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Northwest Gardening: Cool Plants for Hot Spots

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Wondering what works in your Northwest garden when the temperature rises? From spiky sea holly to common geranium, these bloomers beat the heat.

patio with table of succulents
spiky gray-blue sea holly

By Marianne Binetti

There’s a ghost in my garden, and she loves the heat! Miss Willmott’s ghost, or sea holly (Eryngium giganteum), is just one of many species of unusual, starry, spiky, and silvery plants that bloom all summer, dry easily for winter interest in the garden, and bask in the heat.

succulents in pots

The original Miss Willmott was a famous English gardener with a prickly personality, and she is said to have spread the seeds of this exotic-looking plant into various gardens she felt were boring -- just to liven them up.

I have several of these gray ghosts blooming in my garden, and one even has adapted to part shade and rich but moisture-retentive soil. The other two look just as happy flanking either side of a purple smoke tree amid boulders and thrive in very dry soil. So far I have resisted the urge to drop seeds of Miss Willmott’s ghost in unsuspecting gardens -- but this prickly heat-lover does add interest. 

Planting Tip: Pamper Miss Willmott by spreading a 2-in layer of gravel around the base of each plant in a 6-in-wide circle. This keeps the winter rains from rotting the crown of this drought-resistant perennial.

My other go-to flowers for hot spots are orange geraniums and various succulents. I believe geraniums and sedums are happiest when grown in clay pots. Perhaps it is because clay pottery breathes, and heat lovers, such as geraniums and succulents, like to feel the heat around their roots.

Buying Tip: Look for inexpensive but unusual sedums in the houseplant section of your local Lowe’s store. Then just slip the potted sedum, plastic pot, and all into a classic clay pot and display as living sculptures.

So why orange geraniums? The bold, bright color stands out in sunny locations where paler shades would fade. I would like to demand that everyone must plant at least one orange geranium to celebrate the heat of summer -- but then I would be a demanding, prickly garden writer . . . and someone might call me Miss Willmott!

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