Favorite perennials from Bustani Plant Farm

Favorite perennials. Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, hummingbird shrub

A couple of weeks ago, I ran up to Stillwater to visit Bustani Plant Farm, which as you know, is my favorite nursery. I had a lovely time, and I bought a lot of plants.

Where do I put them all?

Shrug. It’s a big garden–about an acre and a half total.

This post started out as a list of all my favorite plants from Bustani Plant Farm, but it became too long.

So, let’s start with my favorite perennials, shall we?

Cestrum ‘Orange Peel.’ I think Steve and Ruth Owens sell two other varieties of cestrum also, but the one I grow is ‘Orange Peel.’ It blooms in the middle of summer for a long time and is a great backdrop for other large-flowered plants. ‘Orange Peel’ grows about three feet high in my garden in full screamin’ sun. I grow it next to ‘Pink Velour’ crapemyrtle and Salvia greggii ‘Pink Preference.’

Wait, though, I also grow a purple cestrum. I like it too, but I don’t have a photo of it. Here’s a link to Cestrum x cultam ‘Cretan Purple.’ While not as bright as the yellow and orange ones, it’s very pretty too.

Speaking of S. greggii ‘Pink Preference,’ if you have a hot and sunny spot–and who in Oklahoma doesn’t–‘Pink Preference’ will do the job beautifully. It’s also a native S. greggii introduced by nurseryman and plant hunter, Logan Calhoun. Click the link to read more about Calhoun and his influence on gardening. I grow many plants which he discovered in his travels.


Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Fast Forward’ pink muhly grass, is another plant that steals the show in fall. Plant it with anything and watch the traffic stop outside your house come September. ‘Fast Forward’ is supposed to bloom earlier than other muhly grasses.

Favorite perennials. Gaillardia 'Punch Bowl'
Gaillardia ‘Punch Bowl’ in my garden in 2015.

Gaillardia ‘Punch Bowl.’ I know gaillardias are iffy in the perennial department because they often bloom themselves to death in summer. Even if you had to replant ‘Punch Bowl’ each and every year, it is worth doing that. Such a gorgeous pink and yellow. I also really like ‘Arizona Red Shades,’ but I probably wouldn’t plant it right next to ‘Punch Bowl.’ I think they might clash.

Ajuga ‘Burgundy Glow.’ I don’t take a lot of photos of this plant because it blooms in early spring when I’m usually knee-deep in leaf removal. I do know I like the blue flowers against the multi-colored foliage. In summer, ajuga creeps out of my garden beds and into the paths in a charming, but non-obtrusive way. I love that ‘Burgundy Glow’ is variegated, pink and purple, and that it loves the heat. Sometimes, I have to replace a section of it in the spring if we get a lot of rain and cold over the winter.

Amsonia hubrichtii, threadleaf blue star amsonia. This sweet little native should be in everyone’s garden. It takes awhile to get it started, but it’s worth the wait. Remember, with perennials, it takes about three years for them to get their legs. This type of amsonia is my favorite because of its texture, the blue flowers in spring and its yellow foliage in fall. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of it. Again, I’m usually busy working. Trust me. It’s gorgeous.

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, hummingbird shrub. Whew! What a mouthful! This is one of my all-time favorite shrubs. I love the shade of orange the blooms are. I love the shape it grows in and that just when you think it’s dead (It dies back to the ground in my garden each winter) it comes up and starts vigorously growing. It is beautiful, drought tolerant, and hummingbirds love it.

Japanese false nettle, Boehmeria nipononivea 'Kogane Mushi,' with Phlox paniculata in partial shade.
Japanese false nettle, Boehmeria nipononivea ‘Kogane Mushi,’ with Phlox paniculata in partial shade.

Boehmeria nipononivea ‘Kogane Mushi’, Japanese false nettle. A wonderful plant that lights up the shade garden. In my garden, it grows quite large, about four feet by four feet, which makes it a glowing shrub-like plant in my late-summer landscape.

Hibiscus ‘Moy Grande.’ Not many flowers bloom in July, but ‘Moy Grande’ never disappoints. It’s one of the summer flowers I recommend for summer heat. In my opinion, this is still the best of the perennial hibiscus, and I grow several of them. The big, bold hot pink flowers are simply amazing, and bumblebees can’t enough of the pollen and nectar.

Spigelia marilandica, Indian pink, has the cutest pink/red and yellow flowers. It is an upright growing, small native perennial that is great for the front of the border.
Spigelia marilandica, Indian pink, has the cutest pink/red and yellow flowers. It is an upright growing, small native perennial that is great for the front of the border.

Spigelia marilandica, Indian pink. This little plant is a U.S. native. It attracts hummingbirds, and it blooms in sun or shade. I grow mine at the edge of my shade garden. It is slow to multiply so I’ve been working increasing its numbers in my garden for several years. Such a pleasure to see it blooming every morning.

One more thing, buying your plants from local nurseries is important. Although I have nothing against box stores, I try to support my local nurseries with the bulk of my purchases. They frankly need the money more.

There are many other perennials I’ve purchased from Bustani over the years, but I’m tired, and I need another cup of coffee. You can’t go wrong with my favorite perennials. Take a quick road trip and get yourself some.

Problem plants

Physostegia virginiana, obedient plant.

In my garden, there are four or five real problem plants. I have other interlopers, but the following natives and non-natives are really bad actors in my leaf-mold enriched soil. Note: most natives can be kept in check if you don’t water much and have lean, sandy soil. My garden’s natural soil is red sand with large pockets of clay. Over the years, I’ve enriched it with Back to Nature cotton burr compost, my own homemade compost and shredded leaves along with various wood bark mulches. My current favorite is shredded pine bark, but it can sometimes be hard to find.

Our first problem child, ‘er plant, is Verbesina alternifolia, commonly known as wingstem and yellow ironweed. When it blooms in summer, it is beautiful, and pollinators adore it. I do not. This native absolutely loves my garden and all of its resident plants…to death. I’ve ripped and pulled and done everything to get rid of it. Yet, this year, especially, with all of the rain we’ve had, it is trying to take over the lower left bed near my Japanese maple. I will be out there again today trying to convince it to live elsewhere. Why is it such a problem? It has rhizomatous (underground) stems that spread like those of mint. It also spreads by seed. It’s become an utter nuisance in my garden. It’s also a native plant that is great where it has room to spread. My garden is not that place.

Early garden mistakes often linger. Autumn clematis, oh autumn clematis, why ever did I plant you? I remember my friend, Katie, looking at the feverish growth of its first year and remarking it might be a future problem. I should have listened. It is a huge problem plant in the garden popping up everywhere. I get it killed in one spot, turn around, and there’s a stem taking off in another. I hate this plant even though wasps adore it. It also smells good in late summer and is a fall bloomer.

Brennan has been replacing split-rail fence around the back garden. Volunteer autumn clematis grows on a portion needing attention. He asked me if he could kill it. I laughed, and said, “Go ahead and try.”

Another early garden mistake I made was planting garlic chives. I bought them at a small herb show and plunked them into the soil. Well, I am now constantly digging them out. You may think my garden looks good, but I spy with my little eye problem plants galore.

Trust me, even mint, the planting mistake of so many young gardeners is nothing compared to garlic chives. Their roots are six inches deep at least. They bury these tenacious roots into the pockets of clay which hold them like cement. It’s almost awe-inspiring.

Lonicera japonica, Japanese honeysuckle, a terribly invasive vine. I beg you. Don't plant this problem plant
Lonicera japonica, Japanese honeysuckle, a terribly invasive vine. I beg you. Don’t plant this.

Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica. No, I did not plant this beastly plant. Bill loved his mother’s lovely smelling honeysuckle and planted a small sprig before he and I married. We’ve been married 28 years this May 12, and I am still trying to eradicate it. I’ve done nearly everything you can do to it including burning. Yes, burning. No, it’s still alive. I ripped out a ton of it this morning in fact. Not even brush killer will completely eradicate it. It only sets it back a season or so.

I really think it's Drummond's aster that is my aster problem. This photo is from 2010, but it spread everywhere.
I really think it’s Drummond’s aster that is my aster problem. This photo is from 2010, but it spread everywhere.

Drummond’s aster, Symphyotrichum drummondii. I bought a small plant many years ago, and today, yet again, I was pulling out pieces of it along with its rhizomatous roots. My problem is that this part of the garden is not dry and xeric. In fact, the soil is somewhat clay-like.. One day, when I am old and too tired, this aster will win the fight, but today is not that day my friends.

Mountain mint and our house.
Mountain mint and our house.

Mountain mint. I’m never sure which variety, but I call it common mountain mint. The first clue is the word mint. It and Drummond’s aster duke it out in a corner of the garden, and the battle goes back and forth all season with neither side winning. When I turn my back, they establish détente and begin marching together across the rest of the garden. Only my determination stops full garden domination.

These are my problem plants. Oh, I have more like obedient plant and Johnson grass, but I’ve mostly eradicated them. What are the plants in your garden that give you the most trouble?