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Top 10 Picks

Jamie doing his favorite thing

I’ve decided it’s finally time to update my top ten favorite list!! The following were chosen in 2007 from my MANY favorites as the ten BEST plants that EVERYBODY should find room for (absolute “GOTTA-HAVES”!!!) Some qualifications that each plant needed to meet:

  • Must be low-care and easy, even for beginning gardeners;
  • Must be relatively pest and disease-free;
  • Must look great even when not in bloom (for those of you that don’t know-I’m a REAL connoisseur of foliage, and in fact think that it’s MUCH more important than flower);
  • Must be reliably hardy to our area (Zone 5); and
  • Must NOT be over-used (‘cause even though these plants are easy, EVERYBODY doesn’t know that yet!!!)

A little aside - just because I replaced some of my “old favorites doesn’t mean they aren’t more than worthy to be in your garden (hmmm....maybe I should have a top twenty or thirty list??!).

Cutting Edge and Bizzare Hostas
Hosta Deep Blue Sea; photo courtesy of Shady Oaks Nursery
‘Deep Blue Sea ’
Hosta Clovelly; photo courtesy of Walters Gardens
Hosta Abiqua Drinking Gourd; photo courtesy of Naylor Creek Hostas
‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’
Hosta Hanky Panky; photo courtesy of Walters Gardens
‘Hanky Panky ’
This year I replaced mini Hostas with this category….not because I adore the minis less, but ‘cause I just have to mention these ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS creatures that will draw you in from across the garden! Try these wonders on for size and I’ll BETCHA can’t stop at just one (or two, or three…!):

  • Abiqua Drinking Gourd
  • Touch of Class
  • Praying Hands
  • Jaz
  • Corkscrew
  • Electrocution
  • Clovelly
  • Hanky Panky
  • Deep Blue Sea
  • Korean Snow
  • Lady Isobel Barnett

Now just ‘cause these are ALL I listed doesn’t mean that when you come to look at our Hosta display beds that I won’t entice you with others…..!!!



Heucheras ‘Obsidian,’ ‘Peach Flambé,’ and ‘Caramel’ (Coral Bells)
Now, y’all know my penchant for foliage (some might even say obsession!), so ya KNOW how much I love all the Heucheras! These three particular ones look awesome together, and are MUSTS for your morning sun or bright shade areas. Put them along a shady path intermingled with some favorite hostas, and you too will see how they made it into the top ten!
Heuchera Obsidian Obsidian’ is a “glassy”-textured beauty that appears almost genuinely black until the morning sun hits it and reveals its iridescent quality. An absolute stunner alone or as a foil to other silver or chartreuse foliage, this “gem” is a MUST for your bright shade/morning sun areas.
Heuchera Peach Flambe

‘Peach Flambé’ looks luscious enough to eat!!! It has glowing peach infused with red eye-catching smooth foliage with ruffly edges. A guaranteed jaw-dropper, especially when paired with deep green hostas like ‘Obsession’, ‘Teaspoon’, or ‘Potomac Pride’, or with Heuchera ‘Obsidian’.

Heuchera Midnight Rose; photo courtesy of Walters Gardens Caramel’ is a fabulous new heuchera that provides three seasons of interest in your shade garden! It is very heat and humidity tolerant and can even handle quite a bit of sun. New leaves are bright honey gold, maturing to warm apricot colors in warmer weather. Pinkish-white blooms appear later than other heucheras. And, to top it all off, fall color is an intense salmon red! Delicious!


Zauschneria ‘Orange Carpet’

Zauschneria 'Orange Carpet'This little beauty ALWAYS garners attention in our display bed—not sure whether it’s because of the MASSES of orange flowers that COVER it all summer, its nice slowly creeping ground covering habit, or if it’s because the HUMMERS absolutely ADORE it !! Whatever reason, it’s SURE to be a winner in your garden…just be sure it gets plenty of sun and a well drained soil!


Agasache Rupestris

LespedezaThis native hyssop has amazing flowers, foliage, and scent! From mid-summer all the way through the first frost, it's covered with spikes of gorgeous orange and lavender flowers. The aromatic foliage is extremely ornamental-thread-like silvery leaves give the entire plant a very soft, wispy look. The scent is amazing-mintlike, with hints of licorice and citrus. Plant it where you will brush against it when you walk by. Butterflies and hummers flock to it! It's very hardy and can endure very dry conditions once established (it's native to Arizona!), but needs good drainage.


Caryopteris(Bluebeard) ‘Arthur Simmonds’ and ‘Snow Fairy

Caryopteris Snow Fairy‘Arthur Simmonds’ remains in my top ten ‘cause of its stellar performance in our display beds! I added ‘Snow Fairy’ ‘cause of her STUNNINGLY variegated foliage and neat upright habit! Both are virtual BLOOMING MACHINES with MASSES of blue flowers late July thru September when you’re DYING for some fresh color. Did I also mention they are virtual butterfly magnets??! (We sometimes have to herd the butterflies away from the plants just so customers can actually SEE them!) Treat this woody perennial like a butterfly bush and cut it back in April, give it sun, good drainage, and room to bloom!


Iberis ‘Alexander’s White’

Iberis 'Alexander's White'This newbie was added because I am so VERY happy with his performance YEAR ‘ROUND….that’s right I said YEAR ‘ROUND! Not only does he sport lovely PURE clear white blooms mid spring thru early summer, but he keeps his trim and tidy deep green narrow foliage ALL YEAR…he’s a true evergreen even through our challenging winters here at the Farm! There’s nothing quite so cheering as his little fingers of foliage peeking out through the snow—it reminds me that spring is indeed coming (no matter how much hope you’ve given up by February!) He makes a great edger, slowly spreading ground cover, or front of the border plant and doesn’t demand much attention (very drought tolerant). Did I mention that butterflies love him as much as I do??!


Calamintha ‘Blue Cloud’ and ‘Montrose White’

These little darlings made the new top ten list ‘cause they bloom all summer and never look tired! Both have sprays of delicate looking wispy flowers and mint scented foliage—great companion plants with Echinaceas (looks like you’ve created a bouquet in your garden!). Butterflies and hummers love them and deer don’t; heat and drought tolerant once established too!

Calamintha Blue Cloud; photo courtesy of Walters Gardens
Calamintha Montrose White
‘Blue Cloud ’
‘Montrose White’


Peonies ‘Burma Ruby’, ‘Paree Fru Fru’, ‘Prairie Charm’, ‘Pink Hawaiian Coral’ and ‘Many Happy Returns

Could ya tell I love peonies and had a hard time choosing which ones??! If you want a good return on your investment (and who doesn’t?), peonies are probably one of the most giving and least demanding plants you can choose…kinda like the Mother Teresa of plantdom! Peonies are known to live decades and decades, have deep root systems which makes them drought tolerant, and give back SCRUMPTIOUS blooms that can be enjoyed inside or out! Come see ours when they’re blooming in the display bed and I BETCHA can’t choose just one!

Peony Prairie Charm
Peony Paree Fru Fru
Peony Many Happy Returns



Polemonium ‘Stairway to Heaven’

Polemonium Stairway to Heaven This little angel made it on the List as it looks great all season…flowers AND foliage are fabulous and fantastic! Great in bright to partial shade, this baby’s vigorous, deer resistant, and looks so good even while in the pot that he’s ALWAYS a sell-out (good thing I managed to grab one for the display bed so you can see for yourself!) Another bonus…at least this one puts a tune in your head that’s not TOO annoying!!!

Fallopia Japonica Variegata

Fallopia Japonica; photo courtesy Bluebird NurseryAnother perennial that has a loose, shrub-like habit, this one adds height, grace, and airiness to your garden. Stunning white-splashed foliage with pink stems and shocking coral colored new growth, it also gets delicate, fragrant white flowers in August. MAKE ROOM FOR HER!!!

HONORABLE MENTIONS: I just have to mention a few more plants (told you I can’t really stop at ten!) Be sure to check out the following:
For shade to partial shade:
Aruncus aethusfolius * Hypericum Brigadoon
* Helleborus ‘Banana Cream Pie’ * Carex ‘Evergold’
* Polemonium Heaven Scent * Tricyrtis ‘Gilt Edge’
For sun:
Centaurea ‘Amethyst in Snow’ * Dianthus Black Cherry Wild
Echinacea Big Sky series * Stokesia Klaus Jelitto
Kalimeris ‘Blue Star’ * Stachys minima
‘Double Knock Out’ * ‘Sweet Fragrance’
* Garden Peach * Green Zebra
* Paul Robeson * Thessaloniki
Mini Hostas    
* Alakazaam * Hush Puppy * Pandora's Box
* Baby Blue Eyes * Hydon Sunset * Paradise Sunset
* Cameo * Imp * Peanut
* Cat & Mouse * Just So * Pure Heart
* Cat's Eye * Kinbotan * Radio Waves
* Chartreuse Wiggles * Kiwi Golden Thimble * Rock Island Line
* Cherish * Lakeside Elfin Fire * Shade Parade
* Country Mouse * Lakeside Ninita * Shiny Penny
* Cracker Crumbs * Lakeside Wizzit * Snow Mouse
* Crumb Cake * Little Devil * Stormy Dance
* Dixie Chick * Little Stiffy * Sunlight Child
* Dixie Chickadee * Mighty Mouse * Surprised by Joy
* Dragon Tails * Mouse Trap * Tears of Joy
* Hideout * Oze * Winsome

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Contrary Mary’s Plants and Designs
2735 Route 52
Minooka, IL 60447

(815) 521-9535