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Leonotis leonuris is an unusual shrub with showy orange flowers. I do not know how well they hold up to cutting. It is a tough, durable shrub that will stand up to little or no water, hot sun and keep on blooming. Of course just a little care will help it look a lot nicer. Deep, rich green leaves that are toothed and look different.
Too big for your raised bed, though.
OK, back to reality.
Cut flowers: Lavender. and there are some dwarf forms that only get a foot high or a bit bigger.
Edible: I like plants to make tea out of. Catmint (I have Walker's Low), and some native mint relatives like Monarda villosa. Other Monardas are good, too.
Lemon Balm is another VERY nice herb, if you like lemon flavor tea or for cooking. Deep, rich green...
Fruit: Can't beat strawberries right off the plant!
Diana has great recommendations, you should listen to her. And I also need a reality check from time to time since I get major zone envy, particularly of you gardeners along the west coast. Just wanted to give my two cents, some of these might seem boring, but they are low maintenance, great starter plants. And most *should* do well in your zone :)
Veggies: Pole beans, sweet corn, tomatoes, tomatillos are easy ones. I would look for dwarf variety tomatoes since they take up less room in a raised bed and would be easier to maintain. Pole beans will produce longer than bush beans, and they will fix the nitrogen in your soil which would be a great boost for any winter veggies you may wish to start later.
Fruit: can't go wrong with strawberries or cantaloupes. The melons can be tied to a trellis to take up less room than their ground-trailing counterparts. I believe there are even low-bush type blueberries which would be well suited for a smaller space like a raised bed.
Cut flower: yarrow, lavender, orlaya, echinacea, cockscomb are some of my favorites. Zinnias, sunflowers and marigolds can even be direct seeded and provide ample blooms perfect for cutting.
You may also want to try some herbs. They are pretty carefree aside from regular watering, periodic feeding, and are available for low cost at most nurseries or even grocery stores! Rosemary, basil, thyme are good ones to start with.
Perhaps the most important part is to research some of the plants that most appeal to you, and see if they'd do well in your zone, particularly in the immediate environment your raised bed will be in (sun, water, soil). And any of your gardening neighbors would be a great resource. Maybe offer to help them weed or water, and pick their brain while you're at it. Good luck!!
The very first flowers I ever grew, a long, long time ago, were Zinnias, both Giant and Thumbelina. I was very young and didn't know the first thing about planting seeds. To make matters worse, it was an area of northern CA with hard-packed red clay everywhere.
I followed the package directions and was rewarded with oodles of the most beautiful, colorful flowers that I was constantly cutting to bring in the house. Based on that first-time experience, I would have to recommend Zinnias.
For veggies/fruits, I think tomatoes and zucchini are great for beginners. They grow fast and produce a lot. Zucchini grow so fast you'll want to check them daily while they're producing. A pencil-thin zucchini one day can become huge almost overnight.
As far as raised beds...based only on my own personal experience, I think everything grows better in a raised bed.
Just a word on companion planting. I always plant marigolds in my vege garden as they deter a number of bugs. Here is a site that mentions various companion plants: http://toadstoolponds.wordpress.com/2007/12/07/why-plant-marigolds-in-your-vegetable-garden/
There are others just google "companion planting".
As for easy flowers . . . nasturtiums, geraniums, and daffodils (put these in the ground, gophers won't eat them).
Easy veges . . . carrots, beets, tomatoes, strawberries.
Suggestion on the raised bed. . . don't use perlite in your soil mix.
For veggies/fruit, plant what you eat. I know me, if it's not where I see it every day, I'm not going to care for it well enough.
I wouldn't really do shrub shrubs in a planter.
For plants, a little hard for me to answer being on the East coast, but I'll tell you what works for me.
Daffodils are the first to come out in my garden. After 19 months of winter (I'm being silly, but it literally snows here now from October to March these days), the warm yellowness makes me warm and happy to see. It's like the light at the end of the tunnel.
Than I rely on color from the annuals for the plants.
This is about when my trees and shrubs start blooming. Love my Azalea's the best. I just found Guara which says it stays smallers and blooms for us all season which is amazing. I haven't planted it yet. So that might be OK for a planter.
Just finished the peonies which are INCREDIBLE, but very short lived. It attracts ants and I'm told needs the ants to open. So I don't like these near the house.
Now you also have the lillies coming up.
Next will be my black eye susan's and sunflowers.
When I first bought the house, I would just go to the nurseries every couple of weeks and see what was blooming and take notes. I would watch people's yards and see what I liked.
If you want more constant bloomers, my neighbors LOVES knock out roses. I try and stay away from anything that pricks.
I have that classic zone envy for those in more humid climates, lol! While I do live on the West Coast, I am far enough inland that the desert heat dries everything out. A lot of veggies I attempt to grow get super dried out, which makes for horrible harvests.
On the other hand, if your climate is hot like mine, then heat lovers like watermelon and tomato will wonderful there. Oleander is another good shrub here. There are all sizes of Oleander plants here, from small 1-2 foot dwarf plants, to the 8 foot giants I share with my neighbor. Profuse bloomers here, those plants. The white and pink ones on the property line of my house are covered in flowers almost year round, except for the dead of winter.
Another good plant is the society garlic. It seems to love all sorts of climates. Mine grow for most of the year, stopping in winter. The leaves die back a bit then, and new ones emerge in spring, followed by tall flower stalks, with clusters of light purple-pink flowers. A neat thing about this plant is that you can brew tea from the leaves to relieve headaches! The tea is pretty foul tasting though, being it tastes like garlic, lol!