of Gardens Illustrated called ‘100 Plants Every Gardener Should Grow’. While I took issue with the title, it has inspired me to do a much more modest list of my own.
I want to stress up front that just because these plants are favorites of mine does not mean that they will perform satisfactorily (or even stay alive) in your garden. Cultural requirements are key, so look that stuff up before you buy. Otherwise, don’t come crying to me if you plant one of these puppies and it doesn’t work out.
Gardens have stars and supporting players, just like movies. Garden stars are plants that really stand out. For me, that means plants that are especially noticeable due to size or color – or both. Around these stars there must be supporting plants that provide background and context.
So here are ten favorite stars that stand out in our sunny front garden. (In writing this list I freely admit that I have so many more favorites, and those in greatest favor vary with the year, the season, and my mood.)
Tulips. Can tulips really be considered stars when they are planted in enormous masses? OK, you got me, it’s a contradiction. The fact remains that tulips are the most exciting thing in our front garden for most of April and May. You just can’t beat that richness of color.
As I have written ad nauseum, I like to grow the smaller species tulips in beds and borders and larger hybrid tulips in containers.
Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis). Love the blue pea-like flowers and blue-green foliage. An easy plant in the right spot. Grows slowly but achieves substantial girth in time.
Clematis (Clematis jackmanii). If you’ve got a wall facing west or south, grow a vine on it. And few vines are more rousing than Clematis jackmanii when it cloaks itself in royal purple. This plant has inspired me to plant some other members of the genus last year – we’ll see if any of them displace C. jackmanii as First Clematis.
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum). Blue flower spikes, edible foliage. Self-sows like the dickens.
Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum). Such a friendly giant, but not for the faint of heart. Yellow daisy flowers on top of tall stems. Really, really tall. Also, vigilance must be deployed or you will have a Cup Plant plantation after a few years. On the other hand, it’s definitely a goldfinch favorite.
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). Love, love, love the unique bright orange flowers. And, like other milkweeds, a host plant for Monarch Butterflies. Needs well-drained, sandy or loamy soil. If you have too much moisture, try Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).
Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). An annual with dazzling orange daisies on tall, stout plants. Likes heat and sun. Blooms like mad. Superb for attracting butterflies.
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma ‘Raspberry Wine’). Luscious red flowers, also uniquely shaped. A favorite of hummingbirds. Spreads enthusiastically by rhizomes.
Brown Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba). Masses of small yellow-orange flowers with black centers. Taller than the more common R. hirta or R. fulgida. Self-sows energetically.
Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum ‘Gateway’). A regal presence in late summer and fall. Wine-red stems with wide pink-purple flower heads.
What are the favorite stars in your garden?