The plants you’ll want to grow this year, plus great gardening ideas from our 2012 edition
written by Kathleen N. Brenzel
1 of 13Photo by Linda Lamb Peters
What to plant
Fuchsia x hybrida
Ruffled petals swirl about like a flamenco dancer’s skirt. Part shade inland, full sun near the coast. Sunsetclimate zones 4–6 with protection, 15–17, 22–24; H1.
2 of 13Photo by Planthaven
Its leaves have cherry-hued margins like its ‘Jester’ parent, only much more vivid—striking in borders and containers. Grows 3 feet tall; colors up best in part shade. Zones 7–9, 14–24; H1, H2.
3 of 13Photo by Terra Nova Nurseries
x Heucherella ‘Stoplight’
Nearly glows in light shade; its red-streaked leaves turn lime green in summer. Zones 1–10, 14–24.
4 of 13Photo by Visions BV, Netherlands
Echinacea purpurea ‘Doubledecker’
Petals top this perennial’s cone like a royal’s feathery fascinator—after the second growing season, that is. Zones A2, A3; 1–24.
5 of 13Photo by Nicholas Gitts / Swan Island Dahlias
‘Poodle Skirt’ dahlia
Wine-colored poufs and flaring hot pink petals add pizzazz to blue and white summer borders. Plant tubers between February and April. Zones 1–24.
6 of 13Photo by Linda Lamb Peters
Large apricot orange flowers fleck this unthirsty, 4-foot-tall, 6-foot-wide hybridized Aussie shrub all summer long. Zones 16–24.
7 of 13Photo by Dennis Frates / Alamy
Otherworldly or deep-sea creature? You decide. Either way, this succulent’s chalky green paddles are stunners. Zones 13, 17, 21–24; H1, H2.
8 of 13Photo by Susie Nadler / The Cutting Garden at Flora Grubb Gardens
Plus: Design tips
Make a succulent (live) bouquet
For a striking display, arrange echeveria rosettes in vases with other eye-catchers, such as the burgundy-flowered scabiosa, blue viburnum berries, spidery tillandsias, and trailing string of pearls stems pictured here. Afterward, set the rosettes into containers filled with succulent mix to start new plants. Design: Susie Nadler, Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco (floragrubb.com)
9 of 13Photo by E. Spencer Toy
Pair art with plants
Hang an outdoor painting to pick up a garden bed’s bright colors. Here, a fence-mounted metal patina work, by 5 Feet from the Moon (fivefeetfromthemoon.com), adds a pop of vibrant yellow that echoes the golden leaves of Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’, while its whimsical orange blooms play off a ‘Big Red’ kangaroo paw, burgundy-leafed C. c. ‘Royal Purple’, and Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’. Agave attenuata ‘Nova’ in the foreground and a tall, gray-green silver tree (Leucadendron argenteum) in the rear add cool contrast. Plants and design: DIG Gardens, Santa Cruz, CA (diggardens.com)
10 of 13Photo by Holly Lepere
Use boulders for seating
Toss a pillow onto a smooth flat boulder to create a natural outdoor recliner. Framed with wispy Mexican feather grass and thyme and facing a firepit, this seat is set into a low wall of stacked fieldstones that hold back a small slope. Design: Grace Design Associates, Santa Barbara (gracedesignassociates.com)
11 of 13Photo by Susan Seubert
Grow a meadow
Why confine annuals and perennials to tidy borders when you can mix them up for a full-on wildflower effect? Casual drifts of yellow yarrow, blue-violet Russian sage, purple coneflower, and Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ in this Portland garden ramble as if they were planted by nature.
12 of 13Photo by Davis Dalbok / Living Green
Go wild with foliage
To make an all-foliage vignette really come alive, combine plants of various leaf sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. In this Hawaii garden, the smooth, coffee- and apricot-hued leaves of ti plants (Cordyline fruticosa) contrast with a blue fan palm’s corrugated fronds and elephant’s ear’s wavy green leaves. Mounded red and green tillandsias add punch in the foreground. Design: Davis Dalbok, Living Green, San Francisco (livinggreen.com)