Really Resilient Perennials

Really Resilient Perennials

There are those that are pretty but need constant pampering and watering, and then there are those that are equally pretty, if not prettier, but much less needy… 

Despite a scarcity of resources, including money, time and especially water, all gardeners love to grow beautiful flowering plants. But don’t think that you have to settle for second best just because you’re short of one or the other of these resources!

The following plants are not shackled by high price tags, high maintenance requirements or high water usage. They are run-of-the-mill plants that can be found everywhere, and if planted together in a creative way, they will give you the perfect dry garden covered in lovely flowers. And in most cases, they also supply interesting foliage that is predominantly silvery or dull green – always an indication that they can cope with dry, Mediterranean-like and even cold climates. None of them are bothered by maritime conditions like wind or poor and alkaline soil. 

The stunning sages

The common characteristics of our favourite perennial sages are their willingness to grow in almost any climate, their fascinating inflorescences and their ability to repeat-flower. They are loved by garden wildlife too.

Salvia leucantha (Mexican bush sage)

● Large, spreading, semi-deciduous shrub with an almost windswept appearance. 

● Pale lateral stems are full of willowy pointed leaves that are pale green on top and woolly and silvery-white underneath. 

● Long strings of white flowers held in bright purple or lavender blue velvety calyxes first appear during spring and summer, with a strong autumn peak.
● Size about 1.3m x 2m. 

Salvia canariensis (Canary Island sage)

● Thick stems heavily covered in dense white hairs with felted arrow-shaped leaves. 

● Stems are topped from spring to late autumn with plumes of purplish violet flowers encased in magenta calyxes. 

● Size about 2m x 2m.

Phlomis fruticosa (Jerusalem sage)

Evergreen to semi-deciduous shrub with lance-shaped,  woolly, grey-green leaves.

● Whorls of rounded golden yellow flowerheads appear double-decker style on the upper parts of erect stems in summer. If cut back straight after flowering, another flush can be expected.

● Size about 1.2m x 1.5m.

The Hardy Hedges

Amongst the resilient, there are plants that love to be pruned into formal shapes like low hedges or balls. If formal pruning is not our thing, just allow them to grow into their natural forms and enjoy their flowers.

Santolina chamaecyparissus (cotton lavender)

● Evergreen, forming dense, broad mounds of fine, aromatic silver or grey-green foliage.

● An abundance of bright yellow flowers resembling buttons on thin stems appear in summer.

● Size about 60cm x 90cm.

Teucrium fruticans (tree germander)

● This one can endure virtually anything Mother Nature or a gardener can throw at it, and it is a  real bee magnet!

● Twiggy evergreen shrub with arching velvety white shoots.

● The leaves are small and aromatic, grey-green on top and silver on the flipside.

● Whorls of pale blue flowers with a sweet, lemony scent in summer.

● Size about 1m x 4m.

Focal and Texture Contrast

Every garden (even the driest) can do with eye-catching plants with a strong focal presence and contrasting foliage.

Melianthus major (giant honey flower)

● A striking indigenous plant that will simply go dormant if it receives no water, although the rootstock will reshoot without a problem after a rainy spell. Plants receiving some water all year round remain evergreen. This one is toxic if ingested, but well worth planting for the birds and bees. 

● Suckering growth habit with big, decorative blue-green leaves that emit an unpleasant nutty smell if touched.

● In August and September, large rusty-red racemes appear that are made up of many dark maroon flowers producing copious quantities of black nectar.

● A large plant with a mature size of about 2.5m x 3.5m, although this can be reduced by regularly cutting back some stems.

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ (purple fountain grass)

● Sturdy ornamental grass with curving narrow leaves in a deep burgundy colour.

● Reed-like flowerheads with slender, fluffy purple-pink plumes appear in summer and stay on the plant till the end of winter.

● Size about 1m x 90cm.

4 Great Fillers

The following beauties can be used as fillers, groundcovers or for mass planting: 

Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort) 

● Evergreen with silky and finely shaped greyish leaves that are very aromatic when crushed.

● Yellow flowers appear in spring.

● Size about 60cm x 90cm.

Convolvulus cneorum (silver bush)

● Compact, low-growing shrub with narrow, satin-soft, silver leaves that have an iridescent glow. 

● Soft pink buds open up to snow-white trumpet- shaped flowers in spring and summer.

● Size about 60cm x 90cm.

Armeria maritima (thrift, sea pink)

● Low clumps of mounded tufts made up of dark green linear leaves.

● Tiny pink or white flowers appear in late spring in globular clusters on wiry stems.

● Amongst the many varieties, ‘Dusseldorf Pride’ is the brightest and most cheerful.

Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)

● Deciduous with multi-stemmed new spring growth that is grey to white with strongly fragranced grey-green serrated leaves. 

● Spring and summer brings a mass of small purplish- blue flowers in lush plumes.

● Size about 1m x 1m.

The Gardener