April 20, 2009

The Six Plants That I Can't Live Without

Steve Bender, also known as The Grumpy Gardener at Southern Living Magazine, challenged me to name the six greatest plants in my garden. It's difficult to limit oneself to only six plants. Nine other garden bloggers are participating in this challenge. Every gardener has reasons for their favorite plants - it may be love or it may be logical.

The six plants that I can't live without in my zone 7b, North Carolina garden:

Agastache (hyssop, hummingbird mint)

Until I built a house and garden in full sun and deer country, I knew nothing about perennial agastache. I have an assortment of colors (apricot, orange, bicolor pink/orange, rose, blue and purple) and sizes. These perennials are drought-tolerant, deer resistant, rabbit resistant and among the biggest bloomers in my garden. The blooms can go on for months in the summer until frost. Suitability to zones depends upon the variety, but quite a few selections are available for zones 5-10 or 6-9. Full sun, lean soil, and good drainage make these plants great low-maintenance plants. They play well with salvias, echinacea, ornamental grasses and buddleia.

Nepeta x faassenii (catmint)

Nepeta is one of those perennials that seems rather ordinary, but it works so well in many situations, that it is one of my favorites. She's tough and she's beautiful!

Throughout my garden, I've used nepeta extensively. It was the first perennial that I found to be truly deer and rabbit proof. However, I've come to love it for so many reasons other than pest free attributes.

The lavender-blue blooms of the 'Six Hills Giant' or 'Walkers Low' Nepeta work well with almost every color combination. The color also works well to provide a break between clashing colors in a garden. The grey-green foliage has a spicy fragrance and mounds beautifully all summer long if sheared between blooms. The easiest way to shear nepeta is using cordless trimmers.

To those who like garden design, you'd say that I may be over-using nepeta, but I like it that much! Nepeta is a favorite for honey bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, so I get no complaints!

Zones 3-8
Full sun
Deer resistant
Rabbit resistant
Japanese Beetle resistant
Drought tolerant
Long bloom season
Easy care (cut back at the end of winter and again after each bloom)
Easy to divide (divide by shovel)

iris x hollandica (Dutch Iris)

These energy-saving bulbs shine like bright lights in my spring garden. Planting is the only effort that I've exerted for these perennial bulbs. Since then, I just enjoy them in the garden or cut them for floral arrangements. The Dutch irises planted in the fall of 2005 will need to be divided this year, but that's easy work. The height is 18-22 inches (in bloom) and the Dutch iris bulbs are rated for zones 5-8. I've had no trouble with deer eating the Dutch irises, but the rabbits went after the foliage this winter.

Buddleia (butterfly bush)

Whenever I'm searching for the "right plant" for a place in the garden, my husband suggests another buddleia! Another plant that I've probably over-used because it's deer and rabbit resistant, I have yellow, light and dark blue, pink and deep pink. 'Royal Red' is a big performer in our version of an inferno strip along the guest parking area. 'Adonis Blue™' has a smaller form factor and is used in a mix of perennials and annuals. 'Pink Delight' is in use for some privacy screening in our fragrance garden.

Butterfly bushes come in different varieties, sizes and colors. Zones vary according to the type, but most will work in zones 5-9. They are appropriately named as the butterflies are very fond of these blooming shrubs. I cut mine back in the late winter. Last year, I had to cut several back after severe winds and rain started to uproot a few. I found out that a nice trim twice in the flowering season made them so much more beautiful and I had fresh blooms up until frost.

Osmanthus fragrans (fragrant tea olive)

For a great evergreen shrub, it makes scents to plant osmanthus fragrans. Osmanthus fragrans is an evergreen shrub for zones 7-9. In spring and again in autumn, this shrub is highly fragrant. For weeks at a time, our osmanthus will bloom heavily. We have at least twelve of these shrubs! Needless to say, we have a fondness for this shrub. We planted osmanthus at a previous house as well.

Osmanthus fragrans can grow 10-20 feet high and 8-12 feet wide. With a medium growth rate, it is easy to keep these shrubs pruned, if necessary to fit the space. While they are drought tolerant, they also do well during periods of heavy rain. We use them as accent shrubs, privacy screening and for the fragrance. This is a deer resistant shrub that has received no nibbles in the winter, but the deer may rub their antlers on this (or any other) shrub in the fall.

Knock Out® Roses

I hate house work and the self-cleaning Knock Out® Roses don't require much care on my part. But, they attract a lot of attention! With seven of the 'Radrazz' growing inside my cottage garden (fenced and away from deer), the blooms keep on coming from late April until November. The flat cup cherry red rose blooms are a medium size. This rose is hardy in zones 5-9.

These roses were planted by our landscaper when we built the house. He selected the roses while I was busy with the final stages of house-building. This was my introduction to the Knock Out® Roses and I've been very happy with the performance and beauty of these roses. I grow clematis on the fence with the roses. Lavender, and a mix of perennials (hardy geranium, allium, heuchera) and annuals (ageratum, petunias) are other companions for the roses.

That wraps up my list of six plants. Can you name six plants that you can't live without?

Story and photos by Freda Cameron. Thanks to Steve Bender for organizing today's blog topic.


Visit these other garden blogs to find out the six favorites of gardeners in different zones around the country:

Meems at Hoe & Shovel in Florida
Pam Penick at Digging in Texas
Frances at Fairegarden in Tennessee
Carolyn Choi at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago in Illinois
Judy Lowe, Christian Science Monitor, at Diggin' It in Massachusetts
Jim Long at Jim Long's Garden in Missouri
Helen Yoest at Gardening with Confidence™ in North Carolina
Fresh Dirt at Sunset Magazine in California
Steve Bender, the Grumpy Gardener at Southern Living in Alabama

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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