These are plants that are complete no-brainers for me and I can’t fathom having a garden without them. Most of them are low maintenance and therefore play an important role in my zone 5b garden.
1. LADY’S MANTLE (ALCHEMILLA MOLLIS)
My adoration for this plant know no bounds. It has a lovely scalloped round leaf and a very clumpy habit, so even when it has put on a lot of growth it tends to stay in a tight ball. The leaves are slightly fuzzy so critters don’t bother it. In early summer it sends up shoots of tiny chartreuse flowers that last for months, although they tend to flop over. The flowers are wonderful in flower arrangements but equally as nice in the garden where they add an ethereal shot of light.
In my garden, Lady’s Mantle grows equally well in full sun and part shade, although the flowers seem to last a little longer in shadier spots. It couldn’t be easier to divide, something I have done at almost any time of the spring and summer. It will also seed itself sometimes, but in my garden it does this only in the nicest possible way and is not at all overbearing.
|Dwarf Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla enthropoda) is truly petite, but its scalloped foliage is so charming.|
The past couple of years, I have added a dwarf version of the plant to my garden (Alchemilla enrthropoda). It doesn’t flower nearly as well, but its leaves are utterly charming and perfect for the very front of a border.
|Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ loosens things up by the meatball boxwood.|
I line my path with Nepeta, sort of a poor man’s substitute for lavender (which I’ve had no luck with in the past). When it gets too floppy I cut it all back to about 6 inches off the ground and it regrows and reblooms in about a month. Last summer I got three full rounds of blooming.
It’s another plant that no critter will eat and the bees adore it. I also love the smell of it, making it an even better selection for the path, where you may brush against it. I’ve also dotted it liberally around the garden where it has a tendency to flop a bit and intermingle with its neighbors, usually creating a lovely look.
|Elegans and Paradigm hostas play well together. In the photo below, you can see a little ‘Silver Moon’ clematis growing up the lattice in bright shade.|
Of course hostas come in just about every shape, size and color (white, yellow, green and blue and everything in between) you can imagine, so it’s easy to understand how you could quickly fill a garden with them.
In my zone, you can find a hosta to grow almost anywhere, including full sun. Some (usually yellows) do better than others in sunnier spots and you probably need to water them more, but I’m always amazed at how tough hostas can be.
|Etoile Violette, a group 3 clematis, climbs up the deck railing.|
Although I love, and have fallen for over and over again, the large group 2 clematis with their showy flowers, these require more work than the others. The smaller flowers in group 3 are utterly charming when they work their way through a shrub or tree and and are so easy to care for: just cut them back to one or two buds in very early spring.
|This one is just crudely tied to a stake amid a forest of monarda.|
Awhile ago, I figured out that you don’t need a trellis to grow clematis. I now grow them up shrubs and trees, on standalone obelisk-type things (sometimes just a group of skinny tree branches), sprawling on the ground, and up the deck railings. I like it when they go a little wild.
My favorite is ‘All Gold’, but I also grow ‘Stripe it Rich’, ‘Beni Kaze’, and ‘Aureola’ (all of which look very similar to me).
|‘All Gold’ mixes well with black heuchera.|
What perennials would you never be without? Did any of mine make your list?