My summer has been incredibly dry and hot with 3 of the last five days in the triple digits, but this container garden is still going strong with 3-4 waterings per week. This planter garden is packed with bright and refreshing colors, and 5 different types of drought hardy plants that fill in the container quickly, and make your thumb look greener than it may actually be.
Native plants are notoriously tolerant of both the wet spring weather, and the droughts that stretch through the North American summer months, and Beard Tongue (Penstemon) is an airy example of drought tolerance that has the appearance of an English garden staple.
Penstemon comes in hundred of cultivars, but the original native varieties generally are sold under the name “Beard Tongue.” A full or partial sun perennial, this plant is easily grown from seed, or as a live plant. It does well in naturalized areas near woodlines, or in meadow since it doesn’t need too much water to thrive, and fits in well with other formal garden plants like Lavender, Roses, Daisies, and Purple Coneflowers.
Exhibit “A” as to why you should never discount a plant with the word ‘wort’ in it; this is St. John’s Wort.
St. John’s Wort is a great accent plant for your garden beds and containers, and it’s one of the least known plants of most gardeners today. The family Hypericum contains both flowering shrubs, and a vine form in many different types and colors. The shrubs range in height from 1-10 feet in height when fully grown, while the vine’s low growing habit makes it ideal for erosion control on hillside gardens. Grown best in zones 4-8, the shrubs and vines do well in partial shade to full sun, but bloom most prolifically in full sun. These plants are drought tolerant, with 3 inch wide blooms covering them from June through August. St. John’s Wort is a natural choice for gardens with poor or rocky soil, so it is a great plant to have on hand if you have large areas that need perennials but you don’t have the inclination to create endless formal beds with all the topsoil and mulch that those require.
My favorite use of St. John’s Wort is in tree rings, or as a mass groundcover. It’s spreading habit can be best appreciated when it is planted in large groups in a location where it won’t take over the entire flower garden. As a tough perennial, this plant falls on my “Full Sun, Bullet-Proof” plant list, and once it is established you can keep it fresh by mowing over it every few years to keep it flowering and fresh.
Due to its hearty nature St. John’s wort is a plant that should be introduced only in garden areas where its growth habits can be managed. The USDA lists these plants as a potentially invasive in the wild, so care should be taken to keep it out of naturalized area for the benefit of local wildlife, and the native ecosystem.