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  • Writer's pictureJill

Top FIVE 2020 Plant Performers!

I'm a very organized person. I like to know where things are, and where I can find them when I want them. So, it's no surprise that I know exactly where everything is in my garden. And I know exactly WHAT everything is too! As I have been tending and enjoying this spring/summer season, I have been taking mental notes. I do have a garden journal, but it doesn't really tell the whole story.

I thought you might like to hear the whole story. Below is a list of absolutely every plant in my backyard garden. The list does not include vegetable specimens in my raised bed garden. Nor does it include a review of the plants in my front yard garden - most of which are completely different - so I may have to do a review of my front yard collection next! I've tried to provide pictures, where I have them, of things that I have listed. Some plants got photographed multiple times, but some flew under the radar, and did not get photographed at all! I'll need to remedy that next season.

My comments include notes about color, bloom times, and ability to thrive. There are some personal notes too, just because. Every plant tells a story to me, and I thought you might like to know some of that as well. If you read to the end -- you will find out the TOP FIVE PERFORMERS in the garden this season! I don't play favorites with my plants, I love them all, but I wanted you to know which ones worked out the best in the garden, in case you're thinking about next season too! If you don't want to know about ALL the plants - scroll to the bottom to find out the TOP FIVE PERFORMERS!

Here they are! (And of course they're alphabetized!!!)


Bloomed beautifully, but only once. Lovely purple combined with iceberg roses was a delight. Perhaps a 2 – 3 week bloom.

Aloe Vera

Great architectural look. Self propagates. Easy Care. In pots on either side of the guest house doors.


Still in its infancy. Just planted the seeds. Not able to rate. Hope to use it for fall decorating.


Bloomed very late, and lily looked diseased. Too much shade?

Angel Trumpet Tree

Spectacular flowers. A little messy with dropping blooms. Little care necessary. Robert gave it a massive trim in late July. It's pouting, but still sending out new shoots.


Takes up lots of space. Lovely green leaves for all of spring and summer, ending with beautiful purple spiky blooms. Included here because I treated it like a flower. Did not harvest. Peeks above the patio benches for visual interest when viewing from the house.


Short spring bloom in my mom's garden. Need to think what to do about these. Haven't paid much attention to them.


Was supposed to fill in around potted camellias. Had a hard time w/ heat, all but one died.

Bearded Iris

Most spectacular of all blooms but short bloom season (2 weeks). Thrilling.


Mad because it will only flower if I let it get out of control and sprawl all over. Plus it pricked me and gave me a terrific bruise and an awful scare.

Blue Chalkstick Succulent

Nice groundcover around corners. Needs trimming pretty frequently.

Bonfire Euphorbia

Did not survive – I think I overwatered.


Succumbed to the heat in all but the boysenberry barrel in the backyard. Better success in the front yard.


Great color in the early season, but got woody and dried at the base late in the season with fewer blooms.


No fuss color early, early spring. Beautiful green leaves year round.


Incredibly beautiful color, surprising reblooms throughout the summer. Lasted until mid – August. Tall ones needed staking.

Dwarf Iris

Super cute, low to the ground iris, but very short bloom in early spring. Nice green bush rest of year. Likes some shade. Picture is in late August when not in bloom.


Hoping for its comeback. Looks quite sickly right now – but nonetheless seems to want to flower. A birthday gift from Patricia!

Firecracker Bush

Fun space eater. Flowered reliably all summer, though blooms are tiny. Will need trimming. Birthday present from my daughters!


Made for the desert, and has bloomed all season. Colorful fun flowers. No fuss. Second season in garden. Grew from seed that I got at Arizona Desert Botanical Garden. (A must visit!)


Initial blooms spectacular. Secondary blooms very wan. Planted first week of the quarantine.

Ganzania Big Kiss

Too new to rate.

Gerbera Daisy

Had one or more daisies pop up every week almost all season. Reliable. Nice green bushy leaves.

Giant Sequoia

Slow Grower! Is it really still thriving in a pot in my backyard? Almost a foot tall - but has gotten very bushy. May have to transplant to mountains!


Beautiful purple flowers. Grows in a narrow column vertically. Follows the sun! Resides next to the Butterfly Bush - may be overshadowed there.


First time growing these. Loved watching them grow to maturity in the backyard. Harvested seeds for next year. Spectacular towering above the patio

Huntington Centennial Rose “Life of the Party”

Still quite small, not a hardy bloomer yet.

Iceberg Rose

Flowered constantly from April through August. White small open flowers paired with agapanthus was quite lovely.

Indian Hawthorne Green Bush.

Nice Gap filler – has small pink blooms in spring. Multiple in garden. I pay absolutely no attention to them BUT I do prune them - because I can see in other gardens what happens when you don't. They are ubiquitous and can get VERY large.

Irish Strawberry Tree

Fast growth. Few berries. Lovely wood trunk and branches.

Jade Plant

Succulent back of house. Unimpressive. May need to transplant.


Stayed green after transplant but did not flower.


Amazing. Bloomed all season. First bloom stunning. Filled garden gaps beautifully. Lovely scent. Did not prune - I let it grow wild.

Lemon Tree

Needed so much care because of fungus it developed. Hoping to get some lemons this year -- but usually I have more than I can use.

Lime Tree

Hope it is in the right place. Having a hard time getting it enough water. Does now have some blossoms.

Mammoth Sunflower

Has not grown to maturity yet. Transplanted flowers are less robust than others, but exciting to watch.

African Marigolds

Planted in veg garden to ward off bugs and evil doers. May have worked - did not have too many creatures.

Moroccan Mint

Has grown little since last year. In a Talavera pot!


Great early spring bloom. That was it. Harvested seed pods.

Night Blooming Cereus

This feels like a miracle plant. So many reasons why it's so fun. Bloomed 3 times - and I think it's on its 4th!

Little Ollie

Miniature Olive Tree Bush. Perfect. Grows fast. Good gap filler. Lovely color.

Pineapple Guava Tree

So far no fruit. Much growth. Nice architectural element. Currently needs a trim.

Pink/Purple Butterfly Bush

Nice colorful blooms but both had yellowed leaves and stopped prodigious production mid year. May have overwatered.


Too small/inconsequential to rank.

Pink Yarrow

Best Yarrow I’ve ever had. Lovely pink color. Consistently trimmed out brown undergrowth.

Purple Salvia

Too large, needs to be trimmed back. Bees love it!

Rose Tree – All a Twitter

Fabulous first bloom. Lackluster rest of season.

Sanseveria/Snake Plant

Literally requires no care. Great on patio. Tried to give my daughter a cutting but she hates it because of the name. Snakes are her least favorite thing.

Sea Thrift

Tiny plant. Sweet little pink flowers. Has grown considerably since first planted last year.


Has not flourished this year as in past. Stingy leaves. In Talavera pot!


Lovely green but unremarkable plant. Maybe I will harvest for sugar substitute!

Suncredible Sunflower

Never thrived – was diseased most of the season. In the front yard, they were the life of the party, though. Something to think about. I may have to amend the soil in the backyard garden this fall.

Trumpeter Tree Rose

First Bloom stunning. Moderately successful rest of season. Robert won't let me say the name of the rose in videos that I do.


Lovely Pink Spires. May grow quite large – will have to transplant. My mom's name was Veronica!

Calla Lily (While, Yellow, & Burgundy)

Never flowered this season. Too much shade?

Yuletide Camellia

Fabulous during the Christmas season. Lovely green tree/bush the rest of the season. Terrific addition to our patio. Lights at Christmas!

And here's the top FIVE performers in the backyard garden this season!

Here's the criteria that I used to determine the top five!

1) Joy - How much joy did they give me?

2) Ease - How easy were they to manage?

3) Impact - How much impact did they have in the garden?


The first bloom of the season was stunning. I remember saying in one of my early videos that it looked like we were in France. But the blooms kept coming, perhaps not as large or as saturated in color, but still very lovely. Even today I can look out my kitchen window and see the lavender tips on the delicate spires. The other wonderful thing is the way that they spread in the garden. The tall wispy spears are so pleasing as they proliferate and develop breadth across the garden. They continue to look fresh and lovely, very cottage like, reminding me of walking in the countryside. Top five because of 1) bloom 2) longevity 3) fragrance 4) visual interest 5) appropriate spread/fill in the garden


My mom's favorite flower and now, I guess, my favorite flower too. We waited with great anticipation for the first bloom, and with each new iris, we were more and more astonished at the beauty. They look so regal, so elegant. The colors are so dark, and vibrant. And the bicolored ones were such a surprise. They are easy care, and the only down side is that they only bloom for a short time in the spring! I bought some new bulbs for next spring, so there will be more beautiful surprises. And I made a big project out of dividing and replanting the old irises in the garden, so we're ready for spring! Top five because of 1) Color 2) Ease of care 3) Sentimentality 4) Green blades post bloom add diversity in the garden 5) Color!


It's the color. The height. The fairy like quality of the blooms. They're a little labor intensive, because they require staking and pruning as the season goes on, and they are not very heat tolerant. But totally worth it. Top five because of 1) Gorgeous bloom 2) Repeat bloom 3) Provides height in the garden 4) Cottage-style feel 5) Good cutting flower


You know how some people are just "a lot"? Artichokes are like that. Just a lot. They spread their long branch like leaves wherever, they grow quite large, but they look architectural, and many of my visitors have been so impressed. Plus, they do double duty - as a veg and as cut flower. Top five because 1) So hardy 2) No real care necessary 3) Drought tolerant after they have been established 4) Great flowers, great veg 5) Terrific look in the garden, and look good taking up negative space.


My mom's gift to me. Each of the rare times that it blooms, ( for 4- 6 hours one evening maybe 2 -3 times a year) it is a special event at our house. Whoever is in residence at bloom time, I parade out into the backyard, and make them exclaim over the look, the fragrance, the absolute rarity of the plant. When it's not blooming it's a bedraggled looking thing. But isn't that true of all of us? Top five because 1) My mom 2) Extraordinary blooms that are so rare they have become event worthy 3) Fragrance of warm vanilla 4) Drought tolerant, easy care succulent 5) My mom

Whew! That was a lot of work. Hope you enjoyed it!


Aug 27, 2020

Thanks, Karen! It was a labor of love!


Karen Bracco
Karen Bracco
Aug 27, 2020

Best column so far!

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