A to Z of hardy plants for your garden

Written by    Last updated: August 30, 2007

For those of you who haven’t discovered your ‘green fingers’ yet, here’s a selection of plants that will add a touch of colour to your garden and can survive just about anything…

hardy plants

Plant buying tips

  • Before setting out to your nearest garden centre, have a clear idea of what you want to buy or you’re likely to end up spending more than you had intended.
  • Decide beforehand where you’ll be placing the intended plant, as this will help you work out whether the conditions at that spot will help it to thrive. Don’t buy on impulse unless you have a space for it.
  • Buy smaller (younger) plants of the variety you’re looking for. Most of the perennials and shrubs will grow quickly anyway.
  • Select the best specimen in the batch by ensuring that there are no broken stems or branches and that the leaves don’t have discolouration, holes or ragged edges. If possible, tap the plant gently out of its pot and check that the roots fill the pot but are not tightly pot bound.
  • If there’s a picture on the label, check that the plant matches it as closely as possible. Especially make a note of any flowers, for colour and shape.

A to Z of selected ‘survivor’ plants

Black chokeberry
(aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’)
Height:    1.5 metres
Spread:     3    metres
Even if you deprive this bushy shrub of water, it will still provide you with beautiful white flowers in spring, which are followed by berry‐like black fruit and then bright crimson leaves in autumn.

(aquilega vulgaris var stellata)
Height:    75 centimetres
Spread:     30 centimetres
Will flourish in bright sun or dappled shade during late spring and early summer.  It will survive in just about any type of soil.

Cornelian cherry 
(Cornus mas ‘Variegata’)
Height:    6 metres
Spread:     5 metres
The yellow flowers on its bare twigs are one of first signs of spring, while small fruit appears in the autumn. It prefers light shade but will grow in any soil.

(geranium macrorrhizum)
Height:    20     centimetres
Spread:       3.5    metres
Geraniums are a must for every garden as they spread even in poor soil. Look out for the deep colour during autumn.

Height:    60 centimetres
Spread:     50 centimetres
This is an especially hardy plant that thrives in any kind of soil and will spring up each year once it’s established. It flowers through the height of summer, during July and August.

Golden oats
(stipa gigantean)
Height:    2.5 centimetres
Spread:     75  centimetres
This ornamental grass will survive in just about any condition. It looks stunning in the summer, especially when backlit by the setting sun.

Lady’s mantle
(alchemilla mollis)
Height:    45 centimetres
Spread:     75 centimetres
This perennial will survive dry conditions and will seed itself to fill your borders. The flowers come out for a few weeks around mid‐May.

Lambs’ ears 
(stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’)
Height:    40 centimetres
Spread:     1   metre
This perennial is suitable for sandy soil and for sunny spots. It’s irresistibly strokeable quality makes it a must for a ‘garden of the senses’. The silvery sheen of its leaves means that it looks good in gravel gardens.

(vinca minor ‘Illumination’)
Height:    20 centimetres
Spread:     indefinite
This fast‐growing plant works well in partial shade. Its attractive gold‐splashed leaves make a good contrast with its blue flowers in spring.

(helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’)
Height:    1.5 centimetres
Spread:     1.2  metres
This variety of sunflower will survive even in the shade and in dry soil. Its flowers will bloom each year during late summer.

(viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’)
Height:    3 metres
Spread:     2 metres
Practically indestructible, this plant does well in a sunny spot or dappled shade. Its pink flowers appear from around late autumn through to spring.

Virginian rose
(rosa virginiana)
Height:    1.2 metres
Spread:     1.5 metres
This variety of rose does well even in poor sandy soil. Its pink flowers with yellow stamens in summer are followed by richly coloured plump red hips during autumn.

White snakeroot
(eupatorium rugosum)
Height:    1.5 metres
Spread:     60  centimetres
This hardy perennial is perfect for a wild flower garden. It likes the sun and moist soil but will survive even in the shade and in dry sandy soil. Its flowers during late summer are a magnet for butterflies and bees.

Wood spurge
(euphorbia amygdaloides robbiae)
Height:    60 centimetres
Spread:     45 centimetres
This evergreen ground cover particularly enjoys the shade and dry conditions. Its lime‐green flower spikes bloom from spring through to early summer.

(yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’)
Height:    3    metres
Spread:     1.8 metres
These desert plants like sunny positions and will survive extremely dry conditions. They make a dramatic central feature in a border or a gravel bed.

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