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A large ornamental okra with dinner-plate-sized, sulfur yellow flowers with dark eyes. Each flower lasts only a day—unfolding slowly in the morning and closing gradually in the evening—but the abundance of flowers open on any one day conceals their short life span.
Each flowering stem of this bulb produces eight to twelve flowers that open consecutively over a period of three to four weeks. The flowers are fragrant, white, and starry, and have a conspicuous red/maroon center. Its linear, sword-shaped, 2- to 3-foot-tall leaves resemble those of Gladiolus, but are more slender and graceful.
The "flowers" of black rose. are actually rosettes of burgundy-black leaves at the ends of stalklike stems. In winter, bright yellow flowers contrast with the dark foliage. 'Zwartkop' is a wonderful backdrop plant that can show off many companion plants to maximum advantage. -Jeff Moore, Regional Picks: Southwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
Thick, succulent grayish green leaves tipped with spines make this 3-foot-tall and wide agave a striking addition to a xeric bed or desert garden. Although its color is muted, its architectural form can't be overlooked.
The purple or white pom-pom flowers of chives top aromatic stems in summer. The leaves are edible and have a mild onion flavor; the flowers can be used as garnishes. Plants grow in dense clumps to 2 feet high. Use chives in a cottage, herb, or vegetable garden, or in containers.
The drumstick allium has egg-shaped flowers in summer that start off green, then bloom and develop to pink and then clover red-purple. These plants are attractive in a bed or border, especially peeking up through other plants, such as roses, so that their nondescript foliage is hidden. Their vertical presence and eye-catching flower shape are valuable additions to the garden, and they naturalize freely.
Satiny deep green to black leaves and glowing white veins on 18-inch-long leaves make this elephant's ear great in containers, in a shady border, at the edge of a pond, or as a houseplant. It also has pale stalks with purplish banding. 'Frydek' is very tolerant of a range of soil pH, heat, humidity, and heavy soil. It can even take about a half day of sunlight.
'Casablanca' Peruvian lily is the closest to white that this genus has gotten as of yet. Inside its amaryllis-shaped white flowers, reddish dashes on a yellow wash and a pale pink throat add interest. 'Casablanca' is also taller than most other Alstroemerias. They make great cut flowers and are frequently used by florists; they also add a tropical feel to beds and borders. Roots are very brittle and care should be taken when planting.
Argyranthemum is often mistaken for or offered as Chrysanthemum. It is a great plant in containers where it isn't hardy. A. 'Jamaica Primrose' and A. 'Vancouver' will survive in Zones 7-11.
Rosettes of cabbage foliage are grown as annuals for fall and winter interest. Color intensifies in cooler temperatures (below 50°F). Good for bedding and containers.
The white- and pink-mottled leaves of 'Roseo-picta' make it appear as if the plant has been snowed upon, even though it is a tropical plant. It is an evergreen shrub growing to 3 feet or more with pink and red stems in zigzagged formation. Native to Pacific islands, it is grown as an indoor plant or perennial, or as an annual in cooler climates. The tiny flowers go generally unnoticed. Do not allow the soil to dry out, as leaf drop will occur.
This plant produces distinct, 2-inch blossoms primarily in rich blue (but also in shades of purple and white), with dark eyes smudged white. It is suitable for sun and partial shade.
Foot-long blossoms are nocturnally fragrant, and pour out from narrow calyces of light yellow, to terminate in fluted, reflexed openings the hues of golden summer squash.
Few plants evoke tropicalia quite like the Brugmansias, with their voluminous tubular flowers that drip from imposing shrubs or small trees. They look fantastic in containers or plunged into a border, and the dramatic display persists from late spring until autumn. In cooler climates, they may be brought under glass or cut back and held dormant in a cool basement. All parts are highly toxic if ingested.
Foot-long, rich pink blossoms are nocturnally fragrant and pour out from narrow calyces to terminate in wide, flared openings.
This pepper boasts the most dramatically deep purple-black leaves and fruit imaginable. The vigorous, bushy plants grow to 18 inches tall and almost as wide. Flowers are lilac, and dark black peppers emerge in fall.
The papaya is a herbaceous, fast-growing shrub that grows best in tropical and subtropical climates where it will flower continually, but it will perform in colder climates from high summer to early fall. It offers a striking sculptural presence to the landscape due to its lobed, 2-foot-across leaves and large, delicious fruit (sometimes reaching 20 pounds).
The disease-resistant Cora™ series of periwinkles comes in a range of flower colors—from white to lavender to burgundy—and looks great until the first fall frost.
Best used as a foliage plant, this plant's intricately cut, frosty-silver leaves produce a large, elegant arching mound. It also bears pale lavender-blue pin-cushion flowers on lanky 30-inch stems in late spring.
A deciduous climber native to the southeastern United States, Clematis crispa bears lavender-blue, bell-shaped flowers with curly edges in summer. Its blooms are not profuse, but their elegant shape makes this plant a good choice for trellises, growing through shrubs, or planting in damp areas. The flowers are slightly fragrant and are followed by attractive seedheads. It also makes an unusual cut flower.
Building Better Borders
Use plant combinations that focus on complementary colors, textures, and forms
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When starting a bed, choose the method that suits you best
by Steve Carroll
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