Dear Garden Problem Lady: In The Weeds

Wine Cups. Photo: Teri Speight

What plants could you suggest for a sunny front yard garden that would offer a long bloom time, are low maintenance, and attract pollinators to bring life into my garden?

Summer gardens are always expected to perform with non-stop color, despite the heat, and xeric conditions. There are several plants that will be outstanding and will perform beyond average expectations. Consider Callirhoe involucrata, Poppy Mallow, or Winecup. This native plant creates quite the outstanding vibrant purple/pink display of summer beauty. A North American native groundcover, with a moderate height of eight to twelve inches, Winecup blooms from early spring until frost and can cover a width of at least five feet. When it comes to maintenance, cutting this plant back in the late winter will remove any brown or discolored foliage as new growth begins. Should the plant become leggy, a gentle pruning is advised. Callirhoe thrives in zones 4 – 9 and is one of the early blooming perennials which attracts bees and butterflies all season long.

This plant is great for the front of the border and to partner with Perovska (Russian Sage), or Rudbeckia Triloba (Brown Eyed Susan). Summer annuals which complement this groundcover are Cosmos, Celosia and Cleome, to name a few. Other long blooming plants are Zinnia’s, Angelonia, Gomphrena, Lantana, as well as assorted varieties of marigolds. Inviting life in the garden without consistent maintenance is merely a matter of selecting the right plant.

What can I plant in a small area near the curb? I need moderate height plants that are shallow rooted, can handle neglect, heat and offer intermittent color.

There are quite a few plants that meet the durability requirements of street-side beds frequently visited by people and pets. Consider making these spaces a welcome mat for your front yard garden with minimal maintenance. Start with a few durable bulbs such as daffodils or muscari. Planted in the center of the beds, it provides passersby something to look forward to. Planting Achillea or Yarrow will add moderate height color with minimal care. The semi-evergreen silver colored foliage stands out in the winter garden. No water needed after this plant is established. Yarrow is a great plant to attract pollinators and thrives in poor soil with little attention. At 18 – 24 inches tall, there are cultivars which grow in clumps and others which will sprawl.

Delosperma cooperi (Hardy Ice Plant) makes a great drought tolerant ground cover and handles temperature extremes quite well. As a succulent, this plant will hold water in its leaves for those dry spells. This plants does very well with a small stone or gravel mulch, which will also make the colorful blooms stand out. Delosperma grows to a height of 3 – 6 inches. This semi-evergreen foliage serves as a backdrop to the colorful blooms which attract honeybees and butterflies.

Nepeta x faassennii or Walker’s Low Catmint is a perennial that keeps on giving to mankind and nature as well. The beautiful blueish purple spikes of long blooming color attract butterflies and bees. When the first flush of bloom has finished, consider shearing this plant in half. This will keep it compact and encourage a second flush of bloom. I have personally used this plant and have experienced three flushes of bloom in one season.  Also consider low growing sedums, Mediterranean herbs or low growing native grasses.

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