What is Your ‘Little Black Dress’ of the Garden?

May 15, 2013

I did a little plant shopping yesterday.  I wanted to get my planters looking pretty but this season I wanted it to be as quick and simple as possible because with all my other projects I just don’t feel like I have the time or creative brain-space to dedicate to the task at my normal more complicated level.  My 2013 containers are calling for a little black dress.

red geraniums by reochelle greayer at
I have roughly 8-9 pots that I plant up each year and often I match up a few and then do something different for others as they are moved around the garden.  Wanting to get in and out of the nursery as quickly as possible though, I found myself honing in on a simple old standby – red geraniums.  All the planters (with the exception of one that is already filled with rosemary) are getting overflowing mounds of red geraniums.  They will carry me right through the summer with style and all I have to do is pinch back the blooms every so often.

red geraniums by reochelle greayer at

There are few plants (IMO) that can so simply be put anywhere and be a stylish star.  I would argue that boxwood is another little back dress plant as well as a nice plume-y grass like Pennisetum ‘Red head.  I can’t think of too many others at the moment…. I’m curious — what do you think qualifies as a little black dress plant?  Here is my definition…easy to grow, easy to maintain, looks good all season and everywhere (including in containers), and can completely standalone if needed.  


(images by Rochelle Greayer)


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  1. Barb says:

    Lantana are always a staple in my yard. Numerous colors and very hard to kill.

  2. Fothergila – not the most glamorous name, but I love the shape and how well behaved it is, plus the little white flowers in spring paired with bold yellow fall color make them a wardrobe staple for my garden. In the annual flower department I have to say that inpatients and coleus are my bread and butter. I think I’m mixing my metaphors. And if you hadn’t guessed, I have a shade garden.

  3. Ellen says:

    A big pot of purple fountain grass graced my pool deck every summer for many years. It was dramatic, easy care, and very heat tolerant. It never faded or drooped even with daily temperatures over 100 for weeks at a time.

  4. Jenn says:

    Here in Phoenix, my window box planters have Aloe Blue Elf and Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’.

    The purple heart needs a bit of thinning once or twice a year. The Aloe is bullet proof.

    In the winter I buy yellow snapdragons and tuck them in for an all season flush of color.

  5. Cait says:

    (I realize this is an old post, but well.. yeah 😀 LOVING your blog, I’m backreading for ideas for my new house :D)

    I am totally addicted to sweet potato vine- both purple and neon green versions. I love the contrast I get using both, and it tolerates Texas summers even in full sun with grace and slightly manic growth, even when I forget to water it as regularly as I ought to.

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