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Garden Designers Roundtable – Top Landscape Plants : Kill Me, Why Don’t You???

by germinatrix | April 26th, 2011

This month the Garden Designers of the Roundtable are posting about their TOP landscape plants – and I am in a total tizzy. HOW can I possibly CHOOSE? This is KILLING me! I know all of us are saying this, but I am saying it in an extra whiny tone, throwing myself on my daybed, and throwing my shoe against the wall. This is HARD. I am a crazed plant collector – a MANIAC, a FIEND. But the task at hand is more focused than what are my favorite plants – I see it as what plants we use the most when doing landscape design. Okay then. I can breathe now. Let’s just dive in:

those of you who can't use Agave attenuate, I am truly sorry

Agave attenuata – An agave that is often used by pools. It is incredibly sculptural and has no sharp points. It pups easily, and develops a stem so underplanting this beauty is a must for me. And when it blooms – watch out! It will send up a swan’s neck shaped spike that will make you SWOON!

fresh, white, casual, easy - 'Iceberg' is my kind of rose!

Rosa ‘Iceberg’ – What, you say? The Germinatrix is a fan of a simple white rose? YES! R. ‘Iceberg’ is one of the toughest roses around. She does well in drought, doesn’t need much more than a layer of compost for fertilizer, and she blooms her ass off . I love pairing Iceberg with agaves – the soft rose set off against the tough succulent just sends me over the moon every time!

ah, anigozanthus - I love you!

Anigozanthus ‘Orange Cross’ – or ‘Red Cross’, or ‘Harmony’, or ‘Bush Ranger’, or ‘Tango’ – or just the beautiful green flowered A. viridis. I love them all. For much of the year they are a collection of strappy, upright, unassuming leaves – but come summer they burst forth like a cheerleading squad, yelling for attention. I love their stridency, their unabashed attention seeking behavior. And so do hummingbirds!

Euphorbia x martinii, I have always been faithful to you

even though Euphorbia wulfenii gets put into my gardens a little more often

Euphorbias – I love love love them. I use lots of euphorbs in design – trigona, tirucalli, ingens, rigida, polychroma, lambii – but it is Euphorbia characias wulfenii that I go back to again and again. I love its 3′x3′ size ( taller with its super cool Martian blooms), those super cool Martian blooms, and the way they lend their je ne sais quoi to whatever plant is sitting next to them (like a chic French girl). In fact, I don’t think I have ever NOT used E. wulfenii  in a design!

i don't even have to say anything, do I?

Artichoke – Be it ‘Green Globe’ or ‘Imperial Star’, I will go to the mat for this plant. If clients don’t want edibles, I will STILL make them plant artichokes – and they always LOVE them! There aren’t very many edibles that are also dramatic, scene-stealing, stand-alone garden plants, and this is one of them. When a plant looks THIS good and is also delicious, why the hell not? Plant it everywhere, I say! (it looks especially stunning associated with Iceberg roses, bronze fennel, marjoram, and sage – an edible combination to knock you on your BUTT!)

two of my favorites - marjoram and sage

Marjoram and Sage – culinary herbs that do double duty in the landscape. They look fantastic while creating a tough groundcover layer, and they help out in the kitchen! Can you say that about all of your good-looking plants? Marjoram flowers attract bees like nothing else, and sage comes in so many fantastic colors that NOT planting it seems like a serious mistake to me, even if you aren’t thinking about eating the leaves!

I ADORE the agave, but it is the pelargonium that I'm talking about...

Pelargonium ‘Chocolate Mint’ – We all know that I will plant as many agaves as I can in a garden, and this A. weberi is no exception – but right now I am focused on the underplanting of Pelargonium ‘Chocolate Mint’, otherwise known as Chocolate Mint Scented Geranium. This just LOOKS like chocolate mint, don’t try and make tea or flavored sugar with it! It smells pungent, like a resin of some sort. But all it needs to do for me is be lush and gorgeous, and create a low carpet to pull my plantings together, and I will love it forever.

if it is an aeonium, I am going to use it and be pleased with myself!

Aeoniums – I used to plant more A. ‘Zwartkopf’ (the black rose succulent) than any other aeonium, but now it is A.urbicum that has my heart. Just look at the huge dinner plate form! Here in Southern California, it grows beautifully in dry shade – I often combine it with Euphorbia martinii and Huechera maxima. I just love easy drama!

I could seriously go on and on – but I might start taking up some crazy bandwidth! Let me just say that these plants are very specific to my climate, which is hot, dry, and  Mediterranean. I like to push zones and mix in other types of plantings, but my backbone is always the tough palette that Southern California affords us. I consider myself lucky! The only reason I DON’T feel lucky right now is that I have so many MORE plants to talk about – I didn’t even TOUCH on GRASSES! ANATHEMA!

XOXO Your Germinatrix!

Now follow the links across the country to see what my fabulous colleagues are planting!

I’d like to thank our very Special Guest Star, the Magnificent Nan Ondra – who wrote us a huge, luscious post! What a delicious treat to read!!!

Nan Ondra : Hayefield : Bucks County, PA

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA

22 Responses to “Garden Designers Roundtable – Top Landscape Plants : Kill Me, Why Don’t You???”

  1. Ow, Ivette – I think your post qualifies as taunting to this poor Zone 6 gardener. I’d give a lot to be able to grow Euphorbia wulfenii. Your combination of the agave and the chocolate mint geranium is simply wow.

  2. Wonderful post, Ivette! I’m sure we were gardening sisters in a past life, and as a confirmed Agave attenuata killer, I solute you. And those iceberg roses, and unexpected delicious touch that just gave me some huge ideas for a project. You’re the best! xoxo

  3. Ivette, Ivette, Ivette. Would you just bottle your enthusiasm, intelligence, and design mojo and sell it? Please. Seriously, an amazing combination of the temperate, tropical and edible. Thanks so much for your insights.

  4. Agree with Jocelyn.
    Except think you should be cloned so you can teach plantsmanship on a global basis!
    Best
    R

  5. I tried and I tried and I tried again – STILL I can’t keep our cold temps from wiping out my Agave attenuata. I’ve finally thrown in the towel (and you should’ve seen MY hissy fit). When I first started gardening I entered a local nursery’s rose contest and took FIRST PLACE based off of a gorgeous bouquet of Iceberg roses. FIRST PLACE I tell you!! Good ‘ol Iceberg – she never lets you down, does she?! And thanks for the Chocolate Mint tip – that’s a new one for me and you can be SURE I’m on the hunt for it now.

  6. I have no words. DO feel sorry for me, Germi, because we cannot grow Agave attenuata here in Austin (without winter protection). Boo hoo. But like you I love to pair agaves (and we CAN grow many other varieties, luckily) with billowy, blooming plants like roses. It’s a fab combination, and unexpected. I love all your plant choices, and I’d like to see your favorite grasses too because I’m a huge fan of ornamental grasses.

  7. Ivette, I’m with Nan, your post is like holding out a yummy box of chocolates and snatching them away quickly for this zone 6 gardener. I am always so fascinated by the palette of plants you get to use in your designs. A great post that was a pleasure to read.

  8. I knew you’d have vibrant photos that showcase the Southern California beauty queens you love so much for your own garden and your clients. But my favorite photo is the iceberg rose. Despite your current rock star status as Plantmaster General of Agaves and Edibles, I remember you sharing that as a newbie, your earliest gardening experiences was with roses. Kudos for holding a place in your heart for one of the very plants that helped put you on the path to greatness! It’s as if you thoughtfully saved a slow dance for your first boyfriend at your twenty year reunion.

  9. Wow, the comments on this post are every bit as fun as the post itself! You obviously inspire people, Ivette, and you’ve certainly inspired me to seek out some of these beauties. That Aeonium is lovely!!!

  10. Just love your choices and I am totally envious of your ability to have that tropical look in your garden! I never thought of using marjoram and sage as a ground cover – what a perfect combination for my herb garden! Thanks for some great inspiration!

  11. My friends! I don’t mean to TAUNT, only to TEASE…

    Nan, thank you so much for your lovely comment and your INCREDIBLE post. You inaugurated the guest posting on GDRT with STYLE and GENEROSITY! I am truly in awe…

    Laura! I gave YOU and idea for a project? I shiver with delight!!! We’ll have to have drinks when I’m up in your neck of the woods and discuss the details … and other things!

    Oh Jocelyn, how sweet of you! Enthusiasm overwhelms me when I get going about my favorite plants – like all of us, I am a smitten kitten!

    Robert, if I get cloned the first place I’m going is to England so we can have a pint!

    Sweet Rebecca, I know your pain, because once in a very rare freeze here in LA, I lost a variegated Agave attenuata. I had a meltdown. I hope I would deal better now. I love that you won with the simple, chic Icebergs – I love them! They are beauties with a duty, and they do that duty so well!

    Pam, roses and grasses are another of the combos that make my heart beat. I really need to do a post on grasses, because I feel I don’t give them enough love in my writing – but they are SUPER important in my practice! Thanks for the nudge…

    Thank you Debbie! The palettes we use is SO Different, right? Just know that I am drooling when I see what YOU can do that I can’t!

    Dearest SuMo, no way I could say no to roses. I have three varieties in my garden right now – Iceberg, Altissimo, and Mutabilis – and I would totally add more (but for ROOM). I DO save a place in my heart for them – and you should have SEEN me and my first boyfriend at our highschool reunion! Scandalous!

    Gen, the feeling is so mutual! You are one of my heros!

    Cathy, herbs are some of my FAVORITE groundcovers! Try using them that way, all over your garden! You’ll love your herbs twice as much.

  12. I really treasure your piece of work, Great post.
    Regards,
    Cole Wilson

  13. Damn. Damn. Damn. I am in total zonal denial. I want, want, want but I’m in Zone 6, 6, 6. Like Nan, I’d give an awful lot to be able to grow Euphorbia wufenii. Have to go and get a tissue, I’m drooling.

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