Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Diana's Dozens: My Signature Plants

Woodland Walk

There's nothing blooming in my garden on this snowy December day, but I can get my 'flower fix' at any time by perusing the many photographs I've accumulated over the years. I picked (no pun intended) some special ones for this posting; they are my 'must haves.' Not all typical cottage garden flowers, they are the signature plants I chose for Diana's meme. Diana, who blogs at Elephant's Eye on False Bay in South Africa, challenged her followers to select an essential plant each month for a year. She issued her first 'Dozen for Diana' challenge back in 2012. These are the plants I chose that year:

Clockwise from top right:

- Clematis 'Tie dye'
- Zinnia 'Cut and come again' mix - English bluebell Hyacinthoides non scripta
- Creeping phlox Phlox subulata
- David Austin rose, Rosa 'Lichfield Angel'
- Blossom of the crabapple tree.

Clockwise from top right:

- Milkweed Asclepias
- Daylily Hemerocallis 'Chicago Apache'
- Zebra grass Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus'
- Walnut tree (perfect for swinging)
- Purple cone flower Echinacea purpurea
- Hellebore Hellebores 'Ivory Prince'

I enjoyed the activity so much that when Diana moved house and revived the meme for her new garden I decided to add to my list. My 2012 picks were mostly native plants, as you can see; not so this time. Starting in November 2015, I chose the following dozen: two dwarf trees (both weeping), two vegetables, one houseplant, one tropical flower, one native shrub and five perennials (only two of them natives.) Here they are in the order I picked them ...

The ZZ houseplant is a must have for its glossy green leaves and its ability to survive long periods of neglect. The easy ZZ is totally undemanding!

ZZ Plant Zamioculcas Zamifolia

Growing parsnips in the kitchen garden every year, I harvest them in December as an important addition to our Christmas feast. Their delicious flavor when roasted is improved by leaving them in the ground until after a couple of frosts.


I chose my dwarf Norway spruce in January when its evergreen weeping form is a striking presence near the pond. Here it is shown in springtime with new candles  ...

Dwarf weeping Norway spruce Picea abies 'Pendula'

... and today with new snow. See how it's grown!

Norway spruce sheltering hypertufa pots of sedum under its skirt.

I found the first sweet snowdrop on February 4th this year. It really cheered me when nothing else was blooming.

Snowdrop Galanthus

My 'must have' for March was the daffodil. One of its best traits -- the deer doesn't eat it!

Daffodil Narcissus mix

I purchased a weeping cherry to honor my mother when she lived at Cherry Tree Court in England.

Dwarf weeping cherry tree 'Snow fountain' Prunus 'Snofozam'

Brunnera is a reliable native plant for the shade garden. It's tiny blue flowers are like forget-me-nots.

Brunnera Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

I must have mock orange in my garden for it's delightful perfume.

Mock orange Philadelphus

My good friend Katharine gave me hollyhocks from her garden. They are a 'must' in English cottage gardens.

Hollyhock Alcea

I grow beets every year. We love them pickled or roasted. For several years I've been successful at the local fair with them.

Beets -- my first-place entry at the West End Fair
Pickled beets

After a stunning display of canna around my patio this summer, I decided to add them to my 'must have' list. Looking back, I see their tropical beauty doesn't totally fit with my cottage garden style of gardening. Should I grow so many next year? Maybe not ...

Canna lily Canna Striata

I ended with the beautiful native and bee magnet, Anise Hyssop.

Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum

I'm surprised as I review my recent list that there are so few indigenous plants. While there's a place for non-natives in the garden (I'm not a purist by any means), I feel I missed some of my most important blooms. Maybe, I need to pick another dozen?

What are your essential plants?

Pamela x

Crabapple tree

I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Wonderful pictures of the year in your garden. Stay warm!

  2. We share many of the same must-haves, Pamela. I absolutely adore the weeping Norway spruce, we have three of them here that I've been training up every year. Two of them are already over ten feet tall. Eventually we'll need to let them weep because we're running out of ladder. I also have three 'Picea glauca pendula' (weeping white spruce) which I totally adore for their petite footprint and no need for staking.

    Of course, my must-haves will always include a petunia, ha. Love this post!

  3. I feel as if I've been presented with a bouquet - a great festive armful of flowers and lovely leaves! And you included your gardening grandson in the mix ;~)

    I also needed a thoughtful second look at indigenous/native plants. The first and easy choice is familiar commonorgarden plants, then the indigenous plants charm their way into your heart as you learn about them. A wish list waits to fill the gaps that open in our small garden.

  4. Great pictures of the year, from flowers to vegetables, in your garden. I like the idea.

  5. Hi Pam: Many of these are among my favorites, too. And like you, I'm moving to more native plants, although I don't exclude non-natives entirely. I'm making a concerted effort to rid the garden of non-native, invasives, though, which is a continuous challenge. Congrats on the award for your beets! I'm not a huge fan, but I finally found a way that I actually like them--baked dry as beet chips!

  6. These are all nice picks. I don't feel like canna fit into my garden either, although they are great plants. I'd be hard pressed to pick a list of essential plants. It's like picking a favourite child. I love them all!

  7. You've done an excellent job picking favorites, I feel like these plants would make quite a nice garden all on their own.
    I can't wait to see the snowdrops again, this winter weather already seems far too dull.

  8. It's just about that time of year isn't it? No more flowers left in the yard, so time to hunt through the archives! Will be doing the same myself soon. Love it Pam!

  9. Your weeping Norway Spruce is magnificent--so beautiful. Your picks are all very different from what mine would be, because our climates are so different. I enjoy seeing all of yours, with a little envy as to what I cannot grow, but we gardeners grow for each other in a sense, don't we? Love of plants connect all gardeners.

  10. Didn't know Diana had a "meme". Great idea for this time of the year. Nice job ! Hope you're not getting too much snow.

  11. I enjoyed this post! It got me thinking--I may have to try it this year. How will I choose, though? :)