Summer Round-Up: A few favorites from 2011 ::PART ONE::

For years now, I have given tours of Bartholdi Park that were focused on all my favorite plants.  I think that it's about time that I start writing about it so that more than the twenty or so people who go on the tour have the opportunity to hear (or ignore) what I have to say about my favorite plants.  I will start by explaining what usually makes a plant near and dear to my heart.  Usually, it's a vigorous plant that seems to be happy in most situations in our Washington, DC weather.  It doesn't require a lot of fertilizer, pesticides, trimming, babying, etc.  Basically, it does it's thing without a ton of attention from moi and looks fabulous doing so.  So, here a few that I have really loved lately:

Bulbine frutescens 'Hallmark'
(Photo: © AJP 2011)
1.  Bulbine frutescens 'Hallmark', "Orange Stalked Bulbine".  

This succulent from South Africa is real work horse of a tropical color plant in the garden.  It needs little to no water and loves the heat and doesn't seem to be affected by our horrible humidity in the slightest.  It is just a blooming machine with its starry yellow and orange flowers borne on delicate wands that wave in the breeze adding just a touch of drama to the summer garden.  

Bulbine is related to Aloe and a lot of other succulent species making it a great candidate for low-water gardening.  Prior to this year I had only grown it in succulent combination pots.  In a pot it is a great plant as it rarely needs to be watered.  This year I tried using Bulbine as a bedding plant.  It seems that as long as it has a lot of sun and good drainage you can't go wrong with it.

Bulbine frutescens 'Hallmark' is available by mail order from Bustani Plant Farms, a family-owned nursery in Oklahoma that specializes in lots of interesting and rare plants that are well suited to our hot, humid DC summers.  They are a great company and fun to do business with.  I can't say enough nice things about them.  Check out their page for Bulbine.

Malvaviscus drummondii 'Pam Puryear'
(Photo: © AJP 2011)
2.  Malvaviscus drummondii 'Pam Puryear', "Pink Turk's Cap" .   

This is certainly one of my favorite mallows (quite a statement from someone who's a big fan of the Malvaceae family, not even mentioning the fact that chocolate is a part of it).  It's a great herbaceous perennial in my garden.  It's said by some to only be hardy to zone 8, but it survived in a relatively unprotected location in my garden with just a light mulching of pine needles. 

It's a bit slow to emerge in the spring like many of its American mallow cousins, but it's worth the wait.  By halfway through the summer it has grown up to 5 feet high and about the same amount in width.  The flowers differ from the species (native to the southeastern United States) in that the vibrant red-orange color is replaced by a very pleasant salmon-pink.  As much as I love brilliant colors like scarlets and oranges, I have found that these softer pink colors are a bit more easy to work with in a garden design.  It seems to be happy with moderate moisture in a somewhat shaded location in the hottest of afternoons.  It begins blooming in early summer and continues nonstop until a hard frost.  Buy one, and plant it in a party shaded, evenly moist part of your garden and you won't regret it.  

Pink Turk's Cap is available by mail order from Bustani and Plant Delights.

Euphorbia cotinifolia 'Atropurpurea'
(Photo: © AJP 2011)
3.  Euphorbia cotinifolia 'Atropurpurea', "Caribbean Copperplant".

This is another great drought-tolerant, almost succulent plant great for adding summer color and drama to the garden.  This variety in particular seems to exhibit a denser and more saturated burgundy color than the species and many other varieties that I have grown in the past.  It is truly drought tolerant and needs little if any additional water throughout the growing season once it's had a chance to get established.  It can easily grow to 4 or 5 feet in one season and nearly as wide.  Flowers are white and pretty much insignificant.  It's species name cotinifolia refers to the similarity between copperplant and the Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria).  You really can't be this plant for low-maintenance and low-water foliage plants for dramatic summer impact in the sunny garden.  It's also available from Bustani.