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This clump-forming, semi-evergreen perennial has long prostrate stems and pewter-green foliage. Fragrant, bottlebrush-like white flowers are borne on 2- to 4-inch-long spikes in spring, as the foliage appears.
Plectranthus cultivars are popular foliage plants, but some gardeners grow them for their blooms, and one of the best bloomers is 'Mona Lavender'. This cultivar has abundant lavender-purple flowers that complement the dark green leaves (with purple undersides and stems). These plants thrive in light to deep shade. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
Mayapple is a rhizomatous, native woodland perennial with leaves in the shape of an umbrella. They may form large colonies. In spring, white or pale pink waxy flowers are mostly hidden under the leaves. The greenish "mayapple" follows and is often eaten by wildlife. When fully ripe, the fruits may be used to make preserves or jellies, but they are toxic when unripe. Leaves and roots are poisonous. Plants often go dormant in the summer. Grow in a woodland garden.
This dramatic cultivar has bright green leaves that are richly edged with cream. It bears lavender-blue blossoms in spring, and grows from 1.5 to 2 feet tall.
From late spring into summer, this species bears tubular greenish-white flowers that dangle underneath the arching stems. The foliage is smooth; in autumn it turns to clear yellow, contrasting with the blue-black berries this plant produces. Its height varies wildly from 1.5 to 6 feet tall.
Polygonatum humile is an upright, rhizomatous perennial native to eastern Europe and western Asia. Ovate leaves are arranged alternately on the stems. Pendent, tubular white flowers hang like little bells from the leaf axils, followed by round bluish-black fruit. Grow in a shady border, rock garden, or woodland.
From late spring to early summer, this species bears pendent, green-tipped white flowers along arching stems. These mature into spherical black fruit in autumn, when the foliage turns yellow.
Gracefully arching 2 to 3-foot tall burgundy stems support narrow leaves streaked in pure white. From late spring to early summer, this species bears white flowers that mature into spherical black fruit in autumn, when the foliage turns a golden yellow. Variegated Solomon's seal is a fine choice for a shady bed. -Matt Griswold, Regional Picks: Northeast, Fine Gardening issue #27
Western sword ferns abound in the forests of the Northwestern U.S. They are robust, reliable, and virtually maintenance-free. They put up with difficult soil and manage to keep up appearances even in hot, dry weather. Their deep green, leathery fronds are attractive year-round.
This cheerful, reliable plant brings a nice touch of color to the garden in spring. The leaves are pointed and hairy and splattered with silvery blotches. As the plant grows, the leaves overlap, creating a swirly pattern. In spring, clusters of silky pink flowers appear. They fade to a soft blue that harmonizes well with the leaf color. -Sue Whetten, Regional Picks: Rocky Mountains, Fine Gardening issue #127
Experts Pick Their Favorite Plants
We asked 42 gardening experts from around the country to select their favorite plants. Now you can see the complete results of the survey.
Conifers for Shade
Yes, you can grow evergreen trees and shrubs in shade. Who knew?
by Christine Froehlich
Sweetly Scented Annuals
Pique your senses all season long with colorful, long-blooming beauties
by Danielle Ferguson
4 Ways to Design with Coleus
If you're having trouble finding the right plant for the right place, this versatile performer offers a multitude of options
by Ray Rogers
How to Prune Conifers
These plants are unforgiving, so make the right cuts for the right reasons
by Bert Cregg
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