Plant Guide

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Annual (2)


Sedum spectabile

stonecrop, butterfly stonecrop, ice plant

Herbaceous perennial in the family of the Crassulaceae, native to China and Korea. Thick, fleshy, toothed leaves, 5-10 cm long, arranged in pairs or whorls. Large, 10-15 wide,   branched heads of tiny pink to rose flowers in late summer and autumn on erect, thickened, succulent stems. Several hybrids are available, such as 'Herbstfreude'='Autumn Joy' with blue-green leaves and pink flowers, darkening to bronze with age. 'Vera Jameson' has pale pink flowers and dark brown-purple foliage.

Synonym: Hylotelephium spectabile.

Requires a sunny position in well-drained soil. Intolerant of wet soils, but copes well with dry conditions. Suitable for poor soils and coastal gardens. Flowering stems may need staking later in the season. Cut stems back to ground level after flowering. By that time you can usually see the tiny rosettes of new leaves at the base of the stems. If the plant becomes too large for where it is and you would like some more elsewhere in your garden, divide it in early spring and replant the separated portions.

Sedum spectabile looks lovely when it comes back into growth during spring with a tidy clump of grey green leaves, and later on with a magnificent display of colourful flowers, opening from green buds. Combine for example with white or pale pink, late summer flowering perennials.


Sisyrinchium striatum 'Aunt May'

Clump-forming evergreen perennial with stiff,  linear to sword-shaped, grey-green leaves and creamy yellow leaf margins. Star-shaped, pale yellow flowers during early summer, clustered along erect, 0.7-0.9 m long stems. Sisyrinchium striatum is native to Chile and Argentina.

Synonym: Sisyrinchium striatum 'Variegatum'. This plant has been has been reclassified as Phaiophleps nigricans 'Aunt May', but is still much more widely known under the original name, and hence is listed here as Sisyrinchium striatum 'Aunt May'.

Plant in a sunny or partially shaded position in any well-draining soil. Hardy to about -150C (a bit less hardy than the species itself). Tolerates poor soils. Copes with dry spells once established, but really prefers a regular moisture supply. Does not tolerate boggy or waterlogged soils. Suitable for coastal gardens as longs as it is not constantly exposed to strong winds. Remove spent flower stems and discoloured leaves. Divide the plant every couple of years and replant the separate fans.

Striking plant for a structural accent or focal point, in particular when planted in groups. Combine with contrasting foliage plants, such as fine-leafed grasses like Carex species and shrubs with relatively large, rounded leaves such as Bergenia.

Stachys byzantina

Stachys byzantina

lambs' ears

Ground-covering plant with soft grey-green leaves. Stems and foliage are covered with silvery white down. Upright stems with tiny pale mauve flowers arranged in otherwise grey spikes.


Tagetes lemmonii

Mexican marigold, mountain marigold, perennial marigold, Copper Canyon daisy

Evergreen plant in the daisy family with finely divided, pinnately compound foliage and orange-yellow flowers during most of the year, but in particular during autumn and winter. The leaves have a strong fragrance, somewhat like the scent of passionfruit (according to some the foliage smells like a combination of marigold, lemon, and mint). Oils in the plant may cause skin irritation in some people. Attracts bees and butterflies.

Discovered in Arizona by plant collectors John and Sara Lemmon in the late 1800s. Its natural habitat stretches south from Arizona down to norther Mexico. 

Tagetes lemmonii does best in a sunny position in well-draining soil. Becomes leggy when it doesn't receive enough sunlight. In very hot climates, a partially shaded position is best. Drought-tolerant, but prefers some regular irrigation. Avoid over-watering. Easy to propagate from cuttings, and can also be divided or propagated from seed. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 8-11). Although some frost damage may occur in zone 8, the plant will bounce back in spring. Trim once a year to keep the plant compact.

Tagetes lemmonii is supposed to flower in response to short days, but in my garden it has been in flower since it was large enough in spring and now, mid-summer, it is still covered with flowers. Each time I photograph this plant I am disappointed to find that the flower colour in the photo appears more yellow than orange, whereas in reality the flowers look more orange than yellow to me. The plant has a lovely, somewhat whimsical appearance.


Teucrium hircanicum 'Purple Tails'

Cultivar of the Iranian wood sage or Caucasian germander, a clump-forming sub-shrub with soft, downy stems and leaves, native to western Asia and the Caucasus region.Teucrium hircanicum 'Purple Tails' has oblong to ovate leaves in opposite pairs, 5-10 cm long, with rounded teeth along the margins, and a somewhat wrinkly upper surface. Reddish purple flowers appear during early summer, tightly packed in long spikes, 15-30 cm long, gradually opening and colouring up from the base of the inflorescence. 

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in any well-draining soil. Does not like wet feet. Cut back after flowering to keep compact. The stems can become relatively floppy and get blown about in the wind, so unless planted in a sheltered position, some support may be required. Self-seeds.

Dramatic display of vertical spikes in stunning colours set off beautifully by the mid green foliage. Looks great in groups in the middle or the back of borders. Makes a lovely combination with the dark reddish purple young foliage of Hebe 'Pretty in Pink'. Alternatively, combine with other purple-flowering plants and an occasional yellow highlight. Select plants with contrasting flower shapes.


Thymus pulegioides 'Bertram Anderson'

creeping thyme

Spreading, low mound-forming thyme with aromatic, light green to golden green leaves. Small clusters of lilac flowers in summer, but not as free-flowering as some of the other thymes.

Sometimes sold as Thymus x citriodorus 'Bertram Anderson' or Thymus x citriodorus 'Anderson's Gold'.

Prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil. Well suited to areas with dry, sandy soils. Water regularly until established. Tolerates occasional foot traffic. Frost hardy (zones 4-9). Suitable for coastal gardens.

Gives a lovely, mild thyme flavour in cooking. The foliage is attractive all year round, and appears lime green from a distance. Combines beautifully with purple sage or other purple-leafed plants.


Trachelium caeruleum

thoatwort, blue throatwort

Herbaceous perennial originating from the Mediterranean region with toothed, oval leaves, and small purple, slightly scented flowers in domed clusters (8-15 cm wide) during summer. The common name alludes to the fact that the plant was thought to have medicinal powers and used as a gargle for sore throats.

Prefers a sunny position in any well-draining, fertile soil. Although Trachelium caeruleum prefers an average supply of moisture, it can handle quite dry conditions. Cut back after flowering. Self-seeds readily and flowers in its first year from seed. Usually pest and disease free. Lasts for about 2 weeks as a cut flower. Flowers are ready for picking when 1/4 to 1/3 of the florets are open. Tolerates light-medium frosts (to about -7 deg Celsius, zones 9-11). Often grown as an annual in colder climates. Suitable for coastal gardens.

In the photo Trachelium caeruleum is growing in a pot together with Agapanthus, resulting in a beautiful colour combination when both are flowering at the same time. Trachelium is also suitable for the flower border, and looks great in combination with either yellow (e.g. dahlias and yarrow) or red flowering plants (e.g. Rosa 'Flowercarpet red'). Great for bees and butterflies!


Tropaeolum majus

nasturtium, garden nasturtium, Indian cress

Annual trailing plant, native to South America. Rounded to kidney-shaped, light to mid green leaves with wavy margins and long petioles attached to the middle of the leaf blades. Flowering throughout summer with bright yellow, red, orange, or bi-colored, 4-6 cm wide flowers, produced in the leaf axils. Flower corolla with three large and two smaller petals, and a 2-4 cm long spur at the base. The edible flowers, leaves and seeds have a peppery taste. Although Tropaeolum majus is not difficult to keep under control in garden situations, in the wild it has become invasive in several parts of the world.

Prefers a position in partial shade or full sun with some afternoon shade. Flowering is best in soils with a low to moderate fertility. Very easy to grow from seed, planted after the last frost in spring. Spreads by self-seeding. Stems tend to trail along the ground, but when they reach other plants or a structure of some sort, they will happily climb upwards. Leaves are frost-sensitive.

Nasturtium is a lovely, happy, and versatile plant to have in your garden, and very useful in the kitchen. Use the flowers to brighten up a salad, add them to a sandwich, or fill them with cream cheese, guacamole, or feta. You can do the same with the leaves; roll them up and tie the stem around the rolls. Nasturtium does well in containers or hanging baskets, and loves to climb with a bit of help. Great to plant in combination with winter-early spring flowering bulbs, hiding unsightly bulb leaves from spring onwards with lush green foliage and brilliant flower colours in summer.


Wachendorfia thyrsiflora

red root, blood root

Evergreen rhizomatous perennial, endemic to South Africa, flowering during spring with golden yellow flower spikes up to 2 m tall. Sword-shaped, pleated, mid-green leaves 0.2-1 m long and up to 7 cm wide. Bright red roots.

Prefers a sunny position and plenty of moisture. Ideally suited to swamps and wetlands, but adapts well to average garden conditions. During dry summers the leaves may die down unless watered regularly. Generally pest and disease free. Suitable for coastal gardens. Light frosts only (USDA zone 10), but in a sheltered spot the plant can survive an occasional moderate frost.

Wachendorfia thyrsiflora is the perfect choice for a watergarden or the edge of a pond, but also looks magnificent as a backdrop for herbaceous or mixed borders.