Unsung Heroes: The Best Plants You’ve Never Grown


We celebrate certain garden plants in our songs and stories, our poems and our myths.

Roses. Tulips. He-loves-me, he-loves-me-not daisies.

And yet, we cannot make gardens out of these stars only.

After all, even the brightest stars need a backdrop of inky black in which to shine.

What our gardens need are the unsung heroes. These are not the main characters in our myths and legends. These are the plants that weave and knit our gardens together. These are the backdrops, the matrix that sets other plants to best advantage.

These are the best garden plants you have possibly never heard of before:


Echinops (Globe thistle): striking blue spherical flowers

Calamintha nepeta (Calamint): with blue or white flowers, this is a wonderful groundcover for smothering and crowding out weeds

Echinacea pallida (Coneflower): a longer-lived echinacea with beautiful, pale, and gracefully drooping petals

Actaea (Bugbane): tall spiked bottlebrush flowers

Agastache (giant hyssop): pollinator-friendly purple flower spikes

Perovskia (Russian sage): striking, silvery purple late-summer color

Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feathergrass): not quite hardy in colder zones and invasive in the southwest, this is still a wonderful ground-covering grass for some gardens

Anemone hupehensis (Japanese anemone): a shade-loving favorite for beautiful flowers in later summer and fall

Sedum (stonecrop): late summer and fall blooms on a distinctive, flat-topped plant; ‘Autumn Joy’ is a much-loved variety

Thalictrum rochebruneanum (meadow rue): a delicate, statuesque stunner

Miscanthus sinensis (silver grass): offers a bold, clumping backdrop for flowers

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass): delicate, grassy foliage

Allium (ornamental onion): starburst and pompom exclamation points for the garden

Explore all our Black Barn Garden Library posts here.


Posted on

July 2, 2020

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