Stalwart Perennials for Low Maintenance

Credit: Stuart McCall

“Plant three plants instead of one,” Julie advises. This approach not only creates more impact in a large space but means lower maintenance. (Plants are hardy to the zone number indicated)

Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) – “the foliage looks good eight months of the year and is lovely with dew on the leaves. Grand under roses, with blue geraniums, in shade and sun” – zone 4

Astrantia major (masterwort) – “flowers for five months, shade or sun, always upright, no effort” – zone 4

Choisya ternata (Mexican orange blossom) – “clear, evergreen foliage, the fragrance of the flowers travels far” – zone 7

Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ (redtwig dogwood) – “the red stems look good in winter, a great host to purple clematis in the summer” – zone 2

Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’ (shrubby wallflower) – “flowers eight months. A great hedge” – zone 7

Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ (wintercreeper) – “lovely smaller broadleaf evergreen, with pink tinges in the winter” – zone 5

Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae (Mrs. Robb’s bonnet, spurge) – “great evergreen worker in lousy locales like dry and dark shade. Fun bright-yellow flowers in spring” – zone 4

Euphorbia characias – “a winter beauty, but also great foliage in the summer” – zone 7

Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ – “a small workhorse that spreads well but is dainty in feel” – zone 5

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ – “longest-flowering geranium I know – weaves its way around and always looks good” – zone 4

Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ – “a great blue that flowers a very long time, stays tidy and upright” – zone 4

Geranium macrorrhizum and G. macrorrhizum ‘Album’ (bigroot cranesbill) – “fast-spreading (but a breeze to pull out) groundcover with lovely, highly fragrant leaves, semi-evergreen, flowers in April. Great in the dry shade of cedar and deer resistant” – zone 4

Helleborus x hybridus (featured on this issue’s cover) – “flowers January onwards, good leaf contrast” – zone 6

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ – “such pretty lacy flowers in late summer. Exceptionally floriferous” – zone 3

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ – “stately and lovely in late summer, great for hosting clematis. Easy” – zone 4

Lonicera x purpusii (winter-flowering honeysuckle) – “quintessential winter shrub, highly fragrant flowers from November to March, requires nothing but an annual shear, great for annual or herbaceous climbers to crawl over” – zone 7

Nandina domestica (heavenly bamboo) – “a great ‘bone’ and backdrop” – zone 6

Nepeta ‘Dropmore’ (catmint) – “long flowering, great hedge, no maintenance, deer resistant” – zone 4

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ (catmint) – “flowers for four months with enthusiasm, great with apricot roses or other purple flowers, deer resistant” – zone 4

Rubus pentalobus (crinkle-leaf creeper) – “groundcover that looks good all year, and exceptionally weed-suppressing and tolerant of all sites. We are using it semi-successfully to crowd out horsetail” – zone 7

Viburnum plicatum ‘Summer Snowflake’ – “no maintenance, lovely big flowers, fall colour, great host to clematis” – zone 5

Viburnum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’ – “great evergreen ‘bone,’ nice flowers and berries, great in winter, no maintenance required” – zone 7