Spring Planting: Garden Expert Picks

From Swiss chard to sour gherkins, here's what the country's best gardeners are planning for spring.
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P. Allen Smith

"I'm mixing it up in the vegetable garden this year, but with a dash of formality," says lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith. "A Southern version of a classic French potager, like the grand one at Villandry." 

'Top Hat' Blueberry Bushes

"I'm bordering some beds with 'Top Hat' blueberries and others with heirloom green onions," Smith says. "This gives the look of a classic boxwood but with edible benefits." 

'Bright Lights' Swiss Chard

'Bright Lights' Swiss chard "always make the cut" in Smith's spring planting plans "because it's productive and a show stopper from March until December," he says.

'Angelface' Angelonia

"To satisfy my weakness for blue flowers, I'm using lots of 'Angelface' Angelonia—the summer snapdragon," Allen says. "Tall and spiky, this charmer takes our heat." 

Author Jeanne Nolan

From the Ground Up author Jeanne Nolan will grow ground cherries, also known as husk cherries or Cape gooseberries, in a tall tomato cage. "The fruit is wrapped in a paper husk and is a bright orange, tangy treat that can be eaten raw or in desserts and jams," she says.

Mexican Sour Gherkins

"Mexican Sour Gherkins resemble crunchy mini 1.5-inch watermelons that are eaten whole and grow on a vine like a cucumber," Nolan says. "These are great for kids, too!" 

Lemon Verbena

"Lemon verbena is a beautiful shrub herb with a heady lemon perfume," Nolan says. "I use it to make a delicious tisane (fresh herbal tea). It can also be used in desserts or dried for scenting potpourri." 

HGTV's Chris Lambton

When he's not in front of the camera, HGTV star Chris Lambton is in the garden. This year he's planning kale, red leaf lettuce and lots of cherry tomatoes. "Love to be able to pick them for snacks when I'm weeding the garden," he says. 

Zucchini

"I love fresh zukes in the summer," Lambton says. "I cut them about an inch thick, add salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil and grill them. Great addition to cookouts." 

Rosemary

Easy to grow in any climate, Lambton plants rosemary to have on hand at all times. "Fresh herbs really make a dish," he says. 

Sunset Magazine Garden Editor Kathleen Brenzel

Kathleen Brenzel, garden editor for Sunset magazine, plans to fill patio pots with succulents this spring. "They're easy to grow and—most importantly here in the dry West—drought-tolerant," she says. 

Cordyline 'Design-a-Line Burgundy'

"An attractive weeping form and vivid coloring makes this an excellent container plant as well as a border accent," Brenzel says of the Cordyline 'Design-a-Line Burgundy'.

Cistus Corbariensis 'Little Miss Sunshine'

"This new rockrose variety sports very showy leaves, so it's even pretty when not covered in blooms," Brenzel says. "The plant stays low, just 12 inches tall, spreading to about 18 inches. It's also bulletproof—salt-tolerant, heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant." 

Digiplexis 'Ilumination Flame'

"This flashy perennial is a real attention grabber in containers and borders," Brenzel says. "A cross between foxglove and a near cousin shrub from the Canary Islands, it blooms over a long season."