10 Garden Plants That Make Beginning Gardeners Look (GOOD) GREAT!

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author Annie Stiles to the Power of 10 series. Today, Annie shares her gardening expertise and introduces her debut novel, A Match Made in Heritage View.

Here’s Annie!

annie6My heroine, Jane, in A Match Made in Heritage View, is an avid gardener who finds great joy in reviving and expanding the gardens around her cottage in Heritage View. I love to garden, and I could easily list dozens of plants that I feel I need, in the same way some women “need” that next pair of shoes. You know who you are. A garden center is my shoe store and I can get into trouble pretty darn fast.

In my book, I made Jane do everything right creating her gardens in Heritage View and, of course, everything magically thrived. This is somewhat different from the reality of my own first gardening experiences, though the joy I felt was similar to Jane’s.

What have I learned over the years? Start with basic plants that make you feel like a success. If you have a foundation of hardworking varieties that are easy and reliable, you’ll get that gardening “bug” in no time and quickly “branch out” to develop your own style and tastes. Sorry about the puns. I couldn’t resist.

What follows are the ten plants I’d recommend when starting a flower garden from scratch. My disclaimer: I’m not an expert gardener. I’m just a regular gal who loves to dig in the dirt. I want fast results with the least amount of time and effort. After all, I’ve got books to write and lunches to pack. I garden in zone 5, and most of these plants will work well in zones 5-9.


1. Daffodils (Narcissus) – The welcome sunshine of these blooms against the grey and brown early landscape feels like a promise kept, every spring. Plant generously and let them do their thing.

2. ‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangeas – Many varieties struggle against the cold and harsh winter winds in my area. For those big, romantic periwinkle-blue flower heads in cold winter areas? ‘Endless Summer’ is the one.

annie13. ‘Knockout’ roses – ‘Knockout’ roses may be all over the place these days, but with good reason. They make us all expert rose gardeners almost overnight. This is the place to start with roses if you think you can’t grow roses.

4. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) – Always covered in bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

5. Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum × superbum) – I like the variety ‘Becky’ for that traditional, cottage look. Great presence and staying power. The classic flower for “He loves me…he loves me not…”

6. Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) – Drought-tolerant. Again we have cottage charm, but also beneficial to insects and birds. I love a classic.

7. Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) – These also bloom for a long time, are carefree and drought-tolerant. ‘Goldsturm’ performs well in my garden and looks great next to coneflowers, asters and sedums in the late summer garden.

8. Daylilies – (Hemerocallis) – So many varieties to choose from, though for a beginner, ‘Happy Returns’ is a winner. A smaller, bright lemon-yellow variety that fits in well around other shrubs and perennials. They crowd out weeds, require no special handling, and have great foliage, even when they aren’t blooming.


9. Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’ – These plants are so carefree in my garden and fill in nicely around the knees of taller, floppier flowers, like your daisies or coneflowers. I do nothing special to these except divide them every few years. I literally left a clump of them in a nearby bed and it rooted!

10. Cranesbill ‘Rozanne’ – I planted two of these and they spread like a dream. Low-growing, blue-purple flowers that almost glow in the sunlight. Plant it and forget it.

Any of these plants are like the proverbial “little black dress” for the garden. I’ve seen them work with many different styles and settings. They won’t let you down. Before you know it, you’ll have your own plant list stuffed in your pocket and every time you walk into a garden center or nursery you’ll be in trouble, just like me.

P.S. Don’t forget a hat! Every garden gal or guy needs a cute one. Happy planting!



A socialite by chance not by choice, Gen runs away to a charming small town to reinvent herself as the girl-next-door and falls in love under false pretenses.

Despite having been raised by a man-eating, social-climbing mother, Genevieve Garnier is a hopeless romantic. She has successfully parlayed her sentimental nature into a prestigious Manhattan wedding planning business, but cannot make it down the aisle herself.

As another hectic wedding season winds down, Gen finds herself burned out and at a crossroads in life. She retreats to the charming Hudson Valley town of Heritage View to reinvent herself as girl-next-door “Jane”, complete with a charming cottage and apple pies baking in the oven. Gen is determined to simplify her life in Heritage View and keep her wedding business humming, without letting the two worlds collide. Michael Carlisle waltzes in and turns her plans upside down.

Michael is smart and successful, with enough guarded-heart intensity and magnetism to curl any woman’s toes. He stays out of the social fray in Manhattan, so he doesn’t recognize Jane as socialite wedding planner Genevieve. It’s a good thing, because he hates pampered socialites and avoids them nearly as much as he avoids girl-next-door types. That leaves our heroine 0-for-2. To make matters worse, it turns out that Michael is dear friends with the Hunter family, “Jane’s” new best friends. He has relationship baggage of his own to battle, but Michael can’t seem to stay away from Jane.

Will they repeat the mistakes of the past?



Annie Stiles author photo 4 2015 (2)Annie Stiles was practically born with a book in her hand, but the writing came later. A daydreamer by nature, Annie always secretly wanted to be a romance novelist. It wasn’t until her youngest child started kindergarten that she buckled down and turned that dream into reality. She is fascinated by characters on the page and in real life, and talks with her hands so much that people have been known to duck.

When not on her laptop, she likes to putter in her garden. Annie lives in the beautiful Capital-Saratoga region of New York State with her college sweetheart husband and their two children. They are all owned by two cats.

Annie writes satisfying, character-driven contemporary romance. Rose-colored glasses are standard issue.

Where to find Annie…

Website | Amazon | Twitter


4 responses to “10 Garden Plants That Make Beginning Gardeners Look (GOOD) GREAT!

  1. I wish I had the time to dig in the dirt, I do so love gardens! Maybe one day I’ll just stop cooking and start gardening.
    Thanks for sharing and inspiring.
    Tema Merback
    Writing as Belle Ami

    • Thank you, Elizabeth, for the kind words. It is always a battle between the gardens and the laptop, isn’t it? Have a wonderful day!

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