Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Part II - More Experts Share Must-Have Plants

As we enter into June, the peak growing season is upon us. So, I turned to two more gardening experts for their "must-have" plants for 2010.

Here are the plants they can't live without this year...

In the San Francisco Bay area, Rebecca Sweet knows plenty about plants. The talented landscape designer owns Harmony in the Garden and her creatively inspired garden designs have been featured in Fine Gardening Magazine. She writes a popular blog called Gossip in the Garden and can be found on Twitter as @SweetRebecca.

Rebecca's job takes her around lovely plants each day. But one of her current favorites is Nicotiana mutabilis purchased at Annies Annuals. (The plant is the tall pinkish-purple flower in the above photo; a closeup photo is at the top of this blog post.)

"This plant might look tender and delicate," explains Rebecca. "But mine has been unbelieveably tough, surviving through freezing temperatures. It towers over 8 feet tall with scads of multi-color flowers that bloom for months. Plant one near a window, and you'll have a room filled with the most heavenly scent."

Another plant that has won Rebecca's heart is the Euphorbia 'Blackbird' shown above. "I'm always on the lookout for plants that give my clients the biggest bang for the buck," she explains. "This euphorbia tops my list. It has the darkest, most velvety maroon-colored leaves, and the flowers are a gorgeous complimentary chartreuse green."

This euphorbia is beautiful in a mixed garden bed, as you can see above. But the plant is also a practical choice. "It's deer-resistant, snail proof and drought tolerant," adds Rebecca. "In our Zone 9 climate, this plant is an evergreen. All it needs is a little dead-heading once in awhile. But watch that sap, as it can be a skin irritant."

Hear more gardening tips from this award-winning garden designer on Nest in Style.

Jenny Peterson is the owner of J. Peterson Garden Design in Austin, Texas. On Twitter, she's known for her gardening tweets as @MulchMaven, and her delightful blog was a nominee in the 2010 Mouse & Trowel Awards.

As much as this talented landscape designer loves flowers, she admits her "must-haves" right now simply aren't flowering plants.

Photo by 
Jenny has fallen hard for Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr'. "This gorgeous clumping bamboo grows up to 15 feet tall," she says. "But it spreads slowly, so the plant doesn't have the invasive qualities of other bamboos. With the lower-to-medium height, it makes a great screen. Plus, the yellow culms are smaller in diameter, making it easy for homeowners to cut back."

The designer likes the Alphonse Karr bamboo in minimalist contemporary landscapes, as well as blended into Asian and tropical landscapes.

Photo by Northern Territory Government, Australia

Another favorite is Mexican Feather Grass (Nasella tenuissima). "I love this smaller ornamental grass and use it at many of my clients' homes," says Jenny. "It grows to 2 feet high. And the smaller size makes it very versatile in the landscape, while the chartreuse green color and fine texture make this plant a beautiful accent."

This grass will reseed, but Jenny says it's easily controlled. She likes to plant this grass en masse or as an accent to other plants.

Coming soon! More must-have plants for June.


  1. Thanks again, Teresa, for giving me this opportunity to talk about some of my favorite plants (one of my favorite topics!) And I'm so thrilled to learn about Jenny's favorite Bamboo - I'm currently researching a smaller clumping bamboo for a client and she just made my job a little easier!

  2. You are so welcome, Rebecca. I fell in love with the plants you and Jenny recommended. Now I just need to find more room in this garden. ;) Thanks again for participating.

  3. two of my favorite garden designers on one of my favorite writers' blog! thanks for the great recommendations. the hummingbirds go nuts over nicotiana mutabilis. along with salvias, it is their favorite plant in my garden!

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  5. Annies Annuals - Thanks for stopping by! That Nicotiana mutabilis is a beauty. I can just imagine the hummers can't get enough of it... ;) Teresa

  6. I'm surprises Jenny picked Mexican Feather Grass, she once told me that she had a "nightmare" where I had converted every plant on my balcony to MFG....

  7. Nice plant choices! A client turned me on to Euphorbia 'Blackbird' last year, but I haven't had it in a garden long enough to know how it performs long term.

    Jenny, have you tried Bambusa 'Golden Goddess'? Very similar but smaller, in the 6' to 12' range. Better choice for pots as it is less likely than Alphonse Karr to eventually break the pot as it clumps out (which I learned AFTER putting into a client's pot) and just nice if you want something a little smaller.

  8. Hey Teresa--what a good idea to get favorite plant recommendations--I always like to know what plants other designers love! I interviewed 5 staffers a few weeks ago at one of my favorite local nurseries about their current "to die for" plant--and it's incredible the range they came up with!

  9. Nicotinia in AZ has a yellow flower and was 'planted' by a bird. It is as tall as a one story building. It is also nitrogen-fixing, adding nitrogen to the soil which is always good for the garden!. I have one growing IN my garden bed! Shades the plants as well in the scorching hot summer sun in Phoenix.

  10. Hi all: thanks for your comments. Now, Fern, I'm not sure what Jenny meant by that strange dream analysis, but maybe she'll let you know. ;)

    Susan, thanks for all the great plant ideas...

    Jenny P., it IS amazing all the different plants that people tend to favor. I'll be featuring more "must-have" plants in the upcoming months.

    Garden Goddess, thanks for the feedback on nicotinia in Arizona. It sounds like a beauty, and I'm delighted it withstands your hot sun.

    Thanks everyone for stopping by and dropping a note. Teresa