If I could grow just one plant

it would be ridiculous. What gardener would grow just one plant ? And when we have one plant, we want three, and after three, we want nine, and ninety and ninety-nine.

We are obsessives who want LOTS of  instant gratification even though it may take years. We want it NOW and are ill-prepared to wait  for that tree, shrub, herbaceous plant or any other, to grow and bloom. This is why some of us end up in the padded room.

But, if I could grow one plant today, it would be Verbena lilacina ‘De La Mina’.

IMG_5790.CR2Planted twelve months ago, from a six-inch pot, it is now almost 4 feet across and 2 feet high. It grows in crap soil, doesn’t need much water, smells sweet, and blooms for months. At least, it does all this in my tiny garden in the Bay Area of California.

IMG_5788.CR2This plant was collected by Carol Bornstein, former Director of Horticulture at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, ( http://www.sbbg.org/ ) now Director of the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. http://www.nhm.org/nature/visit/nature-gardens .

It was discovered by her  in the Canyon de la Mina on Cedros Island, an island off the west coast of Baja California. Praises to Carol for bringing us such a wonderful plant.

On the other hand, I am, today, very fond of Euphorbia characias ‘Dwarf Variety’  with huge  chartreuse flowers on a plant that grows  2.5 feet high and 3 feet  wide. It’s easy to grow, doesn’t need a lot of water and blooms for three months. Last year, I left the seed-heads on and now have about a dozen young plants growing out of the paving on my patio. The seedlings  have wider leaves than the parent. I suspect the dwarf form does not come true from seed. O well.

This year I will remove the seed heads. It’s a small backyard and I don’t want a forest-ette of Euphorbia. ‘Dwarf Variety’ is, by any other name, probably the same as ‘Bruce’s Dwarf’ or ‘Humpty’. The English call it ‘Humpty’ but they would.

Euphorbia characias 'Bruce's Humpty Dwarf'
Euphorbia characias ‘Bruce’s Humpty Dwarf’



Growing next to it is another favorite, Echium gentianoides
‘Tajinaste’ .

IMG_5808.CR2Unlike the taller Echium candicans, this is not unruly in its proclivities and does not self-seed. It flowers for almost four months, the bees love it and so do I. It’s about 4 feet high in my garden now. When flowering is finished, I dead-head it and a smattering of flowers will appear later. The species is endemic to the island of La Palma, the Canary Islands. It is listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


If I cared about garden design in my own garden, I would add something orange and sit back and drool.

These three plants were purchased at Annie’s Annuals and Perennials, a nursery not far from where I live. http://www.anniesannuals.com/

I have not met the famous Annie but she is high in the pantheon of garden goddesses. One day I will go to her in supplication.


Author: urbanehorticulture

A native of England a U.S. citizen for the past 30 years, I have worked in the garden world as a director and designer for over 35 years. I am best-known for my groundbreaking designs at Chanticleer, an estate and “pleasure garden” in Wayne, PA, where I worked for 20 years. Career Highlights I started my gardening life at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England, where I was trained as a gardener. I worked in three other gardens in the UK, notably Portmeirion in Wales, Bateman’s in Sussex, and Cliveden in Buckinghamshire. At Bateman’s, I was responsible for the restoration of the 17th-century garden. I came to the U.S. in 1981 and was director and chief designer of Chanticleer in Pennsylvania for the next 20 years. I transformed a moribund private estate into one of America’s most exuberant, romantic and flamboyant gardens. Its glorious 47 acres have been celebrated by gardeners and horticulturists from around the world and, based on my designs, it continues to draw international visitors every season. After twenty years creating Chanticleer, I became vice president for horticulture for the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden and, in 2006, was appointed director of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, Canada. While pleased to be in Canada, my heart yearned for California and in 2008 he was appointed executive director of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. After a successful period in northern California, he returned to his home near Santa Barbara, CA where I operated my own design-consulting business. In 2012, I was lured back east by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (founded in 1827) and appointed director of its private estate and garden, Meadowbrook Farm. I was commissioned by PHS to design the central feature for the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show, the third major exhibit I have designed for PHS over the years. Among numerous other responsibilities, I have been a member of the board of the Fairmount Park Conservancy in Philadelphia and a founding member of the business advisory board for the Flora of North America Project. I have designed gardens in Chicago, northern and southern California, and throughout the Northeastern United States. I have also been a consultant to the Garden Conservancy and to Botanic Gardens Conservation International, as well as serving on the horticulture advisory committee of Lotusland in Santa Barbara, California. I have been the Advancement Advisor for the Flora of North America Association and am now traveling the world researching, interviewing, and photographing for a book on gardens around the world. Books & Awards My n first book, The Encyclopedia of Perennials, was published in 1992 by Facts on File. I also contributed to 1001 Gardens to See Before You Die (Barron's Educational Series, 2012) and The Gardener’s Garden (Phaidon Press, 2014). In 2003, I was awarded the Professional Citation for significant achievements in public horticulture by the American Public Garden Association. In 2007, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society awarded me its prestigious medal for Distinguished Achievement. I currently live in the Bay Area, California.

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The New Perennialist

Musings on plants, gardens, travel, food and sex. Mostly plants and gardens.


for people who want more than gardening from gardens


Uprooting the Gardening World

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