Tough Plants are the Best

great landscape plants

With a fresh year full of gardening ahead of us, I thought I’d leap in with a piece of gardening advice that pretty much sorts all problems. And here it is up front (so you don’t have to read any further). Fill your garden with plants that can look after themselves. Yes, it’s that simple.

If a plant is not flowering, it’s foliage is yellowing, it’s covered in bugs, has gone limp or just looks dreadful, it’s obviously being asked to grow outside its comfort zone. It’s also much easier to swap the plant than to modify the environment you’re attempting to grow it in. (Cruel as this sounds, by the time you’ve worked out that your new but incredible sensitive rainforest plant needs a purpose-built shade structure with a computer controlled misting system to survive, you might just want to nip down to the garden centre and buy a sturdier look-alike and save yourself the effort of investing in the life-support system.)

This advice makes sense. From now on, why not deliberately pick plants that can cope with a wider range of growing conditions. They’ll thrive, they’ll look great and they’ll reward your efforts. Fussy plants with specific growing needs are an interesting challenge for some, but when you can’t keep up their high maintenance demands, they’ll start to look dreadful and you’ll be feeling the guilt. And here’s the clincher – plants that are healthy and strong tend not to need chemicals to protect them from insects and disease.

What follows is a collection of my pics showing tough plants in action: hopefully you’ll be inspired to fill your garden with lovely things that happen to be able to look after themselves.

First things first, take a look at the shot above of one of Appeltern’s show gardens in the Netherlands. It’s a great study of massed planting in layers (which creates added visual depth) filled with plants that can be relied on to thrive. It’s a glorious garden, and it’s tough as nails.

Windowsill garden with Bonfire Begonia

Now here’s fantastic shot of someone’s window box in Germany. In case you hadn’t realized, growing plants in window boxes can be tricky simply because they can quickly dry out on a windy day. This is the Bonfire begonia and it looks this good because it’s a tough, easy to grow plant. There are a few versions of these (that’s another one below), each as just as tough and beautiful.

Bellfire Begonia


Sometimes beautiful gardens aren’t about flowers (below). I snapped this because the landscape was so skillfully sculpted and then filled with absolutely bullet-proof plants – from the flowering liriope at the lowest step, past the Pfitzer juniper and on through the golden grasses. Maybe the door is red because there are no flowers?

ornamenal grasses for landscaping


And finally here’s a bit of an inside story. Kristin (who works with us) built a house some years ago and was left with a tricky site to landscape and a limited budget. The challenge was to deal with the slope, the clay and builders’ debris and a climate that permanently nudges drought. And the answer was our Flower Carpet roses. Her house is known as The Rose House.

ready to landscape

Flower Carpet on slope

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