20 Star Plants

The Millennium Garden’s top 20 plants

We’re celebrating 20 years of the stunning Millennium Garden – our wild, one-acre contemporary landscape designed by world-renowned Dutch plantsman, Piet Oudolf.

There may be hundreds of plants set within the colourful borders but which ones are the stars to look out for? Head Gardener, Jonathan Pearce, gives us his top 20.

Actea simplex or ‘Baneberry’

This somewhat ethereal looking plant grows dense upright spikes of small, fragrant white flowers against very dark purple foliage – a brilliant contrast.

Agastache foeniculum ‘Blue fortune’

The electric blue flowers look particularly striking when planted against a dark blue Lobelia. The leaves are highly aromatic with an aniseed scent.

Amsonia tabernaemintana var. salicifolia

This clump forming perennial produces small starry blue flowers in June. It’s intricate and elegant.

Astilbe chinensis tacqetti ‘Purplelanze’

Look out for its erect plume-like purple-red flowers which are usually grown near water but will tolerate drier conditions. The brown flowerheads look especially good in Autumn.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Fatal Attraction’

Probably my favourite! Enjoy large flower heads of vibrant purple against purple stems. They are extremely structural and one of the most eye-catching plants in the garden.

Helenium rubinzwerg or ‘Sneezeweed’

This coppery red daisy-type flower blooms in summer and autumn. Its almost rusty tone catches the eye

Hylotelephium red cauli

This clump-forming deciduous perennial produces pretty star-shaped red flowers against short red foliage. It’s attractive at the front of borders and against pathways.

Inula magnifica ‘Sonnenstrahl’

Produces striking, tall yellow sunflower-like flowers in vibrant yellow. Looks best in high summer.

Monarda ‘Scorpion’

Lively purple flowers sit atop this deciduous perennial. Structually the flower-heads look similar to a thistle but slightly softer. It always seems to avoid mildew and looks good in the Lily cove towards the pine trees.

Salvia nemorosa ‘Amethyst’

Without doubt this is the best salvia in the garden on account of its eye-catching pinky-purple flowers. It’s also a real haven for bees!

Sanguisorba officinalis ‘Red thunder’

You’ll notice the bright red plantain-like flowers – they’re a favourite with the geese!

Sidalcea candida ‘My love’

This prairie mallow produces upright stems of elegant pink flowers. It looks like a small hollyhock and works really well with blue Agastache.

Vernonia crinita ‘Mammuth’

This hard-working, fully-hardy perennial has a long flowering period and survives in most soil types. Its pretty purple flowers sit tall at 2.5m above ground.

Veronicastrum ‘Temptation’ 

A tall and slender herbaceous perennial with lilac blue flowers. Texturally it’s very attractive and it’s one of four Veronicastrums planted in the garden.


Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’

I am always asked about this one. The pink to red bracts on this shrubby small tree are eye-catching, especially as the garden moves into autumn.


Calamagrostis brachytricha or ‘Reedgrass’

this is amazing in flower. It looks just like a feather duster! It’s so textural and tactile. A real stunner!

Miscanthus ‘malepartus’

Standing over 2m tall, this pink-purple pampas-like flower turns silver in late summer. It retains its impressive structure until we cut it back in April.

Molinia caerulea ‘Poul Petersen’

Big bands of this tufty, grassy-green variety are used repeatedly throughout the design and will grow to 60cm.

Sporobolus heterolepis

This is one of my favourite plants in the garden. This prairie grass has something for all your senses; an amazing coriander smell, graceful seed heads and fabulous autumn colour. A serious star of the garden!


Clematis rehderiana

This is not your average clematis. Rather than traditional large flowers this variety has small, bell-shaped flowers in a pale lemon-yellow shade. It has a beautiful scent and flowers from late summer into autumn. It looks lovely planted on the board walk around the White-naped cranes.

To see these and over 100 other stunning species, pop along to enjoy the Millennium Garden in its 20th year. It’s a sight not to be missed between now and the middle of September when the garden hits its spectacular summer stride.

The Millennium Garden is one of five gardens at Pensthorpe, all of which are open daily throughout the summer (and included in the Pensthorpe admission price).