When Flora Grubb added a floral-design studio to her San Francisco garden boutique and nursery this past fall, she created it with intent. The San Francisco native finds inspiration in materials seen in her everyday surroundings.
This new Japanese water iris has a poetic grace, with large flowers of lavender falls veined in violet and a dark-purple central clutch of “petaloids.” Adds a lovely accent to summer water gardens when grown in a partly submerged container. Hardy in Zones 4-9. heronswood.com
Discovered as a seedling of Euphorbia characias in a garden in Tasmania, this phenomenal spurge has both variegated leaves and flowers, combining blue-green with creamy white. Upright stems are a forest of linear leaves, forming a dense shrubby mound. In spring through early summer, large heads of flowers hover on 2- to 3-foot stems, pale yellow and cream, with small green bow-tie centers. Evergreen where winters are mild. Zones 6-9.
Want your bouquet to really pack a punch? How about a fiery red-and-yellow dinner-plate dahlia up to 11 inches across! Dahlias can take a little effort (staking, pinching, storing tubers over the winter in cooler zones), but the results are worth it, and anyone who loves to make floral arrangements has them on the list of must-haves. ‘Bodacious’ can produce flowers midsummer into fall. dahlias.com, dutchbulbs.com
Sea holly is a powerful texture for the vase, whether fresh-cut or dried as an everlasting. Eryngium planum ‘Blue Glitter’ has shimmering blue pincushion flowers perched on spiny ruffs, produced in abundance on pewter-colored stems. It also makes a sparkling perennial for the border.
The Bloomingdale series of Ranunculus from Sakata Seed America sets the standard for Persian buttercups, the luminous tightly packed petals reminiscent of the tissue-paper flowers everyone makes in grade school. Their dainty looks are deceiving, though, as these flowers are durable and long lasting. I saw them during Pack Trials in Northern California, holding their own in gale-force winds.
This perennial hibiscus, a spectacular culmination of the rose-mallow breeding program of Walters Gardens nursery and selected from among thousands of seedlings, has enormous 9-inch-wide ruffled blooms of deep magenta with a red eye. Sturdy, full plants make a striking specimen in the garden from midsummer through early fall. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
A winner of the highest honor for daylilies, the American Hemerocallis Society Stout Silver Medal, this luscious early to midseason bloomer has big, 5.5-inch flowers of glowing golden yellow centered with dark red and a matching red picotee edge. Strong 2-foot stems make this a versatile midsize daylily good for large or small beds and borders.