Harmony in the Garden Blog

A New Year’s Garden Greeting

I think I speak for most of us when I say ‘good riddance to 2020!’

However, it’s hard to escape the reality that waking up to a new year doesn’t mean the seemingly never-ending worries and concerns about Covid are over.  

But thank heavens we have our love of gardening to give us hope for the future.  Most of us know by now that gardening is an equal measure of patience, imagination, hard work, and looking ahead to the future. 

As Audrey Hepburn famously said:  To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow

It’s the ‘tomorrow’ that I’ve been focused on lately, which has helped carry me through these scary times.   I’ve found great joy and peace in focusing on new plants to try and new books to read – things that make my heart sing

I’m sharing these with you today in hopes they give you inspiration and a bit of excitement, too, as we bravely face a new year and all it has to offer.

Salvia confertiflora  (Red Velvet Sage)   zones 9-11

The Hillier Garden photographed by Jason Ingram.

The plant I’m most excited about is the Red Velvet Sage. 

I finally found a few available at Digging Dog Nursery and promptly ordered three of them!

It’s a big beauty, growing 4-5’ tall with spikes of textural, velvet-like dark red salvia flowers, which add another 1-2’.  It blooms in mid to late summer through to the first frost.  I’ll definitely need to amend the soil, as it prefers rich soil, but it also seems to tolerate drought, so fingers crossed it does well here.

Since it grows so tall, I’m going to plant the three that I ordered in the back of the border in my Pollinator Garden.  The red flowers will look beautiful with the oranges and yellows of the late summer garden. 

Stylidium graminifolium (Grass Trigger Plant)  zones 8b-10  

If I ever went to Australia, I’m pretty sure I would be in plant-heaven. 

My favorite go-to shrubs are from Australia (grevilleas and westringias, to name just a few.) 

So you can imagine my excitement when I read about this plant in a recent issue of Fine Gardening Magazine – I just had to order some! (Especially when they provided the source of this treasure, Far Reaches Farm.)

Somewhere between an aloe and agave, this tidy grass-like perennial is called Trigger for a reason – it has a slightly macabre pollination mechanism.  When triggered by an insect, the stamens whip forward, coating the insect with pollen before the poor thing has time to realize what just smacked it.

Viburnum carlcephalum (Scented Snowball Viburnum)  zones 6b-9

ball-shaped flower

I’ve written and talked about this amazing viburnum for years, yet I’ve never seen a single specimen for sale in a nursery.

My mother has a very old and established one in her garden, and I’ve finally been able to start one from a soft-wood cutting. 

It’s been happily growing in a container now for two-years, and I can’t wait to find the perfect spot in my garden for my new treasure. 

viburnum carlcephalum - scented viburnum


This is a large, deciduous shrub that grows to 6-10’ and is fairly drought tolerant once established. 

In the spring, however, it’s not only covered with those to-die-for snowball-shaped flowers, but they’re intensely fragrant! 

I’m a huge fan of all snowball bushes, but add the delicious jasmine-orange-like fragrance of this variety, and you can see why I’m crazy about this shrub!

Ceanothus pallidus ‘Marie Simon’   zones 6-10

ceanothus 'Marie Simon'

A few months ago, I started tiny cuttings of ‘Marie Simon’ from my mother’s large shrub, and voila – one has taken root! It’s only a 3″ deciduous stick right now, but I’ll nurse it along for a few years before planting it in my garden.

This is such a stunning shrub, very different than other ceanothus varieties. 

It has larger leaves and grows more openly, but it’s those oversized frothy light pink flowers that are the real highlight.  It quickly grows to 5’x5’ (or more, if happy) but responds really well to a hard prune if you want to keep it smaller. 

 I recently noticed that Annie’s Annuals carries them in 4” pots, for anyone interested. 

ceanothus 'Marie Simon'

My Garden World by Monty Don   

If you aren’t familiar with Britain’s Monty Don, you’re in for a treat.

 His television show, Gardener’s World, is my favorite gardening show of all time.  Alas, it’s hard to find on TV, but worth the hunt to see if you can find it.   (**update!  One kind reader said she can watch current episodes on the “Inside Outside” app!)

Whether hosting his show, doing a podcast, or writing, his magical, poetic and oh-so-informative style brings me joy like no other gardener.  Well, that’s not entirely true – Sharon Lovejoy is right up there with Monty, in my opinion.

My Garden World is Monty’s latest book (sweetly dedicated to Nigel, his beloved dog who recently passed away.)

I can’t WAIT to read this month-by-month journal of all living creatures, as observed by Monty in his garden. 

It’s especially poignant, as we’ve all been observing our gardens closer this year, perhaps more than we’ve done in the past.  

And finally, I wanted to mention some of my favorite podcasts that I listen to as I walk the dog each morning.

Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden Podcast  

Fine Gardening’s ‘Let’s Argue About Plants’ Podcast

The BBC’s Gardener’s World Podcast (where Monty Don is also a contributor) 

Joe Lampl’s  The Joe Gardener Show podcast  

prayer flags


If you have any plants that you’re excited to try this year, please share them with us! 

Or, for that matter, any books, podcasts, or anything else that sparks joy and gives you hope for the future. 

I wish you all a peaceful and joyful New Year!

Enjoyed this article?  Please share it with others: 

Please leave a comment below


  • Rebecca, You are certainly having a wonderful time in your garden, and it is so nice to hear your stories and see you new finds. After Covid maybe we can get you down here for a program. Jean. Gillette

    • Thank you, Jean, wouldn’t that be lovely? I wish I could give you a garden tour of my new garden – it’s so different from my last one! Happy New Year!

  • I first learned about ‘Marie Simon’ ceanothus while a design student at Foothill College, where the common name, ‘New Jersey Tea’, associated it with the east coast, where it does seem to be more common. The Missouri Botanical Garden website describes it as a ‘French Hybrid’ with a hybrid history dating back to 1830 (!). It is a hybrid of a hybrid apparently, with some heritage of the eastern native C. ovatus. At any rate, it is a summer bloomer, takes moderate water and needs well drained soils. I have been tempted to include it in my garden, but I’ve dedicated most space to our native ceanothus and don’t have a lot of other space for a summer bloomer (wah!). I do think it’s a lovely plant and should be included where one has the space. I think that some nurseries in California can special order it from wholesalers. In addition to Annie’s, another retail nursery called Joy Creek Nursery carries it, but is currently out of stock.

    I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I am not familiar with Monty Don, but now that I am, I will certainly look into his publications! As always, I learn something new when I read your wonderful blog!!

    • Thanks for the fabulous info regarding beautiful Marie Simon, Ronnie!! I didn’t realize you went through the Foothill program – my last home was just down the street from there (well, about 1 mile down the street, but close enough, right?) I hope you enjoy Monty as much as I do – his television show, Gardener’s World, is my favorite garden show of all. And his latest book is hands-down WONDERFUL. I’m taking my sweet time reading it, treasuring every page.

  • A fabulous list of plants there Rebecca – as always! I’ll look for that gorgeous Salvia here in South Coast NSW as I have super-rich soil and many salvias seem to react like they’ve over-eaten Christmas pudding. Just one small correction for you – leucadendrons are from South Africa but also part of the Proteaceae family that’s so common here in Australia.. We share many plant families with SA, as we were both originally part of the Gondwana super-continent. Our most showy NSW local Proteaceae plant is the vibrant red waratah (Telopea speciosissima) – one to lust after but a tricky thing to grow.
    Hope you make it to Oz – there are many gardeners here who would love to meet and host you.

    • Happy New Year, Catherine, and thank you for the correction! You’re so right and I appreciate the information (I think I get so darn excited I lump every cool plant in the ‘Australia’ category – ha!!) Alas, protea is a plant that I cannot grow here. It’s guaranteed heartbreak for me, though they seem to do quite well along the coast. I just googled the Red Waratah and heavens – that is AMAZING. If I ever saw one in a nursery here, I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself from trying it in my garden. Dreaming of someday visiting Oz and meeting my kindred spirits. Thanks again!

  • You know I always love your blog posts. They’re intimate, filled with solid facts and great tips, and the photos illustrate everything perfectly. Well, they do more than illustrate, they INSPIRE.

    I too love Monty Don and nearly fell off my stool when I read my name mentioned in the same paragraph. There’s no comparison to Monty, but you sure started my 2021 off with a huge bang.

    I am always hoping we’ll get together again and I so want to meet your mom in person (I already feel like I know her), and I’d love to walk a garden pathway with her.

    Sending love to you and Tom and hoping Emily is great,


    • Thank you so much, Sharon, and I’m so glad your year started off right – ha! You ARE amazing, you know. Our own version of Monty Don, right here and for that your legions of fans are so, so grateful. I love your Instagram Magic Minutes, btw, and love seeing you and Jeff on a regular basis. It seems like it’s been eons since I’ve seen you in person, but dreaming of a day when we can get together again (WITHOUT those dreaded masks!!)

  • Thank you once again a wonderful, entertaining and informative blog! Happy New Year!

  • I’m excited to share that this Christmas I received your book “Refresh Your Garden Design with Color Texture, & Form”, and I’ve read it twice. Spring can’t arrive too soon. As I’m working many areas that need help my motto will be “what would Rebecca do?” Thank you for your blogs and books.

    • Janis, what a SWEET thing to say!!! I’m so glad you’re enjoying my book and I really do hope it helps with your spring garden plans. Thanks and Happy New Year!

  • A wish for a bright New Year.

    I have sent a long commentary to you about a plant I have become aware of called Ruscus. I am not going to go into great detail here, but I would like to learn about it and possibly plant it. Right now I have 6 stalks of it from bouquets, some from May, that are so perfect that they look artificial. And now the older ones are producing these tiny flowers that hang from the center of what look like leaves. Then it produces small, round, red fruit. I do not know if this plant would grow in Orinda?
    I am attracted to unusual plants. This one is unusual.

    • Nancy, you’ve stumped me!! I have no experience whatsoever with Ruscus, but after searching a bit online it sounds like it might be a pretty fantastic evergreen! https://www.plantdelights.com/collections/ruscus#more_info You might try dipping an end in a rooting hormone to see if you can start it in a loose potting mix. I’ve had shockingly good luck with that method and because this is such a tough little plant I bet they would ‘take’!?

  • Thanks for this great post with so much information. It’s a great beginning to what surely must be a better year.

  • We lived in Australia for three years. They have a lot of our plants here plus some very different. You must go there. Happy New Year.

    • Oh, luck YOU Sally! Australia is definitely on my bucket list. Happy New Year!

  • I love ceanothus, and the variety you highlighted in this article is gorgeous. How does it respond if planted in a bed that receives regular summer water?

    • Hi Pat – my mother’s large specimen (the one featured in this blog post) receives a little extra water from a lawn that’s nearby. I would suspect it appreciates a little more water than other varieties, especially with its larger leaves? I might google it in a bit to see if I find any other info and will update my response if I find out otherwise. Thanks for bringing this up!

  • I you are the best! Thank you for your New Year’s cheer and optimism.
    Is there anyway to pin your plant suggestions on Pinterest?

    • Thank, Nancy! If you hover your cursor over each photo a ‘pin’ button will appear on the photos and from there you can pin away! 🙂

  • My grandmother, out on Long Island, had a huge Snowball bush. I remember it well. I’ve looked for them in nurseries and never found one, either. Yours brought back a sweet memory.

    • I don’t see them in nurseries often, but when I do, I pounce on them. Have you tried asking a nursery to order one for you? I’m especially fond of the V. roseum as it often turns rich garnet shades in the fall. Happy New Year!

  • I got my love of gardening from my maternal grandmother who farmed in the Fresno area for years. When she retired and moved into “town” she vowed never to grow food again. Her yard was filled with flowers of all kinds and bloomed year around. She had a stunning Snowball Viburnum groomed into a small tree. Thanks for the memory!

    • Thanks for sharing the memory of your grandmother with us, Janice. I can only imagine how beautiful her garden must have been once she could let her imagination run wild, no longer restrained by having to work the farm.

  • Happy New Year! I also love watching Monty Don on Gardener’s World. I can usually find the latest episode by searching on You tube. Netflix had some of his travel episodes too that were beautiful to watch. He toured areas of Italy and France showing some stunning gardens. I think those might have now been moved to his website.

    • Happy New Year to you, too, Patricia! Thanks for the clues on how to find his shows – they always seem to be moving from one site to another. Maybe the hunt helps to make them extra special once they’re found – I’ll definitely head over to YouTube to find the latest episodes.

    • Hi Rebecca, I wanted to let you know that Patty (and our friend Jean) were the messengers delivering fresh donuts and Starbucks drinks, to you, Debra and me, when you two were featured speakers at the Waterwise Botanicals event, in Bonsall, several years back. It was life saving nourishment for us. That’s our Patty, a lifesaver in real life, a wonderful gardener and has a special furry buddy, Charlie the Irish/Golden blend who helps garden. Patty is already a fan of Monty’s and You of course! Your bosom buddy, Susan M from Vista, CA?

      • Hi Susan – gosh what a wonderful day that was (in large part to your kindness – bless you, too, Patty and Jean!!) I was SO TIRED that day, and as I recall it was a little foggy & chilly that morning and that coffee made a lasting impression on me! Thanks for the trip down memory lane and it’s so nice to hear from you!!! I’m sending a big hug (Covid-free, of course) to all of you and hope to see you soon? Maybe at an event at Waterwise Botanicals? I can dream, can’t I? 🙂

  • Great post and great “linkage”. Will be placing an order for that new salvia – what a looker! BTW-it is Monty’s dog Nigel that recently passed. Not Nell or Patty. thanks,,,,,

    • Yikes – thanks for the correction Holly – just made the change!! 🙂

  • Always enjoy your blogs and now tips for pod casts which I just started to listening to.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to my blog

Popular Categories

Favorite Garden Books

Favorite Sources for Plants, Bulbs, & Seeds

Helpful Garden Sites