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Bring back classic ‘bullet-proof’ plants to your gardens

Carson Arthur

After a few rough winters, a lot of our gardens are looking a little haggard (as are the gardeners). This may be the perfect time to start bringing back some of the classic ‘bullet-proof’ plants into our landscaped spaces.

The timing also seems to be perfect for all of the new gardeners and homeowners who are looking for something easy that will require little care and yet still put on a great show!

Brown-Eyed Susan


Rudbeckia and Echinacea (Coneflowers)
Brown Eyed Susans and Purple Coneflowers are the backbone of a bee-friendly garden. Simple to grow and tough-as-nails, these classic beauties are my personal go-to when it comes to empty spaces in my garden. They can grow in moist and in dry areas of the garden as well as tolerate partial shade.

The large open headed flowers are a great addition to any space because they bloom later in the season than a majority of other perennials. When it comes to care, I literally leave the large seed pods up until the stalks get mushy before I chop everything down to the ground for the next season’s growth.


Sedum (Stonecrops)
These plants have the amazing ability to store water in their leaves making them a succulent. It allows them to go through periods of summer drought. Sedums come in several different shapes including uprights and groundcovers. Not only do they add structure and colour in the garden, this plant thrives on neglect. I use sedums in all of my green-roof applications because they can handle the extreme heat and cold with very little care or watering.

Rosa Rugosa

Rosa Rugosa (Sea Spray Rose)
In my opinion, no garden is complete without this flowering shrub. These roses are easy to grow and can handle so many different soil situations including salt from the ocean, road maintenance crews or even the swimming pool. They prefer bright and sunny spots with lots of room to spread. With beautiful five-petal flowers during spring and summer and bright red rose hips in the winter, these naturalized shrubs give four seasons of interest.


Paeonia (Peony)
Grandma’s favourite flower is back in demand. She always tells me about them in her family garden in Germany when she was young. Little does she know that her favourite flowering perennial originated in Asia before making its way across Europe and into North America. With bright colours and often fragrant flowers, a mature peony is a showstopper in any garden. Just make sure to provide some support to the stalks or your blooms will be flat on the ground after a heavy rainfall or a stiff breeze.

This spring when you run off to your favourite garden centre, go with some tried-and-true options to solve your garden issues. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

-Landscape designer Carson Arthur is host of HGTV’s new Home to Win show. He is also the outdoor expert with City TV’s Cityline and wrote the sell-out book Garden Designs for Outdoor Living in 2015. More at
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