Marianne Binetti — Some dramatic plants

If the Northwest Flower and Garden Show kicks off this month, can spring be far behind? This year Western Washington’s tribute to all things green and blooming runs Feb. 20 - 24 and the theme for the garden designers is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the show with a nod to the silver screen. For tickets and to check out the vendors and the show garden designers or to purchase tickets visit the show website at

I’ll be the early bird speaker on the opening day of the show. That would be Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 9:30 a.m. (Yes, it is early but maybe I’ll feed breakfast to those that dare to fill a chair.)

In a tribute to Hollywood and the Silver Screen and with a nod to the dysfunction, divorce, addiction and personal drama that is displayed by “the stars” in every tabloid at every check out stand in every grocery store, I’ll be speaking about: “Drama Without the Drinking — High Performance Plants without the Water Demands.”

Here’s a few examples of plants that would like to star in your garden inspired by the heroes of the Silver Screen:

Angelina Jolie

Now here’s a star known for her fertility and uncanny ability to steal the spotlight. (Is she or is she not pregnant again with baby number 7?) It is Angelina’s prolific, fast-growing family that may have inspired the name on this new fast-growing sedum below.

Dramatic Plant without the Drinking: Sedum Angelina — This golden-leaved succulent is practically a teetotaler and wants to be kept on the dry side. Use Sedum Angelina in small pots or formal urns and you won’t need to be serving drinks all summer. This sedum also makes a great weed-blocking groundcover on a sunny slope or in any well drained soil. Marry the fleshy golden foliage with plants that boast a contrasting color of deep purple or lime green.

Ronald Reagan

Old Hollywood remembers Mr. Nice Guy as a performer before he became a president. Young voters may remember him as the old guy who refused to turn gray — he kept that black hair until the very end, even during the winter of his life. It is this trait that reminds gardeners of the grass below with the very black leaves.

Dramatic Plant without the Drinking: Black Mondo Grass — This grass-like, clumping plant has spiky foliage as dark as Reagan’s head of hair and unlike other grasses, the foliage stays black even in the winter. Black mondo grass does well in containers or semi-shaded beds on rainfall alone and has the good manners not to spread it’s seed about or hop into other beds. Use it in groupings near golden or silver leaved plants for a lovely contrast of color.

John Wayne

A tough guy that rode tall in the saddle, John could handle more than a few cuts and bruises and didn’t complain about tough weather conditions. It is this toughness that reminds gardeners of the plant below:

Dramatic Plant Without the Drinking: Yews or Taxus — These are tough evergreens that thrive even in dark shade and they can take shearing, pruning and shaping anytime of the year as unlike most evergreens they will sprout new growth from bare wood. Use this tall, dark and handsome shrub as a backdrop for fluffy e hydrangeas or use other shade-tolerant bloomers such as camellias, rhodies and azaleas as the leading ladies in a strong performance. The yews are members of the Taxus family and come in several forms and foliage tints but all have the courage to stand up to the wild life and say “not tonight deer.“

Hilary Swank

This movie star is a true Northwest native, having grown up in a mobile home near Bellingham. She has played some tough roles in dark movies immortalizing strong performance in tough situations.

Dramatic Plant Without the Drinking: Our native sword fern — Few plants adapt to the dry shade under evergreen trees as well as our native sword ferns and the attractive evergreen fern fronds also provide an important habitat for native tree frogs. Slug, deer and drought resistant sword ferns can adapt to sun if given good soil, but grouping sword ferns into colonies beneath the shade of trees creates a very low maintenance but peaceful garden scene.

Marianne Binetti is a syndicated columnist.