Plants to Love: Neon Flash Spirea (Spirea ‘Neon Flash’)

SpireaNeonFlash.jpgSpirea ‘Neon Flash’ (USDA Zones 4-9) is a Bright! Magenta! Pink! flowering shrub to about 4’ tall, which loves full sun and blooms off and on throughout the summer. It does lose its leaves in winter and gets a bit of reddish-yellow fall color, but the fall color isn’t anything to rave about. I love the fine texture of the leaves, the neat, compact habit, and the Bright! Pink! flowers. This is an easy Spirea to care for so long as it has reasonably good drainage, an application of organic fertilizer in spring and regular water. It can sometimes get a bit of powdery mildew around the blooms if it is unhappy, but overall it is a sturdy, easy-care plant that gives a lot more back than it asks from us. I make sure to deadhead it promptly to encourage rebloom, and sometimes I’ll get three blooms in one season from it – a good six months of color. If you’re keeping up with things often, just prune out the individual flowerheads as they go brown and leave the new buds to bloom. If you’re a more casual gardener, just wait until the whole thing is done blooming, then cut the entire flowering stem down into the rest of the foliage so you don’t notice the cut stems. It will rebloom for you soon! Deer-resistant but not 100% deer-proof, I love this Spirea with Hebes, Salvia leucantha/ Mexican Bush Sage, ornamental grasses, and that wild tropical-looking Alstroemeria ‘Third Harmonic’ shown in the photo. [print_link]

Plants to Love: White Parahebe (Parahebe linifolia)

ParahebelinifoliawithHeucheraCrimsonCurls.jpgParahebe linifolia with Heuchera 'Crimson Curls' White Parahebe (USDA Zones 8-11) deserves to be one of those plants like Geranium ‘Rozanne'; a plant that’s totally overused but nobody’s actually sick of because it is so ridiculously charming. It has deep green, glossy foliage that’s evergreen and very attractive, its delicate white blooms are lacy yet sturdy and incredibly profuse – and the plant simply goes with everything. You name me a plant that doesn’t look nice next to this Parahebe and I’ll name you a plant that I don’t want in my garden. [Read more...]

Plants to Love: Purple Pixie Hebe (Hebe ‘Mohawk’ or ‘Purple Pixie’)

HebePurplePixieorMohawk.jpgHebe 'Purple Pixie' or 'Mohawk' This Hebe is a lovely little evergreen thing which gets to about 3’ around and blooms off and on a good part of the year. It takes shearing well and usually comes back well from hard pruning during the growing season, though I try to avoid pruning into the wood if I can avoid it. [Read more...]

Plants to Love: Fragrant Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia)

Sarcococcaruscifolia.jpgSarcococca ruscifolia This unassuming little shade shrub is one that people often don’t notice at first. There’s nothing particularly showy about its graceful arching stems, deep green leaves, or the tiny white flowers that hang from its branches in winter. But when those small blooms open, people walk around sniffing all the big, showy flowers in the area, wondering where that glorious fragrance is coming from! After the flowers, Fragrant Sweet Box begins creating pretty little red berries which hang prettily off each stem. The red berries soon turn to black, and the shrub creates a gentle show for months on end. [Read more...]

Plants to Love: Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima/ Stipa tenuissima)

stipanassellatenuissimaMexicanFeatherGrass.jpgstipa nassella tenuissima Mexican Feather Grass This waving blonde grass is a great way of bringing a sense of movement to your garden. It looks great massed, and brings a beachy feel to the garden with its bleached straw-colored seedheads. Nassella tenuissima does need to be cut to the ground once a year, but I’ve had great luck doing it at the end of the summer – it comes back just in time to perk up the winter garden. Give it full sun and 3’ of room. Mexican Feather Grass usually gets pruned once yearly in September when they go kind of beige and dreadlock-y, and they come back gorgeously and make a fresh green winter accent for me. Cut the entire thing to 3” tall using your hedging shears. (Check out this article from The Germinatrix with her take on pruning this Stipa!) This grass can be invasive in some parts of the country because it does re-seed. Here in the coastal Pacific Northwest, it will often re-seed in a garden, but rarely become a pest, and I haven’t seen it in any wild areas. But in Southern CA, it is becoming a pest and so I’d check with your local agricultural extension before planting this lovely little grass to make sure it will actually be lovely for you. [print_link]

Plants to Love: Purple Catmint (Nepeta faassenii)



Simple, lush, gorgeous. This sun-lover attracts bees and beneficial insects, resists deer, takes salty seacoast wind, and looks great with any number of plants. All it asks in return is good drainage and full sun. I love it with just about any ornamental grass, pink or yellow roses (it attracts the beneficial bugs that eat aphids, which makes them a great companion plant to roses!), Heathers, Hardy Cranesbills, and anything with purple foliage. I trim individual stems back partway early in the growing season if size needs to be reduced, or remove stems selectively towards the end of the season once trimming stems partway no longer looks graceful. Nepetas get cut back completely in winter once they’ve died down. You can divide them every few years to control size, but it doesn’t seem necessary for the plants’ health – I’ve never seen them die out in the center as many undivided perennials do. [print_link]