Last year, creating the hardscaped areas outside was our largest, most time-consuming task. We created a waterfall with hidden pond, built a reclaimed beam deck, added a bocce court, and spread tons (and tons!) of limestone rock.
With the major components in place, we are free to start adding plants. At least in most areas. We still can’t plant against the house because they’d get trampled while working on the new siding. Womp, womp.
Can I get a “Finally!” though? While we think the rock is better to look at than the very patchy dirt and grass of yore, it feels rather desolate and… unfinished.
I’ve been shopping around town for perennial plants that fit these criteria: 1. Must tolerate full (6+ hours) sun. 2. Drought tolerant and/or deer resistant because those four-legged friends show up often around our house. 3. Can handle the cold weather we get come winter (we’re in zone 4). 4. I also want a variety of sizes, texture, color, and bloom times.
My stops included several local greenhouses, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. I was very pleasantly surprised by the variety both home improvement stores had this year. In fact, most, if not all, of my top twelve picks are available at the big retailers. No need to track them down at a special store.
1. Spirea is a shrub, growing 1 to 4 feet tall with colorful flowers. Hearty in zones 4-9. The green leaves are pretty spring through fall with pink flowers showing up in the summer. Also somewhat drought tolerant needing weekly waterings once established.
2. Lupine is a perennial with colorful, showy flowers. Grows 18 to 24 inches tall in zones 4-9. Adding colorful flowers to brighten up areas will break up the green.
3. Nest Spruce, an evergreen can grow 3 feet tall and up to 6 feet wide. It’s bright color contrasts with darker evergreens. Good in zones 2-8. We’ve already added five to the front of the bocce court. Once mature, these will spread out and hopefully look like a green carpet year round.
4. Blue Fescue is a low growing (6 inches tall) ornamental grass. Both drought tolerant and deer resistant it adds color along borders in zones 4-8. I’d love to plant a row of ornamental grasses, including Blue Fescue along the edge of the bocce court.
5. Yarrow, a flowering groundcover can reach heights of 2 to 3 feet and spreads up to 5 feet wide. Bright flowers are ideal for cutting. Grows in zones 3-9. To add some color along the front walk, I picked up two yarrow. While small now, they should cover the rock well in a few years.
6. Lavender is known for fragrant flowers, but did you know it is also an evergreen? Growing 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall and wide this low water mounding perennial is hearty in zones 4-9. After we finish the siding, I think a few lavender plants along the house would look and smell amazing.
7. Purpleleaf Sand Cherry A tall shrub, 5 feet wide by 8 feet tall, with deep purple leaves in summer and fall, grown in zones 4-7. We’re nursing a scraggly Sand Cherry back to life. The color is just stunning.
8. Salvia Pretty and vibrant violet flowers grow on this mounding perennial. At 18 inches tall to 24 inches wide this plant packs a punch in zones 4-9. All over our neighborhood, I see Salvia in yards and along borders. I’m certain it will do well here.
9. Sedum ‘Angelina’ Stonecrop This wonderfully bright chartreuse groundcover stays 6-10 inches tall spreading up to 16 inches. Surprisingly cold hearty, growing in zones 3-11. The bright color and texture of this plant had me at hello. The one by the waterfall has already grown about 50% bigger.
10. Dwarf Daylily With bright green leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers, these fast growing plants are ideal for borders. Only 15 to 24 inches and grow in zones 3-9. Several lilies would work very well along the back walkway.
11. Lamb’s Ears Silvery green fuzzy leaves are an interesting low growing (8 to 10 inches tall) groundcover in zones 4-8. While the flowers aren’t anything special, the texture of these make me want several. Perhaps planted on the slope along the driveway?
12. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ Commonly used as a border plant, this fleshy leaf plant grows 18 to 24 inches tall and wide. Easy care and low water usage when established in zones 4-11. I’ve deemed the area along the back rock steps my succulent garden and planted several varieties, including this sedum variety.
Of course there are many (many!) more plants that could work. These are just the twelve currently on my radar and in my mental shopping cart.
Plants don’t have to cost an arm or a leg either; the most I’ve paid for one plant so far is $20. Sure, the smaller the plant, the less it’ll cost. But Home Depot had large Nest Spruce evergreens for about 25 bucks each. Costco also has good deals on plants in the spring. For the 45 or so plants I’ve already purchased, I think I’ve spent around $350 total. Most are in the 5 to 9 dollar range, so they’re affordable. In a few years, they should fill out more.
Keep your receipts, too as most stores have a one year warranty policy for perennials. Also, check Craigslist for people looking to get rid of plants they already have. Friends may also have plants to split and share. A friend recently gave me 4 hostas, 4 hydrangea plants, several peonies, and a large boxwood. My mom said she can divide her large hostas to share with us, too. We have one smaller shade area (along the back of the house), that I’d like to turn into a hosta/fern/lily of the valley garden.
What are your favorite sun plants? If you like this round-up, I’m working on part sun and shade plants, too.