Garden Designers Roundtable – Favorite Landscape Plants

The topic of this month’s Garden Designer’s Roundtable is sharing my favorite ‘must have’ plants with you.  Easy!  I grabbed a pen, sat down in my comfy chair and began to list my favorites.  Time ticked by and after awhile I realized I had at least 50 choices so far, with no end in sight.  I clearly needed a different approach or this would be the longest post in history.

So instead, today I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite colors to use in the garden (and why) and share some of my favorite plants within that color palette.  So what are my favorite plants?  Those within the blue-green category!

I adore blue-green plants!  Why?  Not only is it one of my favorite colors, but when used in a garden (which so often consists of a zillion shades of green), the ‘blue’ in these plants allow the ‘greens’ to stand out and shine just a little brighter.  Not only that, the blue adds depth to an otherwise flat arrangement.  I’ll try to explain…

Using a color scheme with analogous colors (those next to each other on the color wheel) creates harmony.  Harmony can be described as a pleasing arrangement of parts forming a consistent whole.  If you look on a color wheel you’ll see that blue-green works so well with light green and dark green because ‘green‘ is the shared color.  Yet the blue in it allows the plant to visually recede, adding depth to the planting bed. Blue is one of several ‘cool tones’, which generally tend to recede in the landscape.

If you want to take this one step further and make things even more exciting, use the analogous colors of green, light green, and blue green and then mix in their complementary color – maroon (my ‘other’ favorite color to add to the garden).  The maroon color, when used sparingly, can either act as a pure accent color or, if chosen with more neutral shades in it, can provide perfect balance to the color scheme.  Maroon is one of several ‘warm tones’, and visually, these colors tend to move forward in the garden.  Voila!  Adding blue-green and maroon to the zillions of shades of green in a garden and you’ve now created depth!

Below are some examples of my favorite blue-green plants to use in the garden.  Some have more green in them, some have more blue, but they all ‘pop’ when used in the garden.



In addition to my own favorite plants, please stop by the other participants in this month’s posting!

And if you didn’t know already, we have some fantastic guest posters this year, starting with today’s guest Nancy Ondra!


Nan Ondra : Hayefield : Bucks County, PA

Andrew Keys : Garden Smackdown : Boston, MA

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA

Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA


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  • I finally made it back to read your reply to my earlier comment, Rebecca. Yeah, maroon plants are hard to come by in central Texas, and they’re nearly always shade lovers. I forgot to mention purple oxalis, for example. But our winters are too harsh for the aeoniums (sniff!), and I’ve been trying ‘Blackbird’ euphorbia with poor results. Happily we’re well-supplied with lovely blue-green and silver foliage.

  • What lovely visual inspiration you provide! I confess to a love of blue-green myself. Goes with purple and black foliage, makes greens appear more lush, and blue-green has a dignity to it that makes a garden feel more established and calm.

  • What a fantastic approach to this topic and actually the way we approach it from a design standpoint. There’s so much more than just a simple color choice in each one of your photos. Color, structure, companions, problem solvers all.

    • Thanks, Susan. You’re absolutely right – so much more goes into choosing a plant, doesn’t it? Glad you could see all the layers!!

  • The photo of the Agave ferox hooked me as effectively as a trout snapping at a fly. Just today I showed a group a photo of a hillside planted with Senecio mandraliscae and gestured grandly. “Swaths of blue!” Love it with butter-yellow golden barrels.

    • Debra, I’m always a fan of your metaphors! I had a feeling you’d like that Agave photo (gee, how’d I know?!).

  • So the only thing that can get you to stop talking about maroon plants is blue ones, eh? I don’t blame you, they really add a lot to the garden. Thank you for all the suggestions. I’m bookmarking this as a go-to page when I need some blue inspiration.

    • Okay Susan – I could just as easily say “oh wow – another Rozanne photo? I had no idea you liked those…” but I refrained. Yes, I’ll publicly admit it. I’ve got a Maroon hang-up, I just can’t help it. As much as I try to keep it at bay, it always seems to sneak in….

  • Like you, I’m crazy for blue-green plants, and luckily we have many to choose from here in central Texas: various agaves, Yucca recurvifolia and Y. rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’, Euphorbia rigida, echeverias (which need winter protection here), ‘Bath’s Pink’ and ‘Firewitch’ dianthus, ‘Ruby Crystals’ grass, Lindheimer muhly, heartleaf skullcap, etc., etc. What we lack are numerous maroon-plant choices, although we do have a few standbys like lorepetalum, dwarf barberry, and…nope, I can’t think of any more. Anyway, great post. I love your images!

    • Pam, I always read your posts and swoon over your VAST amounts blue plants. I could SO easily live where you do and be quite happy (if only it was about 15 degrees cooler in the summer, that is). I never realized maroon plants were so difficult to find there, though. That (plus the heat) might be enough to keep me here. But wait – won’t Aeonium ‘Zwartzkopf’ fare well there? Maybe in a protected spot? Hmmm..on second thought I remember seeing your photos of the killer freeze you had. That would surely wipe out the Aeoniums. Wait – how ’bout Blackbird euphorbias?

  • Rebecca, thanks, a complete masterclass in the colour blue.
    Always think of your work in terms of colour because you are so good at it!
    Lovely pics by the way, especially the third one.

    • Thank you Robert! It’s much easier for me to pick my favorite plants based on which color is needed in the garden versus which particular plant is my favorite. Glad you enjoyed my photos!

  • Yum yum yum! We ARE soul sisters in many ways, not the least among them is our plant lust! Loved this super informative post and your highlighting of BLUE! Oh yeah! I am SO PISSED that I left Senecio mandraliscae off of my list! How could I not honor THAT plant? Like you, I would have written a total book…

    • Ivette – my dream would be to create a garden with you, oh plant-twin!

  • I love your blues too! We’ve learned up here int he gray gray NW lately that our beloved blues don’t work quite as well as so we’re having to scale back on them a bit more and go to more warm sunset tones to buffer that sky! But, if I had your sunny skies I would be ALL about the blues. 🙂
    Beautiful post as usual Rebecca!

    • Very interesting, Christina. I guess you’re right! When you already have so many grays in your world, you definitely need more color, right? Thanks for stopping by!!

  • Great combinations, Rebecca! Putting the black mondo grass with the blue echeveria was brilliant. And the variegated Sedum sieboldii with the purple-leaved white clover – mmmm. You’re very lucky to be able to grow ‘Blackbird’ euphorbia so well, too.

    • Thank you so much, Nan – coming from you this is quite a compliment! (and thanks for letting me know what the name of that sedum was – I couldn’t remember to save my life!!)


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