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The southern maidenhair fern has fluffy, airy, and elegant foliage, which works equally well in containers or in open ground. It's a perfect plant for providing light, airy texture to shady beds. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
A. ficoidea ‘Red Threads’ is a slender-leaved perennial selection that doesn't wander, forming a textured carpet in shades of deep burgundy. A single plant makes a mound about 8 inches tall and 14 inches wide. It blooms on and off all year, but you may never notice. The small, pale flower buttons are held in the leaf axils, where they are nearly indistinguishable from the foliage unless you're paying close attention. Use 'Red Threads' at the base of taller plants in the border to provide vibrant color echoes or contrasts. Grow as a warm-season annual in cooler climates, mass the plants in beds, or use in a formal knot garden as the Victorians did.
'Yellow Form' Alternanthera is an easy-to-grow, tropical plant with a fast-spreading habit and pointed, chartreuse-yellow leaves. It forms a mat of color from spring's frost-free date to fall's first frost. Like others of this genus, it makes a great edging, bedding, or container plant. In formal landscapes, it can be used in a knot garden. It looks great with dark-leaved plants.
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.
This ground-hugging succulent perennial roots at the nodes, has a creeping habit, and often forms deep mats covering large areas. It produces abundant yellow daisy-like flowers that open at noon and turn pink later in the day.
Having the striking leaves of a Rex begonia and a vining growth habit, Cissus discolor is excellent in a container and can be trained onto a form. Its oval- to heart-shaped leaves are dark green with frosty silver patterns, while the undersides are red. The vine generally stays to 1 to 3 feet in containers. It may also be used on trellises or arbors.
'Ernest Markham' is a vigorous, late-flowering climber with abundant small flowers in summer. Blossoms are rich magenta, 4 inches across, with blunt-tipped sepals and light chocolate anthers.
'Nellie Moser' is easy to grow, producing large, flat flowers 6 to 8 inches in diameter with distinctive, gleaming lilac bars on each petal. This clematis blooms from May to late June, with a second, less profuse bloom in mid-August. Planted in a shady spot, the cheery pink-and-mauve-striped blossoms last for weeks instead of days.
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.
'Golden Tiara' is a vigorous, late-flowering climbing vine to 15 or 20 feet tall with intense golden-yellow, bell-shaped flowers that eventually fully open to reveal crimson filaments. It blooms profusely from midsummer to late fall. The seedheads are fluffy and attractive in their own right. Native to western China.
This deciduous, late-flowering twining vine with deep green leaves and profuse, fragrant white flowers is easy to grow and will thrive and bloom in shade. Star-shaped blossoms are 1 inch across, appearing from late August to October and maturing to attractive, plume-like seed heads. The shiny green foliage is leathery.
This vigorous climber can easily cover a support of 8 to 10 feet tall once established. Finely textured, dense light-green foliage makes an excellent foil for dainty, pink and carmine teardrop-shaped flowers 2 inches across. Blooms appear in early August and continue well into autumn.
'Alba Luxurians' is a very tough, late-flowering climber with small flowers that open from midsummer to late autumn. White blossoms are sometimes faintly tinged with mauve when young, and are open, bell-shaped, single, and 2 to 3 inches across. Foliage is slightly gray-green.
Fringed flowers in shades of bright red with white centers open without fragrance in summer.
Long silvery stems, sometimes reaching 4 feet or more, bear silvery, small leaves. Use this striking plant as a groundcover or in containers.
This fast-growing, evergreen climber has sharply 4-angled stems and red-orange tubular flowers tipped with yellow that are borne in clusters 4 to 6 inches long. Chilean glory flower blooms from late spring to autumn. Light green leaves are small, ovate, and boldly veined.
This hybrid produces masses of pure white bracts above finely textured, apple green foliage. It adds stunning texture and color to a border in partial shade.
This hybrid has petite green-and-cream variegated foliage with a hint of pink on the undersides. It produces chartreuse and apple green bicolored bracts on airy stems.
This species is similar to E. myrsinites, but its habit is first erect before spreading, and its steely blue leaves are more narrow and pointed. It also bears terminal yellow bracts from early spring to summer.
English ivy is a self-clinging climber or trailing perennial with almost flat, palmately 5-lobed leaves. Cultivars are available with varying leaf form, color, and variegation, as well as use and climbing habit.
Q&A Ground covers to avoid
by Nancy Ondra
Planting Ground Covers
Proper spacing and regular care are the best ways to create a lush, weed-free carpet
by Mary Hirshfeld
Flowering Ground Covers
To blanket an area small or large, these are the perennials to pick
by Nancy Ondra
Dividing a ground cover
by Liana Mackey
Plants for Pathways
These durable creeping perennials discourage weeds and soften the look of a walkway
by Marty Wingate
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