Seattle area plant explorer Dan Hinkley gave a talk at the 2014 Northwest Flower and Garden Show in early February on his top 25 “can’t live without” plants. As usual he was enormously charming and funny. He showed photos of his favorite plants and described them in an inspiring way. Dan used to teach in the Horticulture program at Edmonds Community College (the same program where I teach part-time) before going on to building the Heronswood garden and nursery near Kingston, Washington. That’s when Martha Stewart found out about him and he became a gardening celebrity full time! But he is a down-to-earth sweetheart of a guy. For those who missed it or couldn’t attend, I’ve compiled his list here. He actually extended the list to 37 plants and probably would have gone on to more had time not run out. I’ll post the last dozen plants in a future post. In the meantime, enjoy these 25!
By the way, these comments are mine, not his. His were way more articulate. Mine are just to give you a brief idea of the plant.
1. Erythronium revolutum ‘White Beauty.’ Woodland plant that has pretty white lily-like flowers.
2. Camassia leitchlinii. This bulb naturalizes nicely and has ladders of starry light blue flowers.
3. Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn.’ A tough, wider than tall shrub with white-pink flowers and great drought tolerance.
4. Arbutus menziesii. This is the Pacific Madrona (or Madrone) tree. Green, glossy leaves and whitish flowers. Beautiful reddish, peeling bark. The Madrona is my favorite tree and I named my business after one I had in my previous yard.
5. Davidia involucrata. This deciduous tree is known for the flowers’ long, handkerchief-like bracts in spring. Very unusual look.
6. Magnoila wilsonii. Wilson’s Magnolia has delicate, white flowers that hang down, unlike other magnolias. They also have a light lemony fragrance.
7. Sassafras tzumu. Chinese sassafras is a tree with good fall color and blue drupes.
8. Stachyurus salicifolia. I think of a woman wearing big sleeves raising her arms when I think of this plant. You can interpret it as messy or exotic and cool looking.
9. Hamamelis mollis. This is just the straight Witch Hazel, not a hybrid. It gets bright yellow flowers in winter and has pretty fall color.
10. Hydrangea aspera ‘Plum Passion’ and H. angustifolia ‘Golden Crane’. I haven’t grown ‘Golden Crane,’ which is supposed to be strongly fragrant, but I do have ‘Plum Passion,’ which has dusky purplish foliage and is very pretty.
11. Mahonia x media ‘Lionel Fortescue’. Any of these hybrid mahonias are unique. They blast upward with almost whorls of pointed dark green foliage. They also attract hummingbirds with fragrant yellow flowers.
12. Helwingia japonica. I love this plant! It has delicate flowers and then dark blue berries that lay atop the leaves, as if someone had carefully placed them there.
13. Beesia deltophylla. This plant reminds me of certain asarums. It’s nice to have another choice for shade.
14. Disporum longistylum ‘Green Giant’. This plant has the coolest emerging bamboo-like shoots but it’s not a bamboo. It’s similar in leaf form but it’s actually a giant evergreen perennial.
15. Cypripedium. The Ladyslipper Orchid is a native orchid with a lovely, white-pink flower.
16. Mukdenia rossii ‘Crimson Fans’. This is an interesting perennial with roundish, toothed leaves and a unique reddish leaf color.
17. Corydalis ‘George Baker’. Usually corydalis cultivars are light blue or pink, this one’s got stunning reddish flowers.
18. Cyclamen hederifolium. This pick surprised me just because he chose the straight species — but I love it too. It’s so cheery and seemingly delicate, yet cyclamens are actually really tough.
19. Magnolia insignis. This tree used to be known as michelia. I like it because it has glossy leaves and fragrant flowers that sit atop the leaves as if a hand opened to display it. Very cool.
21. Edgworthia chrysantha. I can see why Dan picked this shrub/daphne relative. It gets The most fragrant flowers in spring on bare stems (kind of like the Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ effect).
23. Aristilochia. This is a really beautiful vine, it’s as if a brunnera became a vine. Very pretty.
24. Grevillea. I like Grevilleas but they’re, dare I say, a little shaggy and weedy looking? I know they’re great wildlife magnets, but everytime I see one in the nursery, I pass on it because it’s a bit on the messy side, but it does have super cool influoresences.
25. Acacia pravissima. I’ve grown this in Tucson, AZ, where it loves the heat and sun. It’s marginally hardy in the Northwest’s Zone 8 climate, but it sure is cool with its triangular, stiff leaves and draping habit.
All of these are hardy in the Pacific Northwest, Zone 8, and many are available from Monrovia if anyone’s interested in buying them.