As a planting designer, it is hard to resist compiling lists. In fact, it is essential. Every landscape presents us with a different natural environment and a different local aesthetic, and so involves the narrowing down of a large selection of plant choices to those that best fit these regional criteria. The result is a garden/landscape which is lower maintenance and aesthetically fitting. The compiling of some of these lists was an arduous task, one only the most practiced and observant gardener could achieve. Fortunately for us, many such lists already exist, and we have done well to borrow them, furthermore, augment them to our specific inventory. Thanks to the master plantsman-designer Piet Oudolf for his unforeseen help with a number of these.

Season of interest (following 3 lists):

These are plants with very good structure from spring to late winter.  Before flowering, during, and after as seedheads, they continue to contribute aesthetically to the design of the garden.  Of all the lists to consult, this is the first, with at least three-quarters of the plants used in a design chosen from below.  The rest could be considered filler with the interest of contributing more color and variety throughout the seasons.  Plants with an asterisk are long flowering -4-6 weeks.

Achillea – all species/cultivars

Actaea – all species/cultivars

Agastache – all species/cultivars*

Amsonia – all species

Anaphalis – all species*

Anemone xhybrida*

Aruncus dioicus/cultivars

Aster ‘Twilight’

Astilbe taquetii/cultivars

Baptisia species/cultivars

Calamintha ‘White Cloud’*

Chelone species

Digitalis furruginea

Echinacea – all species/cultivars*

Eryngium – all species

Eupatorium – all species/cultivars

Gillenia trifoliata

Helenium – all species/cultivars*

Knautia macedonica*

Liatris – all species

Monarda – all species/cultivars

Origanum ‘Rosenkuppel’*

Parthenium integrifolium

Penstemon digitalis

Pycanthemum – all species

Rudbeckia – all species

Sedum – all species/cultivars

Stachys – all cultivars

Thalictrum polygamum/T. rochbrunianum

Veronicastrum – all species/cultivars


Calamagrostis brachytricha

Carex muskingumensis

Deschampsia cespitosa/cultivars*

Eragrostis spectablis

Hakonechloa macra

Molinia – all species/cultivars

Panicum – all cultivars

Sesleria autumnalis

Sporobolus heterolepsis

Plants with good all-around character for much of the season:

Aruncus species

Asclepias – all species

Aster ‘Twilight’ /A. umbellatus*

Cephalaria gigantea

Clematis virginiana

Coreopsis species*

Echinops ‘Vietchs’

Filipendula ‘Venusta’

Hemerocalis – all cultivars

Heuchera villosa

Hosta – all cultivars

Iris siberica/cultivars

Lunaria rediviva*

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ (repeat flowering when cut back)

Persicaria amplexicaulis*

Salvia numerosa/cultivars

Sanguisorba canadensis*

Solidago species

Thalictrum – all species

Verbena species

Veronica longifolia*

Zizia aurea


Andropogon gerardii

Andropogon scoparium

Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’

Chasmantium latifolium

Elymus hystrix

Sorghastrum nutans

Plants that are distinctive but for a shorter period:

Astrantia cultivars*

Epimedium – all cultivars

Geranium sanguineum*

Plants with distinctive and long-lasting seedheads and/or winter skeleton: 

The primary focus of this list is the way the inflorescence of a plant, often the showiest part, looks after flowering.  It is a significant yet underused way to carry the look of the garden into winter.

Achillea species

Agastache species

Amsonia species

Anaphalis species

Aruncus species

Anemone xhybrida

Asclepias – all species

Aster umbellatus

Astilbe cultivars

Baptisia species

Calamintha species

Cephalaria gigantea

Chelone species

Clematis species

Coreopsis species

Digitalis ferrunginea

Echinacea species

Echinops ‘Vietche’s’

Eryngium species

Eupatorium species

Filipendula ‘Venusta’

Gillenia trifoliata

Helenium species

Heuchera villosa

Iris siberica

Liatris species

Lunaria rediviva

Malva moschata

Monarda species

Origanum species

Rudbeckia species

Sedum cultivars

Stachys cultivars

Verbena species

Vernonia – all species/cultivars

Veronica longifolia/cultivars

Veronicastrum virginicum/cultivars


Andropogon scoparium

Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’/C.brachytricha

Chasmantium latifolium

Deschampsia cespitosa

Eragrostis spectabilis

Hakonechloa macra

Molinia cultivars

Panicum cultivars

Sorghastrum nutans

Plants with good autumn color:

Yet another important way to extend the season of interest here in Maine.  The degree foliage turns color varies from year to year, with some years more spectacular than others.

Amsonia – all species

Aruncus – all species

Asclepisa incarnata

Coreopsis tripteris

Eupatorium – all species

Geranium sanguineum, wlassovianum

Gillenia trifoliata

Heuchera villosa

Hosta – all species

Monarda bradburiana

Penstemon digitalis

Sanguisorba canadensis

Solidago semperverins, S. rigida

Thalictrum polygamum

Veronicastrum – all species


Andropogon scoparium

Eragrostis spectabilis

Hakonechloa macra

Molinia – all species

Panicum – all species

Sorghastrum nutans

Robust and long-lived perennials that are useful for less-intensively maintained gardens:

These are plants that are low-maintenance largely because they are persistent in their growth, that is, long-lived.  As well, they have a relatively limited spread vegetatively or by seed, are resistant to weed incursions, and are relatively undemanding in their needs.  Not only do they not have to be replaced every few years, but they also do not have to be pruned or frequently divided unless one wants to propagate them.  From an energy standpoint, this is the sustainable gardening list and is the list best coupled with the list – plants with very good structure from spring to late winter. 

Actaea – all species

Amsonia – all species (slow to establish)

Anemone xhybrida

Aruncus – all species

Aster ericoides/A.novae-angliae/A.oblongifolious

Astilbe – all species

Astrantia – all species

Baptisia – all species (slow to establish)

Chelone species

Clematis – herbaceous species

Dianthus carthusianorum

Echinacea pallida

Echinops – all species

Epimedium – all species

Eryngium – all species

Eupatorium – all species

Filipendula – all species

Geranium – all species

Gillenia trifoliata

Helenium – all species

Helianthus – all species

Hemerocalis – all species

Iris siberica

Kirengeshoma palmata

Nepeta racemosa, subsessilis

Persicaria – all species

Phlox paniculata

Pycanthemum – all species

Rudbeckia – all species

Salvia numerosa

Sanguisorba – all species

Sedum – all species

Solidago – all species

Stachys – all species

Smilicina racemosa

Thalictrum – all species

Vernonia – all species

Veronica – all species

Veronicastrum – all species


Andropogon gerardii

Calamagrostis – all species

Carex species

Chasmantium latifolium

Eragrostis spectabilis

Hakonechloa macra

Melica species

Molinia caerulea

Panicum – all species

Sesleria – all species

Sorghastrum nutans

Spodiopogon sibiricus

Sporobolus heterolepsis


These are plant genera that are significant producers of insect food in the form of nectar.  A few species are heavily relied upon by pollen specialist bee species, the amount of which is indicated in parentheses.



Aster (33)




Coreopsis (22)


Echinacea (6)




Helenium (5)

Helianthus (50)









Rudbeckia (29)



Solidago (42)


Vernonia (12)


Plants native to Maine:  

Those with an asterisk are not only native but have been acquired locally from the wild and thus have regionally-adapted genes.

Actaea racemosa*

Anaphalis margaritacea*

Asclepias incarnata

Aster divaricatus

” ericoides*

” lateriflorous*


Clematis virginiana*

Eupatorium all species

Gentiana andrewsii*

Geranium maculatum*

Penstemon digitalis*

polygonatum biflorum*

Smilacina racemosa*

Solidago all species*

Thalictrum polygamum*

Zizia aurea*


Carex radiata*

Deschampsia cespitosa

Eragrostis spectabilis*

Panicum virgatum*

Schizachyrium scoparium*

Sorghastrum nutans*