My Alphabet of Plants

I'm playing the alphabet game, as played on the garden tour bus, part of the journey's entertainment. I'm not on a bus, I'm in my kitchen, and it's raining. I have to choose an ABC of plants that I love, love, love, and/or want, want, want. Let's see how I go...

Asters, Bergenias, Cornuses...

A is for Asters. I wanted to put 'Autumn Trees', but that's really far too general. So Asters it is, but I don't mean the varieties that get mildew, thank you very much! B is for Bergenias. Many gardeners more famous than I'll ever be grow these, the perfect edging perennial for a mixed border. The Bressingham Ruby variety has beautiful cherry red flowers, and the leaf colour fires up in autumn.

A for Asters, B for Bergenias, C for Cornus

C is for Cornus. Aha! My favourite tree. I grow a number of Cornuses (Dogwoods) in my garden for their spring bracts and their autumn colours. I love variegation, and several of my trees have beautifully variegated leaves. Are they slow growing? Possibly, but so am I. We are a good match.

Daffodils, Eryngium, Filipendula...

D is for Daffodil, sunny yellow flowers which lighten the spirits and bring gardening hope in spring. From the first miniatures to the later top-heavy yellow trumpets which face-plant after the lightest rains - I love them all. I celebrate their yellowness. And pinkness, whiteness, creaminess, and orangeness. E should be for Evergreen New Zealand Native Shrubs, but I certainly can't get away with that. I'll settle for Eryngium yuccifolium, an interesting sculptural perennial with creamy white thistle flowers. I'd love F to be for frogs, but alas! This is a strictly plants-only alphabet. So I'll choose Filipendula, a fluffy pink waterside perennial which always flowers mid-summer.

D for Daffodils, E for Eryngium, F for Filipendula, G for Gunnera

Can G stand for Greenery? No - I need to behave and play by the rules. So G will have to be for Gunnera, the giant perennial with the big crinkly leaves which grows and self-seeds in my water race. It has huge scratchy stalks and bright orange seedheads as big as marrows, which the birds love to eat in winter.

Hostas, Irises...

Hmm... I can't think of anything for H except Hostas. Not a bad choice, methinks! And I has to be for Irises, from the early little pale blues to the big bearded beauties which flower closer to summer.

H for Hostas, I for Irises

J is going to be sneaky. It's for 'Johnny Jump-Ups', those cute little violas which flower all through my vegetable garden. I can include all its viola and pansy relatives, hee hee. These are my favourite flowering annuals. And K is easy. It's Korean Angelica, or Angelica gigas, whose large purple flower-heads my bees adore. L is for Lupin. These short-lived perennials flood my garden in late spring with waves of blue, pink and lemon. They grow well from seed, and I love the foliage.

 Pansies and violas, too.
J for Johnny Jump-Ups,K for Korean Angelica, L for Lupins

M is for Maple trees. My plantsman friend gives me his rejects. They stay in pots for a few years, and then are popped into the garden. I love the different leaf forms and colours. N has to be for Nepeta (catmint). I choose this for the six Moosey cats who share my house and supervise my gardening. O is for Orlaya. This, a new annual for me, has made a huge initial impression. I've only grown it for one year, and have already collected the seed, hoping for a long and happy association. It's sooooooo pretty!


P is for Phormiums, the most obvious choice so far in my Choice Plants List. I love them, and they love my garden. It's crammed full of Phormiums - the species and pretty striped hybrids bred from P.tenax and P. cookianum. These are my plants. I call them 'flaxes'.

 And Q for Queen Annes Lace.
M for Maples, N for Nepeta, O for Orlaya, P for Phormium

No problem with Q - it's for Queen Anne's Lace. A friend gave me six little plants, and I now have a super-colony of the darlings. I love them. My garden is rather windy, and the Dahlias and Delphiniums will flop over at the slightest sniff of a breeze. But Queen Anne's Lace stays upright. Good, regal breeding. And now I've come to R, and I'm breaking the rules by allowing myself two choices.

Rhododendrons and Roses...

R is for rhododendrons and roses. There's no way I'd be without the rhododendron shrubs which colour my garden from early spring until summer. There's no way I'd not have over four hundred roses (oops) growing in my garden. My camera wouldn't forgive me!

 Just a few of my favourites.
Rhododendrons and Roses

S is for Salvias. I grow the annual varieties as well as the perennial. I adore the whorls of Clary Sage, and I adore the varieties of small culinary sages. Salvias grow well in the dry times in my garden, too. T is for Toe Toe, the ornamental New Zealand Pampas grass. Oops. U might not get a plant. I can't think of anything beginning with 'U' that I love or want. But V is for Viburnums. For me most Viburnums are tough, functional shrubs, great for planting where the irrigation won't easily reach. Tough and functional are two very important shrub attributes.

 And W for Wisteria.
S for Salvia, T for Toe Toe, V for Viburnum

If I was a four-seasons shrub-lover W would be for Wintersweet. But I've never yet swooned over this fragrant shrub. If I was a plant collector I'd say anything with 'wilsonii' in the title. But I'm not. Wisteria! That's my choice for W. And I'm sorry that X, Y, and Z have to be choice-less. Nothing that I love and want begins with either of these difficult letters.

Easy as ABC...

So there it is - my Alphabetical of Plants. Easy as ABC...