My must-have plants for any garden
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I’m often asked about favourite or a must-have plant, but I don’t think there is a singular answer. Many merge together creating the effects I like, and succeed each other in an orchestral fanfare lasting months on end.
But these listed below can form a core that would enable a long featured display from February to December.
Specific varieties are mostly not detailed, that would be part of the colour scheme or them of an individual garden. They could all be a must-have plant.
There are some shrubs for structure, grasses and perennials that will start early in the year, others that will last until Christmas.
And now is the time to consider any new plants for your borders. March and April are best months for planting, and if it gets as hot as last year, May will be too late. Unless you have irrigation installed or area slave to the hosepipe.
My Must-have plants – grasses and shrubs
Cornus, coloured stem dogwoods. Or coloured Willows. These provide basic flowers on fresh leaves, but of managed well offer coloured stems from December to March. They must be maintained annually, else they can grow beyond reach and the task becomes a chore. These are absolute must-have plants.
Phalaris. A vigorous variegated grass that can be divided annually to fill spaces.
Calamagrostis. Super tall grass that forms large clumps, lasts through winter as a frosted statue.
Miscanthus. Generally softer than above.
Stipa Gigantea. A most imposing grass with open oat flowers.
Black currant. Minimal fuss plant with great rewards. Grows in shade, but better, sweeter fruit is produced in a little more sun.
Rudbeckia / Echinacea. The basic yellow or purple flowers are tough and will self-seed. They can be temperamental in wet ground. The newer alternative colours are more tender.
Lupin. A packet of Russel hybrid seeds will see your garden full of flowers for years.
Crocosmia. The fresh dense growth provides a great contrast to most other forms. A few nice flower colours too.
Iris Germanica. Buy from a specialist as bare roots, all the colours you could imagine, various sizes and variegated forms too. The flowers can be shirt lived, but are still must-have plants.
Echinops. Spikey blue/purple globes on serrated leaves, can be vigorous.
Eryngium. Sea holly, spiky leaves and flowers, great contrast.
Achillea. I love the tall yellow flowered version that look like cauliflower. Other colours are available, but can be more tender.
Hemerocallis. Day lillies, a mainstay for any garden. The flowers offer morning and evening therapy, deadheading while checking the rest of the beds. The more you deadhead, the more flowers are produced. So many colours, spreads easily, grows in ditches on freeways in California so is very tough.
Verbena Bonariensis. Never be without this plant. I use it with Stipa to form screens through which the garden can be viewed.
Penstemon. Or this one. It is generally tough when established, many colours that can flower into December. Can be susceptible to drought or waterlogging.
Ground cover must-haves
Ajuga. This is wonderful, all but indestructible ground cover, bronze leaf with blue flowers. Leaf shades, size and flower colour vary slightly.
Heuchera. A wonderful variety of leaf/flower colour combinations mostly for shade or partial sun.
Geranium. The hardy ground cover plant, not tender pelargoniums. They vary by leaf shape and size, and colour, and by flower colour.
Bergenia. A very useful tough ground cover that tolerates shade well. Varying leaf sizes and flower colours.