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This upright, sparsely branched, woody shrub reaches 4 to 10 feet tall. It's easy to grow but slow-growing. It displays dark green leaves that are blue-green beneath, and large, silken blossoms 6 to 12 inches across in late spring and early summer. The plants maintain a graceful branching structure throughout the winter.
This rhizomatous perennial grass has a narrowly upright, clumping form. Mid-green stems bear stiff, erect, blue-gray leaves to 24 inches long. Foliage turns yellow in autumn. Weeping panicles of tiny purple-green spikes appear in early autumn.
This deciduous tree has thick shoots and large, lobed, bright green leaves. Fragrant pinkish lilac flowers appear in late spring with the foliage. When grown as a perennial, its robust shoots become sturdy stems 2 inches in diameter, with mammoth leaves as much as 2 feet across. Paulownia tomentosa can grow to 12 feet tall in a single season.
This exemplary species has felted, gray, crinkled leaves. Over a long period, it exhibits sprays of butterfly-shaped, rich wine-red flowers, which contrast dramatically with the foliage. Its small stature makes it a perfect candidate for a container or a walkway edge. It has been used medicinally for the treatment of various infections, including bronchitis. It is a native of Africa.
Native to South Africa, this non-invasive evergreen species produces showy pink flowers in spring, which are held 2 to 3 feet above the foliage on stiff, wiry stalks.
'Husker Red' is one of the few penstemons that does well in wet winters and hot, humid summers. Ruby-toned leaves appear in spring, followed in late spring and early summer by 3-foot-high stems adorned by panicles of white blooms. The flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, but the plants are not magnets for deer or rabbits. In autumn and winter, songbirds feast on the seed. For a stunning display, plant 'Husker Red' in groups. -Chris Kelley, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
A native of the Southwest, Palmer's penstemon sports sharp, prickly, gray leaves and thrives in the harsh conditions. Snapdragon-like pale pink flowers boom in late spring or early summer, and their sweet-honey scent attracts bumblebees. Toothed, sage green leaves skirt the upright stems for the rest of the gardening season.This perennial wildflower is one of the largest penstemons. It looks good in the back of a border or as a focal point, perhaps near a path where its fragrance can be enjoyed or in an informal grouping with other native penstemons and grasses, or with other plantss that have similar maintenance and water requirements. -Katie Nicolich, Plants to know and grow, Fine Gardening issue #120
Many gardeners know ninebark as an undistinguished shrub with ordinary green leaves, white flowers, and fall fruit. But 'Seward,' sold under the trademark name Summer WineTM, has outstanding burgundy leaves and pink flowers that bloom in early summer. This plant is super tough and makes a stunning focal point in a summer border.
This vigorous shrub hugs the ground (to 2 feet tall) and spreads out to 8 feet, making it an excellent choice for stablizing a bank or smothering weeds. It has small yellow flowers, hairy red fruits, and glossy leaves that change to gorgeous orange-red in autumn.
This large, fast-growing tree has droopy leaves that stay sunny yellow from spring until frost, spiny shoots, and fragrant white flowers in late spring and early summer on pendent racemes. The flowers are followed by smooth brown seed pods that are also interesting. 'Frisia' is one of the cultivars that is grown more for foliage than for its flowers and it does not flower as freely as the species.
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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