Resilience: Beautiful Plants for a New California

Variegated Lavender allardi 'Meerlo. Photo: Sunset Western Garden Collection

Variegated Lavender allardi ‘Meerlo. Photo: Sunset Western Garden Collection

Janet Sluis is a real gardener. Just like you and me, her goal is a beautiful, comfortable landscape that enhances her home and the time she gets to spend in the garden.

I recently had a chance to chat with Janet about her role as product developer for the Sunset Western Garden Collection and plants we should be planting:

LEF: How does a plant make the cut to be included in the Collection?

JS: We’re choosing plants based on their ability to provide a positive experience for gardeners. We want both homeowners and professional horticulturists to be successful. That means we’re selecting plants for smaller landscapes and container gardens—compact plants minimize pruning maintenance. Of course, low water use is a big concern, but tolerating dry conditions varies from plant to plant depending on location. We’re trying to help gardeners navigate their unique garden conditions. Busy lives and limited resources don’t mean you can’t garden!

Digiplexis Illumination 'Apricot' Photo: Sunset Western Garden Collection

Digiplexis Illumination ‘Apricot’ Photo: Sunset Western Garden Collection

LEF: Which plant has been a big success?

JS: ‘Apricot’ Digiplexis in the Illumination® series has been our number one seller. This beautiful apricot-orange beauty is a real improvement over earlier introductions. As breeders collect for better garden performance each generation improves. It’s the old fashioned way of doing things and it takes time. Product development and trialing is very important. We want in-the-ground, practical use information; it all gets back to assuring success for the gardener. We’re concerned about the environment and pay careful attention to minimizing fertilizer needs, pest controls, and invasiveness issues.

Lavender allardii ‘Meerlo’ is a 2016 introduction. Its beautifully variegated foliage is super fragrant and the plant is both heat-resistant and water-wise.

LEF: What would you consider the unsung hero of the Collection?

Mahonia 'Soft Caress' Photo: Sunset Western Garden Collection

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ Photo: Sunset Western Garden Collection

JS: Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ is a winner in all respects. Its compact form is great in the landscape or in a container, it’s tough but has a soft texture, and the beautiful yellow blooms in winter are a boon to pollinators and hummingbirds. Designers love ‘Soft Caress’ but home gardeners are just discovering its merits.

LEF: What introductions can we look forward to?

JS: We’re working on filing a patent on a new, yet-to-be-named, ceanothus found locally; it’s a vigorous sport of ‘Diamond Heights’ with glossy green leaves and bright green accents. A promising sport of Ceanothus ‘Skylark’, a California native, was found in the Netherlands; the more cold hardy ‘Cool Blue’ is scheduled to be introduced in 2017.