that I can think of off the top of my head.
This is based on a special request from a good friend whom has painted her wooden fence panels (more on this later) which i LOVE. She, thus, has a good start for making a better garden and needs great flowers to go with her fence panels.
My criteria for Best Garden Plants has changed over the years from ones with beautiful flowers to ones that look good when they are dying. I have personally done my own research on best plants based loosely on the plot to the show LOST. I have plants in an isolated location where nobody goes, nobody touches them and every couple of months I pop in and have a look and say…”Wow! I would have never thought that plant would be such a survivor”. Although unintentional neglect, this has in fact been a useful study to conduct because now, I can say with authority, below are my Top 11 Best Plants. I am using ones suited for a smallish garden (although can of course be used in any size garden).
1. Low Maintenance – as in you might have to touch them once a year. This means they are reasonably slug, caterpillar, disease resistant.
2. Look well when dying or just never really look dead
3. Spread (a bit…it is like getting 100% extra free!)
4. More than a heather. Heathers are great garden plants, although a bit fickle, but the ones below have a little more impact.
5. EVERGREEN is NOT a criteria for me. I like a bit of seasonality
11. Tiarella. It’s a spreader. It would be frustrating if it wasn’t so beautiful. Put them in a woodland like setting and let them go. They are absolutely beautiful, covered in foamy sprays of flowers in the Spring. In a small garden they are great groundcover underplanting.
10. Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’. This plant is like my little brother. I love it to bits but sometimes just can’t stand it…because I love it so much but it is around ALL the time. This is a fragrant, easy plant that grows anywhere but HEAVY clay.
9. Dicentra. I love all the Dicentras, my favorite are the delicate little fern leafed ones but the classic, blousy, huges ones are lovely and tough and colorful and romantic. Prefers a slightly sheltered, shady spot.
8. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’. This is a garden classic and really does well in late summer. The seed heads are beautiful all the way through to Spring, providing seeds for birds. They grow just about anywhere except where it is REALLY waterlogged. They can get a bit floppy over the years so some support is needed eventually but it is well worth the 5 minutes/year extra effort
7. Festuca glauca. I love grasses. This grass would not be for everyone but as a garden plant it is fantastic because you never need to do anything to it and it just grows and seeds a bit and grows and seeds a bit and thats it! It is a short grass and prefers full sun.
6. Stipa gigantea. This, on the other hand, is a HUGE grass. It cannot be beat for the way sun filters through it’s seed heads. It is tall, airy and tough, growing just about anywhere but really waterlogged spots.
5. Aruncus. Okay, this could be my perosnal favorite because you get incredible height and lightness, can step all over them in the Spring and still they come up AND could leave them year round and they still look fantastic! A subtle flower, mildly spreading over time. They grow just about anywhere I have put them so far. ‘Horatio’ is the one I use the most but there are some beautiful tiny ones as well
4. Astilbe. Another garden classic but it just can’t be killed and it provides LOADS of frilly, romantic color. Plant anywhere.
3. Acanthus. NOT colorful, you have to be a bit of a plant nerd to appreciate the flowers, but great height and huge tropical leaves for not much effort.
2. Alchemilla. I am selling out a bit on this plant. Most gardeners are thinking “Booorring” right now but EVERY time I see this plant in full bloom, I love it. And I love that when it isn’t looking good you can just cut it right back to the ground, no thinking required. Another one that you would have some effort to kill it. Alchemilla is a work horse in the garden, perfect for front edges and little pockets. It is beautiful lining paths and is a Goldilocks of spreaders – not too much, not too little but honestly just right.
1. Rudbeckia. I think I actually prefer this plant when it is dying. I love the black seedheads in the autumn contrasted against the wheaty/purple autumn colors. And you see the birds swooping to eat the seeds which is also very nice. Another workhorse in the garden, it spreads bit by bit and provides the most wonderful yellow, bright color in the late summer/autumn garden. And again…Id say this plant is ALMOST no maintenance. Beauty with no effort. Just like me. HA!
Not on the list but a GREAT PLANT for the brave of heart: Euphorbia Robbiae. Okay, this is a beast of a plant in that it SPREADS everywhere so if you are faint of heart when you see runners popping up all over the garden or maybe just can’t manage the control required, don’t buy this plant. BUT if you have an area where it can be controlled by you or by existing boundaries, a small budget and want a plant that is evergreen, blooms early Spring when nothing else is blooming, looks reasonably well when the blooms have past….this is the plant for you.
Other great plants based on my unscientific LOST style research:
Oregano, Astrantia, Asters, Deschampsia cespitosa, Ajuga, Veronicastrum, Filipendula, Bergenia, Hellebores, Campanula, Ampelodesmos mauritanica, Ligularia (VERY surprisingly), Persicaria, Rodgersia, Iris (again, VERY surprisingly)
Plants to beware of: Heuchera, Carex. Just becuase I am tired fs seeing them at the garden centres and they really dont do that much.