Favorite Things

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.”

(Lyrics from The Sound of Music)


The winter blues often set in when I flip my calendar page to January, but that hasn’t been the case this year in the Philadelphia area with balmy days in the 60’s. As a result, I’m not feeling sad at all. I’m still remembering my favorite things though, which of course aren’t really things at all. They are people. And places. And PLANTS!

While I have a list of MY favorite plants, I thought it would be fun to ask my friends in the nursery trade about their favorite plants for different categories. Here are the results:

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

My parents introduced me to hostas early on in my gardening life as they were members of the American Hosta Society. Hostas come in thousands of sizes and colors and can easily be divided so I understand why they are a favorite of Andy’s. The only problem is that that deer love them. If I don’t spray mine with deer repellant, Bambi and friends eat them to the ground as if they have been invited to Carol’s buffet. Illicum floridanum (Florida Anise Tree) does well in my dry shade garden and it’s a nice evergreen presence in the winter with good deer resistance.

I share Keith’s love of Amsonia – especially Amsonia hubrichtii which makes quite an impact in the fall garden and was the Perennial Plant of the year in 2011. Amsonia ‘Storm Cloud’ features dark stems and blue flowers (considered somewhat rare in the garden world) and all Amsonia are deer resistant – an added bonus! There are endless varieties of our native redbud (Cercis). I love ‘Alley Cat’ and hope to get my hands on ‘Flamethrower’ this year.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

In addition to availability in many colors, Echinacea are butterfly and bee magnets. Callicarpa ‘Early Amethyst’ attracts bluebirds and robins who gorge on the berries. Some fern varieties like Christmas and Autumn ferns are evergreen, providing winter interest and structure in addition to their lacy foliage. Clearly Alyssa’s selections are prized plants of mine as well since most of them have a home in my garden.

Lasting Landscapes by Carol

Phlox Jeana is a relatively new cultivar that resists powdery mildew better than other cultivars. Osmanthus is evergreen, deer resistant, and dry shade tolerant with intoxicatingly fragrant flowers in November. I have several different cultivars of Osmanthus including Goshiki, Gulftide, Sasaba, and Kaori Hime. Hmmmm, perhaps I should add it to my list of favorites. And speaking of MY favorites, here they are…

Shade Perennial: Epimedium

Sun Perennial: Allium

Deer Resistant Plant: Helleborus orientalis

Shrub: Edgeworthia chrysantha

Tree: Variegated Stellar Pink Dogwood

Underutilized Plant: Acanthopanax sieboldianus ‘Variegatus’

Understandably, all those surveyed indicated it’s pretty difficult to pick just one plant for a given situation since there are so many to choose from. The varied responses also indicate that gardening is individual and that personal preferences and site conditions play a significant role. As you probably noticed, some plants are favorites in multiple categories like Epimedium and Allium. Other plants are favorites because there is a sentimental attachment to them.

My recommendation is to consult with professionals to gain knowledge and then plant what you like. Winter is a great time to strategize on garden changes and select some picks for the spring. I hope I have inspired you to try something new or plant more of something you adore. Either way, let me know your favorites!