On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, Five Golden Plants. Dazzling, bright, sunshine, contrast, color, yellow, gold….Here are a few (I couldn’t pick just five!) that will make your garden worth it’s weight in gold.
I brought home a catnip plant for the garden yesterday. It didn’t even make it out of the driveway unscathed. Our cat practically pounced on it, knocked it over, rolled on it, rubbed against it and nibbled and chewed. An hour later the neighbor’s cat was rolling around our driveway. The above photo is what made it to the garden. And now, 24 hours later, it’s completely gone. Somebody was having a little fun, and it wasn’t the person shoveling the dirt!
Just the Facts
Nepeta cataria Catnip or Catmint
Height 36-48 inches
Full Sun to Partial Shade
Blooms mid to late summer, white
Foliage silver/gray or blue/green, aromatic
Attractive to Cats, Birds, Bees and Butterflies
Oil from catnip is a mosquito and fly repellant
This grass is clumpy cool. Cool because this picture was taken on a frosty, frozen morning. Clumpy because it’s not bumpy, just smooth and clumpy. Any plant that looks this good in December is on my list. My good plant list. The happy list. (Are you curious about my bad plant list? Here’s a teaser….Photinia…I scowl at you every time we meet!) Carex comans or Frosted Curls or New Zealand Hair Sedge is another story. Walking by this small group of Carex I felt like I was at an art exhibit. Considering light and line. Pondering form and function. Wondering how this grass suggests movement even as it’s frozen in place. It has a rhythm and flow and appears to grow. How does it do that? A little bit of pixie dust? Shimmering, it looks like a refreshing water fountain, tumbling over itself. This planting is an example of repetition. Repetition of the same plant creating a pleasing effect. Repetition showing off the beauty more than a single specimen. Repetition moving us along a flowing river. Repetition is good with Carex comans, but it also looks great in a container. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil, sun to partial shade. This fine-textured dwarf evergreen sedge grows 12-18 inches high and will reseed, but not profusely. An exciting addition to your very-pretty-plant gallery.
This big, bright daisy comes in a wide range of colors: pink, purple, red, orange or yellow. It looks great going solo in a container, as well as in a mixed border. Watch out for slugs. This invertebrate nemesis took chunky bites out of my Gerbera, leaving it frayed and torn. I trimmed off a few leaves, deadheaded and a few weeks later it’s as good as new. Sluggo, my new best friend. Gerbera Daisies grow well in sunshine, heat and well-drained soil. Plants reach up to 18 inches and produce numerous blooms all summer. The flowers have lots of petals, so you will have to be patient to find out if ‘he loves me‘ or ‘he loves me not‘. I believe it bears a slight resemblance to the predatory sunflower star, found off our Pacific Coast. What do you think?
Impatiens niamniamensis ‘Congo Cockatoo’ is also referred to as the parrot plant and is a tropical plant that can be grown as an annual here in the Pacific Northwest, or indoors as a houseplant. I have mine out for the summer, and eagerly look forward to having it share our home during the cold months. The flowers appear as little hooked beaks of fire red and yellow, blooming from May to frost. It can grow to 20″ tall in a season with a thick succulent trunk. Water regularly and provide part to full shade for this impatiens to thrive. To read comments on growing this plant, check out this site on Dave’s Garden: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/38288/#b
This is a plant that is hard to pass by without a short stop to inhale the sweet aroma. It’s also called the Cherry Pie Plant, but the scent of heliotrope always reminds me of vanilla. Let’s just say that something good is baking in the kitchen when this flower blooms. I like to plant it next to Chocolate Cosmos, then I have both chocolate and vanilla, yum! The dark purple flowers contrast well with the slightly wrinkled lance shaped dark green leaves. Height is between 8-24 inches and width is up to 24″ to create a nice mounding plant, good for borders, containers or hanging baskets. Heliotrope grows best in full sun with well drained soil rich in organic matter and can be brought in as a houseplant for the winter. Pinch the tips to encourage bushing out. The word heliotrope means ’turns to the sun’. I think I’m a heliotrope too. Another must have for your garden!
This annual perennial that keeps flying off the tables at every nursery has something that others don’t. What is the secret? How has it bewitched so many level-headed gardeners? They keep coming back year after year. They say “I love this plant, hummingbirds love this plant, plants love this plant. But it died. It didn’t come back, It’s gone!” It doesn’t matter, the people keep coming back for it again and again and again. This plant named ‘hot lips’, Salvia macrophylla. Zones 8-10 (we used to hang with the eights, now they’re too hot and we’ve sunk to seven). Growth is fast and will reach three feet tall and wide. Deer resistant—hurray! A well drained soil is preferred, wet will bring woe. Someone told me they planted Hot Lips in half sand, half soil, the hole dug two to three times the normal depth and filled with the sand mixture. And it made it through our wet winter! Survival in the sand might be the key. I’m planting it this year. Really, who can resist?
The french marigold, Tagetes patula, is a sunny flower Native to South America that grows easily with adequate light and water. Some may say they have been around forever and they are too common. Take a close up view and notice how they pop with color. Like an orange cup coral, they liven up their surroundings with a rich glow. They grow 6-18 inches tall and come in shades of yellow, orange, red, gold, maroon, brown and combinations. Flowers can be single or fully double. Marigolds have long been known to be good companion plants because of their strongly scented foliage. When planted around cabbages, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes they may reduce insect and nematode populations, including aphids. Unfortunately, slugs love marigolds, so beware. Enjoy this useful annual and create an underwater coral reef in your own garden.
This bright flower is one of my favorites. Words to describe? Light, delicate, ruffled, tissue-paper, soft and cheerful. I like the contrast of the wide smooth petals with the fine, feathery foliage. The best part is the blooms continue all summer and into the fall. Such great value at so little a price. The plants in the photo above I purchased for just under $2.00 each. That’s how much people spend on a soda, a big candy bar, a hot drink, a movie rental from redbox, a pack of gum, a newspaper, or sadly 1/2 gallon of gas. Most of our two dollar purchases are quickly enjoyed and then forgotten. Not Cosmos. It hangs out all summer, dazzling our gardens and showing off the sound financial investment you made. This annual, Cosmos bipinnatus is native to tropical America and comes in shades of white, pink, rose, lavender, purple, orange or crimson. The flowers come in many forms as well, single, double, crested or frilled. The variety ‘seashell’ has fluted petals which form little tubes, but I’m trying to decide which seashell they resemble, perhaps a beautiful mollusc from Mexico or a spiny sea urchin. See any resemblance?
For sunny orange color, try ‘Cosmic Orange’, ‘Polidor’ or ‘Diablo’. I love the scent of chocolate cosmos, which is a sometimes perennial here in the Northwest. On a warm sunny day this dark purple flower will make you think you’re in Hershey, Pennsylvania and brownies are baking just around the corner. All cosmos want full sun and good drainage, so find a good spot and invest in this fair flower!
It may be time to pull out the dead, scary looking things formerly called plants that are lingering by the front door. I have one in a half whiskey barrel that startles me every time I walk by, it’s that ugly. Since temperatures are creeping up I may take action and create a container like the one above. That was my spring pot last year. That unassuming yellow pansy was the champion. It kept blooming throughout spring, all summer and into the fall, cascading down the side into a billowy, buttery profusion. I had meant to remove it in the summer, but it just kept getting better looking as the seasons progressed (we should be that lucky). I really like the double primroses, as they resemble frilly little roses, so delicate in their pastel shades. A lemon-green Monterey cypress ‘Wilma goldcrest’ would really set the annuals off as the centerpiece. So get down to the nursery (yes, they are still in business) and start shopping for some spring-is-almost-here color for your containers. Replace the dead with some dazzle.