Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
One of the most beautiful vining plants is the clematis. Some people consider this vine difficult to grow, but Edith Malek takes the mystery out of pruning, planting, and propagating it in her book, Simply Clematis; Clematis Made Simple (American Clematis Society, 2004; $24.95). The book contains dozens and dozens of color photographs of individual varieties and descriptions, including pronunciation of names, growth habits, zone requirements, and bloom periods. If you are considering planting a clematis in your garden, this book would be an excellent place to start. Edith Malek is the president and founder of the American Clematis Society, where you can order the book: http://clematis.org/book/.
Favorite or New Plant
You can hardly find a plant more hardy than lantana. It comes in several colors -- purple, orange, cream, and yellow -- and thrives in almost any soil, actually preferring rocky, thin soil. The only thing you can do to make it suffer is to overwater.
Plant lantana from cuttings or cell packs in full sun or partial shade. It makes an excellent ground cover, needing only occasional pruning to keep it looking lush. One of my favorite things about lantana is that it blooms almost all year long. It does tend to get leggy in shady areas, so keep your clippers handy. Also, you should know that the berries are toxic, so don't plant lantana if you have young children.