Right about now you might be asking yourself, “What exactly is a workhorse plant?” In our minds it is a plant that asks little from us but delivers a whole lot to the garden. These are tough plants, capable of fitting into an array of spots and producing multiple seasons of interest. They aren’t the stars (aka focal points), and they aren’t the supporting cast (aka reliable performers). They are more like stage managers, ensuring that the garden always looks decent. We thought it was high time that these unsung garden heroes got some praise, since rarely are awards given to plants that are simply defined as “solid.” Saddle up for a long list of perennials—and a few shrubs—you’ll be happy to have ride into your garden.
Expert testimony: Joann Vieira, director of horticulture at The Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts
‘Biokovo’ geranium (Geranium × cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’, Zones 5–8)
Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata and cvs., Zones 3–9)
‘Daub’s Frosted’ juniper (Juniperus × pfitzeriana ‘Daub’s Frosted’, Zones 4–9)
Variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum ‘Variegatum’, Zones 3–9)
‘Cat’s Pajamas’ catmint (Nepeta ‘Cat’s Pajamas’, Zones 3–8)
‘Solar Cascade’ Short’s goldenrod (Solidago shortii ‘Solar Cascade’, Zones 5–9)
‘Blackbeard’ penstemon (Penstemon ‘Blackbeard’, Zones 3–8)
Lesser calamint (Clinopodium nepeta syn. Calamintha nepeta and cvs., Zones 4–9)
Flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata, Zones 3–9)
‘Purrsian Blue’ catmint (Nepeta faassenii ‘Purrsian Blue’, Zones 3–9)
‘Millenium’ allium (Allium ‘Millenium’, Zones 5–8)
Yellow wax bells (Kirengeshoma palmata, Zones 5–8)
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