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I keep lists of plants I’m on the hunt for in various places—on sheets of paper in my purse, in an app on my phone, at the back of my garden notebook. This way I remember to grab them if I find them at a local nursery.

Each year there are a handful of plants that I get really hung up on for whatever reason. Here are three that I’m hoping to add to my garden this year.

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Monrovia photo

The first is a grass. I’m fussy about grasses. I’ve been through the ringer with less-than-well-behaved grasses in the past, so I choose them carefully. The one that I’m currently lusting after, a blue grama grass with a great name—Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’—caught my eye several years ago. It is a nice size plant—super tall grasses make me jittery—and has the most charming seed heads that sit perpendicular to the stems. The whole thing makes for an interesting plant. Of course those cute seed heads can turn into a nightmare but everything I’ve read says this is easy to control from a reseeding standpoint. I’ve struggled to find it in the past, but it seems to be popping up in many more places so I hope it will find a home in my garden this year.

Zone 4-9
Size: 30 to 36 inches tall and wide
Available online at: High Country Gardens, Plant Delights Nursery, MonroviaSanta Rosa Gardens, among others 


Paul Drobot photos

The next is a plant that has popped up quite a bit on this blog lately: Geum triflorum. This is another one that’s been on my radar for some time, as almost every garden I’ve toured seems to have them. And Proven Winners horticulturist Stacey Hirvela told me she can’t imagine having a garden without it. Bonus points for the fact that it’s native in much of the northern U.S., is a pleasant but not aggressive reseeder that will gradually work its way around and a gold star for it looking great for much of the year.

Zone 3-8
Size: 6 to 18 inches
Available online: Prairie Nursery, High Country Gardens, and as seeds


Richard Nelson’, Bluestone Perennials photo
‘Terra Cotta’, Bluestone Perennials photo

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but the next plant on my must-have list is Achillea millefolium. You know … yarrow. The plant that everyone has had in their garden forever. I feel like I have to defend my reasoning for not growing this plant before. I’m certain it has everything to do with the goldenrod yellow color I most typically associate with this plant. That harsh shade of yellow has never been a favorite of mine (even though I sometimes don’t mind it in early autumn). That combined with the sort of loose habit of Achillea always made me think “weed” when I saw it.

But guess what? Achillea is so much more than that. Cultivars range from an easy-on-the-eyes lemon yellow to shocking pink, dark red, peach or orange. Some are more compact than others, which also appeals to me and all are said to be very attractive to pollinators.

A few varieties that are worth a look:

Zone 3-9
Size 12-36 inches
These were the three plants I had to have last year and wouldn’t you know it, every one of them made it into my garden last summer. I still love them all. 

17 Responses

  1. I am totally the same on grasses. I read so much new planting style books and Piet O. and Roy D. And omg Dixter is like my style goddess.
    But truly I don’t want to have to rent equipment to get it out, divide, whatever. Truly this is a one-person (me) show here. I don’t have equipment haha. So yes, blonde ambition grama grass -it’s sooo beautiful, the movement of it and most grasses and the sideways hanging little blonde eyelashes, gosh it’s gorgeous! I will say, there is just so much value to good grasses. I have Big Bluestem here, some from seed, some small plants bought from US Perrennials in Btown. And I Adore Northwind Switchgrass so much. I have maybe 6, so not much yet. I have committed the cardinal sun against it at first by placing in too much shade. Oh how I would adore even talking to Roy Dublin.

  2. Also love these choices – my problem with yarrow has only ever been rich soil. I do have some now on my gravel path, so far so good, it was a clearance plant. 👍
    Prairie Smoke is so exciting to me with the wispy seed heads I cannot can’t to see if it will sprout well and grow in my winter sowing this year (2022). I have like 25 containers already haha.

  3. I just think you’re amazing. I’m so behind the times – just got some Prairie Smoke seeds in the mail in 2022 and here you are in a blog from 2017 talking about it. You’re awesome- love your YouTube channel also. I’m the hobbit lady on YouTube 😂😜🙄

  4. I am in SE Wisconsin and have not had trouble growing yarrow. I knew it first as an herbal tea and was always enchanted by it, so when I finally had a garden I gladly made a place for it. Yarrow has an interesting history. It was the herbal ally of Achilles (achillea), many cultures use it medicinally, and its stalks are cast for divination in the I Ching.

    I have the classic yellow variety as well as a delicate pink and a fiery red. I've forgotten the names. I did have to replace the yellow after that winter a few years ago when we had weeks on end below zero, but surprisingly the more delicate looking pink and red varieties made it through fine. I think I had divided the yellow that year so that may have been the reason ( I should start that garden journal!). I have not encountered a peach yarrow and now I may be searching for one this spring.

  5. I can't quite figure out a place to put that grass, but it is a stunner. Such a different look than most grasses. I can't grow yarrow where I would like it — and where I need a flat top plant — because my soil is too moist. It just rots away before the end of the first year. I had prairie smoke in my old garden; a great plant.

  6. I am not wild about grasses. I know it is one of "the" things to have in one's garden but I have just never hankered after them. Maybe if I had more room I would think more kindly of them. I love that geum. I have it. It hasn't started to reproduce yet. I hope it does. Achillea doesn't grow well here. It is a flopper in my garden probably due to not enough light for it. Like you I prefer the colorful bloomers. Good luck finding your grass.

    1. I think grasses are one of those things that people either love or hate. I can't stand too many of them but I'm certain that's PTSD related to the ENORMOUS bed of them that the previous owner had planted for privacy. It was terrible to get rid of. We used a brush mower for it and must have killed several dozen mice in the process. If that's how many couldn't get away from the mower how many were in there in the first place? Interesting that you're the second person who has trouble growing Achillea. Maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be?

  7. Some great choices. Achillea doesn't grow for me despite repeated efforts, it must be too wet here. Perhaps this will be the year we get 'Blonde Ambition' in the UK, I've been hankering after it too. Geum triflorum I must be able to find.

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