Use perennials as backbones, annuals as fillers. Sisters Specialty Gardens uses flowering shrubs and perennials as mainstays in beds and borders, filling in around them with annuals for quick and easy color. A pathway, for example, is accented by flowering shrubs such as Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light' and deep purple butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii). There are also white 'Iceberg' roses, penstemons (P. x gloxinioides), and dwarf Agapanthus 'Peter Pan'. Annual nemesias in white, pink, and blue border the path, where they can be easily reached and swapped out. "Annuals bloom for six months and can be replaced at minimal cost," Gousha explains. Low, mounding chamomile and creeping thymes grow between the nemesias.
Choose easy-care plants wherever possible. For the hot, dry slope pictured, Sisters mixes tough, unthirsty perennials, mostly in purples, pinks, and grays. Among them: Armeria maritima, with globular pink flowers; Artemisia 'Powis Castle', with silvery foliage; purple bearded iris; lavender (Lavandula dentata, L. x intermedia); pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), with blue-purple flower spikes; salvias; Santa Barbara daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), with white, daisylike flowers; Santolina chamaecyparissus, with yellow, buttonlike blooms; society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), with pale lavender-pink blooms; and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Horizontal pathways and rock walls help hold the slope.
Tuck in flowers for cutting. To bring the beauty of the garden indoors, Sisters finds places to add cutting flowers for use in bouquets. Against a trellis beside a driveway in one garden, the women planted sweet peas that bloom from mid-January or early February into May, depending on the weather. "In spring, we harvest often," Longmire says. "The more you pick and deadhead, the longer the plants produce flowers." McFadden adds: "A simple jar or white earthenware pitcher is perfect for displaying them." Sisters starts sweet peas in midfall, sowing seeds about 2 inches apart in well-prepared soil.