It’s been pretty exciting around here, lately. I got my first Gelish manicure (day 15 and counting), my cat hasn’t thrown up in two weeks…oh yeah, and Garden Up! made Amazon.com’s Best Books of 2011 list. Not surprisingly, I’m most thrilled about the last bit, although Nick is more pleased about the cat. To make the experience even more awesome, out of only five garden books chosen, good friend and author extraordinaire Ivette Soler’s wonderful The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden also made the list. Yay, Ivette!
As much as I love making a “best of “ list, I’m more the type who likes to pick the winners. Sadly, no one has actually asked me to judge anything lately, but I won’t let a little detail like that stop me. The removal of a tree from my back yard led me to re-design some of my garden beds this past spring. Despite the fact I make my living planning gardens in advance, I’m not above an impulse purchase or two when something flashy catches my eye. Accordingly, please join me for Susan’s first annual Best of the Back Yard 2011 list.
I swore off climbing roses five years ago, but like an unreformed addict, I keep going back. First, the sweet scent lured me in as I brushed past a specimen in the nursery. Once I realized how incredible the subtle peach blooms would look against my purple trellis, my fate was sealed, and I had to have it. In its first season, Westerland put out several rounds of blooms, has been disease and trouble-free, and has already grown to eight feet tall. I can’t wait to see it burst into flower next spring.
Santolina virens ‘Lemon Fizz’
Face it: there are simply not enough small-scale, full-sun, gold-foliage plants out there. No wonder I was excited when I saw this sassy cutie on a shopping spree at Annie’s Annuals. The gold foliage not only acts as a sunny contrast to the burgundies and peaches that dominate in my garden, but I’m also crazy about its delicate form. My only concern is that Santonlinas have a tendency to be short-lived, so fingers crossed that this one bucks the trend, as it would make a fantastic addition to my plant palette.
Dianella tasmanica ‘Variegata’
I know, how could I be excited about something as basic as Dianella? For whatever reason, I’ve never used them much, but am busily making up for lost time. I love the structure this little gem adds to the rather sprawly plants near my water feature, and its variegated leaves add a welcome touch of light to a north facing wall perpetually in shade.
The easiest way to stop me in my tracks at the nursery is to dazzle me with bright red foliage. My goal in the ornamental grasses section that day was to find some choice Calamagrostis specimens, but as soon as I spotted this Pennisetum's electric mix of bright red and green leaves, I was a goner. Smaller and a much brighter red than it’s better known cousin, Pennisetum rubrum ‘Eaton Canyon’, I’m hoping my little Firecracker comes back in the spring, as Purple Fountain Grass isn’t always reliable in Zone 9 gardens in my part of California. But you know what? Even if it turns out to be an annual, it’ll be worth it.
My final pick is a succulent which shall go nameless. A gift from Rebecca Sweet’s mom, Linda, these cuttings from her Tahoe garden are every bit as hardy as she claimed them to be. While they haven’t had to deal with snow at my house, as usually seems to happen with succulent cuttings, I left them lying around for six weeks or so before tucking them in to various containers and corners in my garden. Then I changed my mind and rearranged their locations a few times, but despite the fact that these plants traveled more than I did this year, they’re doing just fine.
That’s it for my self-produced awards show. Any plants deserving of an honorable mention in your garden this year?