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.

Tell me a story: a review of Heirloom Bulbs for Today

Heirloom Bulbs for Today cover courtesy of Cherie Colburn

Call me jaded, but I am so over traditional gardening books, the ones which state in the most boring language possible:

  • Plant this here;
  • Do this particular design; or
  • Here is a laundry list of plants which grow in USDA Zones 3 to 7.

Instead, tell me a story. Make me want that heirloom iris rescued from an old Texas homestead, or the tomato which bears the name of a friend and colleague long ago.

Muscari neglectum. Photo courtesy of Chris Wiesinger

Chris Wiesinger, a/k/a the Bulb Hunter, and Cherie Colburn do just that in their book Heirloom Bulbs for Today. Unlike so many gardening books being published of late, Heirloom Bulbs is a big beautiful tome with loads of gorgeous photos. Many books are now being downsized due to printing costs which I understand. However, it’s nice to see generous macro photos along with landscapes in front of old homesteads and cemeteries to remind us of gardeners who have gone before, but who also had similar hopes and dreams.

Chris owns the Southern Bulb Company, and since 2005, he’s crafted his business by rescuing bulbs (with permission) from abandoned homes and farms throughout the south. With such a profession, you know there are going to be lots of stories. The South lends itself to storytelling and romanticism after all. Think of the great southern writers like Eudora Welty (my hands-down favorite), Reynolds Price, Clyde Edgerton and Tennessee Williams . . . the list is expansive. In southern literature, gardens often figure as part of the plot, or are at least play their part in set design.

Chris, Cherie and Loela taken at Chris' farm. Photo courtesy of Johan Kritzinger

In many places, this lovely book reads like good literature, and I’ve spent several evenings perusing its pages. All the factual information is here complete with botanical drawings of the bulbs by Loela Barry, a graduate of Texas A&M. The macro photographs of the bulbs were captured by Johan Kritzinger, who is Loela’s husband. Together they own JoLoe Art.

Chris is clearly in love with bulbs, especially those he can grow in northeast Texas where his farm is located. I’ve bought specialty bulbs from Chris over the years. He has always been extraordinarily kind, and in this book, it’s his kind voice that leads you down the path and into the story.

Lycoris radiata taken in Ft. Worth, TX by Dee Nash

The book opens with the superstars, those bulbs which will grow and bloom for most of us. Lycoris radiata, one of my favorites, is listed first. According to Chris, the best display of red spider lilies he’s ever seen is in the American Cemetery in Natchitoches, LA, where Steel Magnolias was filmed. It is these details peppered throughout the book which make you feel as though you’re riding with Chris’ in his old pickup with his faithful companion, his Weimaraner, Fischer.

Lest you fear there is no botanical information, don’t worry. Each bulb has a page devoted to bloom, foliage, bulb or corm type and care. The botanical drawings are situated on this page so you can compare the written word with them.

It was a special thrill for me when Chris and Cherie wrote of the Hyacinthoides hispanica (Spanish bluebells) growing at Eudora Welty’s home, now a National Historic Landmark. I’m not kidding when I say I love Welty’s work. Eudora Welty Complete Novels: The Robber Bridegroom, Delta Wedding, The Ponder Heart, Losing Battles, The Optimist’s Daughter (Library of America) are excellent with Delta Wedding and The Optimist’s Daughter being two of my favorites. In Delta Wedding, the word “garden” is mentioned at least eight times.

All of my favorite heirlooms are in this book, and it is a wonderful reference, but the stories, ah, the stories are what drew me in and kept me reading. Cherie did a great job getting those stories down on the page, and her style is engaging. Do you like books to weave a tale too?

Note: This book was sent to me for review by Bright Sky Press. I liked it very much, so I’m glad they did. I wish Chris every success, and he is available for speaking engagements too.