The plants you’ll want to grow this year, plus great gardening ideas from our 2012 edition
Photo by Linda Lamb Peters
Fuchsia x hybrida
Ruffled petals swirl about like a flamenco dancer’s skirt. Part shade inland, full sun near the coast. Sunset climate zones 4–6 with protection, 15–17, 22–24; H1.
Photo 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.
Photo by Terra Nova Nurseries
Nearly glows in light shade; its red-streaked leaves turn lime green in summer. Zones 1–10, 14–24.
Photo by Visions BV, Netherlands
Petals top this perennial’s cone like a royal’s feathery fascinator—after the second growing season, that is. Zones A2, A3; 1–24.
Photo by Nicholas Gitts / Swan Island Dahlias
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.
Photo 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.
Photo 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.
Photo by Susie Nadler / The Cutting Garden at Flora Grubb Gardens
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)
Photo by E. Spencer Toy
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)
Photo by Holly Lepere
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)
Photo by Susan Seubert
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.
Photo by Davis Dalbok / Living Green
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)