Favorite or New Plant
The spiky, round, metallic blue flower heads of globe thistle (Echinops) make it one of my favorite architectural plants. It grows 5 feet tall in my garden, and the stems are strong enough to withstand wind and rain so they can support neighbors that tend to flop. The flower heads last for several weeks in midsummer, attracting bees and butterflies and the exclamations of friends who visit. While the plant reseeds too vigorously for some in warmer regions, mine stays in a contained clump. It grows best in full sun, and it's not picky about soil type as long as it's well drained. The flower heads make attractive dried flowers if you cut them before the pollen shows.
A Mediterranean Garden
The look of a Mediterranean garden is not impossible to achieve in our moist New England summers. In many cases, it's soil that holds too much moisture during the winter that kills lavender, sages, and other drought-tolerant plants. Make Your Own Mediterranean Garden, by Pattie Barron (Anness Publishing Ltd., 2003; $27.50) provides tips for growing array of Mediterranean plants -- trees, shrubs, flowers, veggies, and herbs. Forget the compost and manure, these plants need non-moisture-retentive soil. Forget the hay or wood chip mulch. These plants prefer gravel. Forget the sprinklers and drip irrigation. These plants like it on the dry side. Sounds like low maintenance to me! The book includes a plant directory of appropriate plants and their best uses.