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If it's fragrance you're after, look no further than soda-scented 'Walker's Low' catmint (Nepeta x faassenii 'Walker's Low', zones 4 to 8). Brushing its foliage releases a lovely bouquet into the air, and it blooms lavender early to midsummer. I shear mine back a bit with a hedge trimmer after it blooms for a new flush of foliage and flower. This cool cat thrives in sun and lean, dry soil, and you'll be surprised at how far one small clump will stretch. It divides easily in spring if you find you'd like to help it along.
Creeping raspberry (Rubus pentalobus) is a little locomotive of a plant, with crushed-velvet leaves that turn a lovely bronze color in zones where the weather gets chilly but not so cold it dies back. It's hardy in zones 6 to 9, grows well in sun or shade and even moderately dry conditions, in average soil. You might also find it under the name Rubus calycinoides and the very similar cultivar 'Emerald Carpet'.
Photo by J.smith via Wikimedia Commons
I recently extolled the virtues of plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, zones 5 to 9) here, and I think it's worth mentioning twice, just to drive the point home: This plant grows well in sun and part shade in all kinds of conditions all over the U.S. It chokes out weeds, blooms in a clear blue that reflects the summer sky and tops it off with fantastic fall color. What more could you ask for?
Last but not least is a sumac. No, not the poison kind — this is 'Gro-Low' sumac (Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low', zones 3 to 9), and it's not poisonous in the least. Grow it for its glossy blue-green leaves, buttery-yellow spring flowers, fuzzy red fruit in late summer and fire-engine-crimson fall color. This plant is one tough cookie and grows great in shade, but it picks up steam faster with sun and heat — the first place I saw it was a parking lot. And as if all that weren't enough, its parent plant is native to the entire eastern half of North America.
Great design trees:
Texas Mountain Laurel | Bald Cypress | Chinese Witch Hazel | Japanese Maple
Manzanita | Persian Ironwood | Smoke Tree | Tree Aloe
Great design flowers:
Catmint | Golden Creeping Jenny | Pacific Coast Iris | Plumbago
Red Kangaroo Paw | Sally Holmes Rose | Slipper Plant | Snake Flower
Great design grasses:
Black Mondo Grass | Cape Rush | Feather Reed Grass | New Zealand Wind Grass
Great design plants:
Blue Chalk Sticks | Hens-and-Chicks | Redtwig Dogwood | Toyon