Thursday, 17 May 2012

Garden Essentials - The best garden plants ever (from someone who sort of hates gardening)


Gardening is something that I'm learning to love...slowly. In our first house, I started out really eager and ready to create the garden of my dreams. But I soon realized just how much work it is to establish and maintain a garden. And I was sort of done with it. Plus, we had the neighbours from hell (seriously) who were out in their backyard every second of the day, so we did our best to avoid the backyard all together. That's a whole different story...

Anyway, over time we managed to get a nice garden going and learned a lot through trial and error. I tried many, MANY, types of plants. Our last garden was ours for ten years, so I had a lot of time to experiment. I learned that the picture you see on the little plastic thing they stick on the plant pot isn't always the what you're going to get, and I also learned that you should actually read those little plastic things. And keep them. 

When we moved into this house, we inherited a really established garden, but one that had been sadly neglected. That's the thing about gardens, they can't just be pretty and cool on their own, which is what drives me nuts about them. But, I'd rather work a bit and have something nice then have a mess out there. 

Now that I have about 13 years of gardening under my belt (and by gardening, I mean spending about an hour out there once a month-ish), plus the wisdom of my Mom and Grandma who are actually real gardeners, I have narrowed down a list of must-have plants for our garden, and I thought I would share. I'm NOT an awesome gardener. Not even close. But that's why these plants are perfect for me. I can ignore them 95% of the time, and they still look cool. Also, they look good all season. The worst part about gardening (apart from the weeds, oh the weeds) is trying to pick plants an coordinating when they flower. I don't do that at all any more. I like plants that always look good.So if you have a garden, or are going to create one, grab some of these. 

So here we go.


These things pop up in my garden here and there all on their own, I've never actually had to buy one (our garden is sort of like a forest, seriously). But they are SO pretty. Not only are they super easy to grow (we don't do anything to them at all) but what I like most is that after they have flowered, they still have nice leaves. More info on Bleeding Hearts here.


Juniper is my favourite evergreen. Evergreens are so important to make things look full, and  this one looks really blue compared to all the other green, which I love. The one pictured (and the one I have several of in my garden ) is Juniper 'Blue Chip'. More info on Junipers here.

boxwood psylla damage 1

Another evergreen, boxwood is a new favourite of mine. I used to think these were only good for those perfectly square hedges, but they are so versatile. I have several planted and they are just cute, roundish shrubs. Easy to prune, love them. More info on Boxwood here.


Our first summer in this house, I really didn't do anything to the garden, but I did plant a deep purple clematis (Jackmanii, to be exact). I would have taken our old one with us if I could have. These are so easy and quick to grow, and the flowers are just amazing. My Grandma and Mom always told me that Clematis like to have 'cold feet', so they said to put a few small light stones at the base. They're Irish women who have kept beautiful gardens for YEARS, so I listen. More Clematis info here.


Our first dogwood was in this house, so it's a newer favourite as well. We have a big one at the edge of our pond, and it's really pretty all summer...but the best part is actually when the leaves all fall and bright red stems are left all winter. It's so pretty. Ours gets a little out of hand when it comes to the size, but I just give it a good trim in the spring and that's it. More info on Dogwood here.


Oh, Smokebush. You are a crazy plant, but I love you. Smokebush is a shrub that produces really bizarre, smoke-like flowers...but the foliage is AMAZING. It's so many colours, red, purple, green...and in the fall it is incredible. These get enormous, so pruning is essential, but they are so worth it. Again, a quick prune in the spring and you're done. More Smokebush info here.


Hosta's seem boring, I know. But, years ago I was at this lady's house (I used to go with my Grandma to neighbourhood garden meetings...ok maybe I am a gardener) and she had a 'hosta garden'. It hadn't occurred to me just how many varieties there were, and how cool they look when they're bunched together. So now I make I have one that's kind of blue, one that's green and white, one that's get the idea. My favourites, which are 'Frances William', 'Great Expectations', 'Mediovariegata' and 'Elegans'. There are a billion to choose from, and they are the easiest plant of all to grow. More Hosta info here.

Euonymus japonicus Bravo

I used to hate this plant. Something about the colours, I just wasn't into it. But then it occured to me, that unless I want to go crazy with flowers (which I don't), then everything is green, and you need tons of different green for it to look good. So, I started adding this in, and now I have about four of them. Love them. And they're actually evergreen too. Bonus. More euonymus info here. (Note: it's really, really hard to spell Euonymus. Just saying.)


We have a climbing hydrangea that's growing up the wall and around our back door. Before we lived here I had never seen one, and I think this is one of those things that I would plant right away if we ever moved. Something about it, it just looks right. More Climbing Hydrangea info here.


These guys are just cool looking. And so easy to grow. And they muliply. Love them. Who doesn't love a cute succulent? More Hens and Chicks info here.


Ok, so I don't actually like this plant just on it's own. It's sort of spindly and fragile looking. But, when it's grouped in with the other plants on the list, the colour is perfect. You won't get colour like that, that lasts all season, from any other plant. The one I have is 'Christa'. More Heuchera info here.


Full disclosure, peonies are a pain in the ass. They bloom, and then they fall over because they're so top-heavy, and then you either leave them like that (which looks like crap), buy a metal brace thingy for them (which looks like crap) or cut off the flowers. But...for a couple of days...they are AMAZINGGGGG. So, it's worth it. I don't like the pale pinky ones, I like the brightest, most intense pink/red I can find. This one is 'Sword Dance', and it's so perfect. More Peony info here.


This shrub is one you HAVE to have. It's not green, for one, and it's the prettiest shape, and colour, and has cute little flowers in the spring that smell delicious. Most of the time though it's just a really great, deep red/purple shrub. More Sandcherry info here.


I'm not really that into roses, I always thought they were way too hard...but there are two kinds of roses that we have that I LOVE. The one pictured is called 'Autumn Delight', and those white petals actually go pinky peach in the fall, it's so pretty. The other is 'Champlain' which is a really intense red. There is also a rose here in our garden that I'm not sure what it is...but it's the colour of a sunset. Seriously. It's gorgeous. And FYI, keeping roses is so not hard. In the spring, you prune them a bit to keep their shape. The end. Ok, so there's probably more, but that's all I do and it's been working for years. More Rose info here.


This is a ground cover, so it spreads out wherever it can. We have a rather large property for city dwellers, and there is a LOT of garden space that needs to be filled. It would cost a fortune to fill it all, so we've made use of ground covers here and there and this one is my fav. It has really nice glossy green leaves, and the little purple flower is pretty cute too. Zero maintenance. It just grows and grows. More Periwinkle info here.


One more flower for the list. Now, I'm not into just any tulips. Our house had a million plain white tulips in the front garden and I'm slowly ripping them out. But this tulip...the Black Parrot Tulip...oh I love it so. We had a ton at the old house and I wanted to desperately to dig up the garden and look for the bulbs. I guess I'll just spent the 8 bucks and order some more. More Parrot Tulip info here

////////// that's it! My list of plants that you must have if you A) want a garden that looks good all season, and B) kind of suck at gardening.

If I've missed any of your favs let me know! 

Note: Depending on the zone you're in, these may not work for your garden (if you don't know what the zones are, you can check here). 

Also, I order my tulip bulbs through Vesey's. They're great, and they have many other plants to choose from. If you are looking for tulip bulbs, they don't sell them right now because it's not the right time to plant them, but they'll be there in the fall...I'll be ordering mine then.

And lastly, there are probably many, many mispelled plant names in this post. They don't seem to register with the spell check, so I did my best. I apologize sincerely. I tried. Gimme a break.

Photo credits:

Bleeding Heart  ///  Juniper  ///  Boxwood  ///  Clematis

Dogwood  ///  Smokebush  ///  Hosta  ///  Euonymus

Sandcherry  ///  Rose  ///  Periwinkle  ///  Tulip



  1. so so pretty! i can't wait for a garden to call my own

  2. oh wow I LOVED this post...I love boxwood and peonys--what great tips and really you just can't go wrong with any of these!

    thanks for the great info!

    1. Thanks for reading Aarean!! Just checked out your blog too, love it!


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