Desert Island Plants

Today's Gladiolus - an unknown variety because it was a freebie
JAS set a delightful, though very challenging poser a couple of days ago over at Blogging from Blackpitts:

I have a question for you. (Credit for this goes to my wife, Celestria)

Imagine, if you would, that one sunny morning you were suddenly plucked from your existing garden and plonked into a new one. The transfer was so unexpected (perhaps like
this) and so swift that you were only able to take six plants from your existing garden.

So. The question is which six plants would you choose ? Do you go for something big - a favourite cherry or a noble oak? maybe an evergreen to liven up your winter. A rose planted to commemorate an anniversary, a herb without which your cooking would be bland or maybe just a piece of herbaceous fluff which stirs the soul ? Remember these will be the only six plants that you are allowed: your new garden has no access to any nurseries or garden centres.

What will you choose ?
James of course has already supplied his answer. And so have quite a few others - very good ones, I urge you to take a look. I've provided my answer too - and like most of the others it's been a struggle to select just six. The list has changed many times and I've had a few arguments with myself. We had 20 people over for curry the other night and as I was showing them round the garden (yes, between the inevitable showers), I told them about James' post and they'd pick out a plant and say 'Well, you must include this one' (Fuchsia 'Garden News'), or 'That's lovely' (Dicksonia antarctica), until the list was as long as the garden's planting plan again.

So, what's my list? Well, the published version (for now and extended from my comment over at Blackpitts) is:

Snowdrops - because they give so much hope in the dark depths of winter. Plus they're the only plant I bother to count to make sure they're on the increase in mine and the guerilla garden next door. But then I haven't included sunshiny yellow daffodils, nor the alliums, such as A. schubertii, whose firework presence in my front garden makes me giggle every May/June. And what about the Dahlias...

My mystery Clematis - she's such a floosie and the only plant that's stayed on my list throughout. I'll post about her in more detail later.

Heuchera 'Licorice' - all year interest and contrasts wonderfully with the snowdrops. Ah, but have I picked the right one? But then there's my lovely new Brunnera 'Jack Frost' to consider.

Echinacea - bees love it and it's so well behaved. But what about the Monarda across the way, or the Helianthus, the Erysimum that flowers non-stop for 12 months, the ...???

Lavender 'Hidcote'- for the Echinacea to float over and because its oil is so precious: 'First Aid in a Bottle'. But then the Echinacea also floats over a nice planting of Sedum 'Autumn Joy', or if I'm going for something that's useful, what about any of the herbs I use for both culinary use and ornamental effect?

Golden Fastigate Yew - representing my 'future garden'. I feel like ripping out pretty much all of my plants at the moment - I consider the current planting to be my 'learning garden': the relatively easy plants I've used to begin to understand what planting and year round colour and interest is all about. Now I feel ready to try something a little more choice and unusual, so I bought my Yew last year to start the process. The rest (and the potential for a completely new list of six) is about to follow...

Now I have to say my other plants are in a bit of a sulk. My Acer's in particular's going 'Oi, I'm your oldest plant (bought 25 years ago) - I've followed you round all of your houses, of course you must pick me!' And then there's the topiary box balls I've trained myself (which I could also take cuttings from to make a lovely wavy hedge like James's); the Himalayan silver birch where I hang the bird feeders; my bay tree - I'd love to train one properly into one of those twisty trunk styles - aargghh, I can't cope!

And my Eryngiums (planted to remind me of the time I saw them in the wild in Greece, where their steely blue stems stopped me in my tracks) are so disgusted, they've invaded the lawn in protest. And I tend to fall in love with my plants all over again just as they come into their season - so my list would be different every single month. Well, about every six minutes at the moment.

Then there's a six from my allotment to consider (just as an added extra for my own fun) - but I think that's for another time.

What would your choice be? Tell me - and James!


  1. LOL It's really impossible to choose only 6 and why should you? I'm not going to some desert island any time soon, are you? ;-)

    It's till raining a lot here too. Bother!

  2. No Yolanda, I'm not. But sometimes there are posts which just capture the imagination. I found myself pondering this question most of the day on Tuesday (and still am), that I had to respond both on Balckpits and here in more detail. The replies over at James' are interesting, thought provoking and amusing, so it deserves a wider audience and response.

  3. 6? Oh dear - I could be gone some time!

  4. No I'm not in Cornwall. Wish I was! I am one stop away on the train. Put your email address in a comment on my blog, then the world wont have to see it as I wont publish it... I havent been to Chippenham for a long time.

    1 grapevine
    2 Olive tree
    3 Acer
    4 Cherry tree
    5 chilli plants (they are in the green house does that count?
    6 Topiary cones, but I need some advice on their up keep.

  5. No, no, no. I have changed my mind. I want to change no.5-chilli plants for Geraniums. Yes. Now I can rest easy. And I dont think I will change my mind again...

  6. I've been thinking about this since seeing James post and finding it really difficult. On the rare occasions I don't fall asleep the minute my head hits the pillow I lull myself to sleep by naming a plant for every letter of the alphabet then restarting again. This doesn't always work as sometimes I have to get up and check the plant encyclopedia for a tricky letter like Q or X which wakes me up again.

    Anyway this week I have been lying awake trying to decide on 6 plants and what exactly the criteria is. Is it just favourites or do they all need to be easily propagated? Do they need to harmonise with each other? The only absolute definite so far is aeonium schwartzkopf - should I build the rest of my selection around that?

  7. Zoe - I think we all feel that way. It's a pleasurable but tough experience isn't it?

    SOL - A nice selection (lots of luxury edibles I see) and they all count. Will do as you suggest later!

    Arabella - I'm the same and yes I was kept awake thing about it too :) I don't think there's any criteria per se - I did try to select something that would hang together-ish and provide year round interest-ish. At one point I'd divided the year up into 2 month chunks and selecting a plant for each chunk, but gave up because the resultant assemblage didn't hang together at all!

    James must be laughing into his hat, seeing how we're struggling and squirming to come up with an answer. It's good fun though!

  8. PS - Quercus and Xerophyte Arabella? I've used Quercus already for ABC Wednesday and am saving Xerophyte for later. The latter's not strictly a plant of course, but you could use it for your X and then happily contemplate all your succulents and cacti whilst you drift off into the land of nod.

  9. I left a reply on James blog the other day - of course now (2 days later) I would choose a different six.
    This post of James has really, really set me thinking (and not in an altogether happy way - it hurts my little grey cells)
    Today it is
    Japanese anemone - Honorine Jobert
    Perovskia - Blue Spire
    Any dark leaved acer palmatum
    Anual Rudbeckia - my first flower of the season opened today - and I had forgotten how great they are.
    Hellebores - a nice dark washfield double
    and Rose "Souvenir du Docteur Jamain
    And none of them would look nice together!
    (sigh - start again)
    Warm regards

  10. Karen - that's really spooky. I've been looking at my Japanese Anemone and Petrovskia today thinking, 'Hmm why didn't they even make the list? They're great!'

    It hurts the little grey cells, but it's fun. Now if it were Desert Island Discs, we'd have 8 to choose. Would that make it easier - er, no ;)


  11. I will sure grab some citrus thyme for all the fish I am going to eat!

    Rosa Rugosa, since it spread like wildfire, is very fragrant and produce large hips with 11 times more Vitamin C than citrus fruits.(1100 mg of Vit. C per 100 g)

    Corn, potatoes,lentiles and Opium poppies used to kill myself before I die from boredom, living on a deserted island.

    Your mystery Clematis is BTW. called Blue Light - one of the few double blue clematis that has rounded, not pointed tepals:

  12. Niels, inetrestingly you're the second person to say that. The other one was over at the other blog. But having studied your link, plus others from Google, I'm still to be convinced. There seem to be some subtle differences. And besides, it was bought as a Raymond Evison supplied Clematis ('Crystal Fountain') and 'Blue Light' isn't in his catalogue. I think I'm going to have to contact them about it. After I've done a fuller post about it and the 'variation' I also seem to have in my C. 'Josephine'.

    BTW you have totally surprised me with your choice - I had you as a shoe-in for 6 roses. Nice one!

  13. As I don't have a garden and this is my first year on the plot I'll have to cheat and chose six that would be in my garden had I got one.
    As to what they are I still thinking about so I'll come back over the weekend and tell you. xx

  14. Mmmmm - what a dilemma - I am going to sleep on this as only one definite for now - I must have some snowdrops !

  15. Argh - I forgot about hellebores on the list I put on James' blog.

    Arabella - I'm glad I'm not the only weirdo who runs through a to z lists to get to sleep.

  16. Flighty - I look forward to seeing your list :) You could always do an allotment version, like I'm planning to do.

    Anna - Come back and tell me more!

    HM - but you cleverly left a sixth spot free over at James', so you can safely add your Hellebores to the list :)

  17. BTW - everyone who's planning on providing a list later - you could always go and put them on James' blog - he did come up with this fiendish idea in the first place...

    Blogging from Blackpitts

  18. Okay here's mine, which with one exception I've grown on the plot this year...
    Centaurea cyanus Cornflower-the true wild form with its beautiful blue flowers.
    Helianthus annus Sunflower-a wonderful makes me smile plant.
    Linaria maroccana Fairy Bouquet- the most delightful small plant.
    Lathyrus odoratus Sweet pea-mixed colours for look and scent.
    Rose'Pretty Lady'-an attractive pale peachy pink fragrant floribunda.
    A white mophead Hydrangea which I've not(yet)grown.
    I'm sure that my choice would change if I hadn't limited myself like this. xx

  19. Hi Flighty - thanks for coming back as promised. That's a very good selection. I think by restricting ourselves in some way it makes the task slightly easier. Imagine the problems there'd by if we'd had the entire RHS Plant Finder to select from!

  20. Geez, only 6? This is going to take a lot of thought. If I were you, I'd take the Lavender over the Sedum because of the fragrance, which is calming. Your other choices are all good too. Definitely a thing to ponder.

  21. MMD - Good point about the lavender. It's a good one to think about isn't it?

  22. I love read your post, and you have nice blog, I will back here again :)

  23. Hi Visitor - welcome and thanks for dropping in!

    Glad you you like it around here :)

  24. Post Xmas blog-cruising and was captivated by the 'Desert Island plant list idea'. So, I'm late to this party but SO glad to find other nutters who amuse themselves in the dark wee hours, composing lists. Will definitely add this to my nocturnal ramblings. Number one has always and will always be - the hunmble tomato, probably 'Gardeners Delight', but I need more time to ruminate....

  25. Hi Chris and welcome! There's plenty of night list compilers here as you can see. We did it all over again a few months later as Shirl @ Shirl's garden watch set a desert island plant challenge and yes, my list was different! I also did an allotment version as I'd promised to do on here :)


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