A Nationwide Roundup of Garden Designers' Favorite Plants

A Nationwide Roundup of Garden Designers' Favorite Plants

Rochelle Greayer
May 4, 2011

Have ever thought about hiring a garden designer? As a designer myself, I am not going to say it's a bad idea, but its not always the right choice for every person, project or budget. If it's a little localized advice or inspiration you are looking for, the Garden Designers Round Table is a great way to learn from a pro in your region.

The Garden Designers Round Table (GRDT) is a group of 21 professional garden designers who blog from across the US and UK. Each month the topic changes and representatives of the group share their own regional view points. Last week, the topic was designers' top picks for landscape plants.

As I thought through my own list, I assumed that my choices were so obvious that everyone else would have picked the same. But happily, I was gently reminded of the vast environmental differences and the enormity of plant world when there was almost no overlap between any of the designers.

I thought I would share some the regional favorites and introduce you to some of the people who did the picking:

Best Selling Garden Writer Nan Ondra who posts from Pennsylvania, named the beautiful Silver Willow (Salix alba var. sericea) as one of her favorites. She cites its graceful silver leaves, its great 'backdrop' contribution and how it wonderfully sets off so many other plants placed around it.

Andrew Keyes in Boston recommended a selection of water wise choices, and among other things, choose the pretty silvery combination of Stachys byzantina (lambs ears) and Sedum sieboldii.


Christina Salwitz
in Washington State introduced us to one of her favorite combinations that puts together the pretty purple blue hues of Catmint (Nepeta 'Magnificum') and Hardy Geraniums (Geranium 'Walkers Low').

Genevieve Schmidt in Northern California recommended Hook Sedge (Uncinia uncinata) -- because it's orange -- and who doesn't love orange? Orange can be tricky to get in the garden and this plant with it's beautiful black tipped leaves offers the color with a distinctive level of sophistication. (I wish I could grow it in my zone!!)

Ivette Soler's (in LA) favorite plants highlight some of the more vast regional differences. There are only a couple of her choices that I could grow in Boston, but I can certainly admire from a cold distance the Agave attenuate that she regularly uses around the pretty pools of Southern California.

Making a recommendation for trees, Jocelyn Chilvers in Denver cites Hawthorn, (Crataegus sp). as a good option for beautiful fall color, pretty berries and it's ability to attract wildlife.

Bay Area designer, Laura Livengood Schaub likes Elijah Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca). She says, "It appreciates a little shade and water to look its best; and makes a wonderful 18" mound of blue that is tough, soft, and looks great year round."

Over in England, Lesley and Robert like modern Black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) as well as some other classics of English garden design.

Rebecca Sweet put together a range of blue-green plants that work for her in central California. The list includes one of my favorites, Blue spruce globosa (Picea pungens 'Globosa' ). For my own contribution -- I have to go with boxwoods (Buxus var.). They are just such hard working, structural, garden plants. I find that most people either love or hate their smell. Personally, I recognize it's similarity to other less pleasant cat-related odors, but it still elicits happy memories of elegant gardens I have enjoyed.

And finally Susan Morrison (also in the Bay Area) shared her favorites - none of which I had ever even heard of - which included the exotic Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii 'Kanga Yellow').

Next month, the GRDT members will be posting about stone in the landscape and the group will host of a couple of special guests including Deb Silver of Detroit Garden Works as well as Sunny Weiler of Stone Art Blog.

Images: Silver Will from Nan Ondra, Lambs Ears and Sedum from Andrew Keys, Catmint and Geranium from Christina Salwitz, Hook Sedge by Genevieve Schmidt, Agave Attenuate by Ivette Soler, Hawthorn by Jocelyn Chilvers, Blue Fescue by Laura Livengood Schaub, Black bamboo from Hegarty Webber Partnership, Blue Spruce by Rebecca Sweet, Boxwoods by Rochelle Greayer, Kangaroo Paw via Susan Morrison courtesy of Velveteen Swirl.

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