Add color to your summer garden with these plants


Gardeners are always on the lookout for the next great thing — the perfect weeder; a light, durable hose; organic solutions to pest problems; and, of course, the latest new plant at the nursery.

While water features, benches, obelisks and gazing balls serve as focal points, gardeners also want big, bold, beautiful plants to provide definition in the garden. Dominant plants draw the eye and create structural contrast next to smaller plants. Finding the right plants to take center stage in your hot, full-sun garden sometimes presents a challenge. Trial and error is fine, until you’re stumped and unsure what to try next.

The hot garden’s must-have list contains plants that are water-wise and heat-tolerant, remain unfazed by our difficult soils and don’t need babying to thrive. The key to success with these plants is proper, deep watering to endure our once-a-week rationing without wilting. A once-a-week deep watering encourages deeper roots that help keep plants hydrated.

Some of the big, bold plants that I’ve enjoyed the most success with in my hot garden include:

Thryallis: A summer blooming perennial, thryallis is covered with small, delicate yellow bloom spikes and sports a gently flowing form. It can reach 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

Mexican oregano: This evergreen plant sports lavender/pink flowers and grows 5 feet tall and wide. While technically not a true oregano, it is edible. A native of Mexico, this plant emits a delightful, spicy scent. Its intense taste makes it a great seasoning for fish, sausage or other recipes that call for a spicier, oreganolike essence.

Duranta: Reaching for the sky, Duranta plants dominate at 10 feet to 15 feet tall by 5 feet wide. There are several different cultivars, including a vibrant purple, delicate lavender and bright white. As it blooms, it develops tiny fruits (not edible) shaped like pearls that drape delicately from its branches.

Purple fountain grass: While often an annual in our colder winters, I think it’s worth replanting for the unique features it adds to the garden. Unlike Pacific Northwest gardens, Central Texas’ plant palette has a limited amount of burgundy-leaved plants.

Yellow bells: Towering at up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, this reliable perennial brings sunshine into the garden. A low-maintenance plant, it boasts striking yellow flowers that bloom summer through fall and is a nectar source for bees.

Whale’s tongue agave: This handsome agave adds eye-catching structure in the garden. Cold-hardy, it also tolerates hot, dry conditions and grows up to 4 feet tall by 6 feet wide. Unlike many other agaves, this one does not send out offsets, or pups, which are extremely difficult to remove without a soil knife or machete and elbow grease.

Mexican bush sage: This salvia soaks in the full sun, tolerates ordinary soil and is drought-tolerant. Its gray-green fuzzy leaves lead to velvety bloom spires of lavender or purple. At a mature height of about 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide, it forms a beautiful, softly mounding shrub.



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