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Blackhaw Viburnum is a large shrub or small tree with clusters of creamy white flowers followed by pink-rose berries, which birds love to eat. Its distinctive bronze-green foliage on reddish purple stems turns blue-black in the fall. Blackhaw grows to 12 to 15 feet high and 8 to12 feet wide.
While North American native viburnums occur most commonly in the eastern United States, rusty blackhaw viburnum flirts with the edge of the Plains. One of the most drought-tolerant species in the genus, rusty blackhaw viburnum has neither the showiest floral display nor heaviest fruit production. Still, its glossy, dark green, leathery foliage is reason enough to grow it; the rich burgundy tones of its fall foliage are icing on the cake.
This deciduous, rounded shrub grows to 15 feet tall with maple-like, lobed, dark green leaves that turn shades of red, yellow, and purple in autumn. White flowers resembling lace-cap hydrangeas bloom in spring and are followed by abundant red fruit loved by birds. Grow in a woodland garden or border, or as a wildlife plant.
This low-key, trustworthy shrub is perfect for the back of the border, where its dense form will create a nice backdrop for showier summer plants. Come fall, however, it stands out with deep burgundy foliage and large, bright red berries. Birds don't like the fruit, so the berries often persist well into winter. 'Bailey Compact' is a dwarf version of this normally 20-foot-tall shrub.
Creeping myrtle is a fast-spreading, 4- to 8-inch-tall, evergreen groundcover with shiny green leaves borne in pairs on long, arching stems. Star-like, 1-inch-wide blue flowers bloom for one month in spring. Cultivars include 'Bowles,' which blooms sporadically throughout the growing season, and variegated vinca, with creamy white-and-green leaves.
A hardworking, compact perennial, ‘Etain’ violet forms well-behaved clumps and blooms from time to time from spring through fall. The attractive, fleshy, bright green foliage needs protection from slugs. -Sylvia Matlock, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #127
This annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial is grown for its long season of pansy flowers in shades of purple, blue, yellow, and white. Viola tricolor is pretty in containers, as edging, or as a companion for bulbs. It self-seeds readily.
A deciduous shrub, wiegela has gracefully arching branches studded with pink tubular flowers. Dwarf, medium, and tall cultivars are now available for the front, middle, or back of the border: 'Midnight Wine' has dark burgundy foliage and pink flowers; 2- to 3-foot-tall and wide 'Minuet' has purplish-green foliage and magenta-rose and pale purple flowers; and 'Dark Horse' has dark burgundy foliage and deep pink flowers. Many other garden-worthy cultivars are available.
This dramatic architectural plant is one of the most beautiful variegated yuccas on the market. Its sword-shaped leaves bear bold central stripes of bright canary-yellow against a rich celadon edge. In cool weather, margins are tinged pink, and the entire yellow stripe turns rose-colored on many of the leaves, lasting through early spring. Plants grow to 2 feet wide and nearly as tall. Branched clusters of nodding, creamy-white bells open in mid-summer on stout stems that reach 6 feet tall.
This easy to grow evergreen yucca bears dramatic, sword-shaped yellow leaves with a dark green edge. Not as staunchly upright as some yuccas, its leaf tips sometimes droop with age. Its foliage color is best from fall to spring. Plants grow to nearly 2 feet in height and 3 feet in width. In summer, it produces a 6-foot-tall spike covered with nodding, fragrant, white bell-shaped flowers.
This clumping evergreen shrub with narrow leaves produces a startling, 3- to 4-foot-tall flower stalk. The fragrant flowers are pale green or greenish white. It is a tenacious weed in areas of the American West, but adds a touch of the desert to gardens. Soap can be made from its roots and the foliage is used in basket-making.
This heat-loving native Southwestern species has gray-green leaves and grows to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Orangey red, tubular blossoms cover the plant in late summer and early fall.
This native perennial wildflower of the American Southwest bears a profusion of bright yellow to golden yellow flowers atop 4-inch high plants that spread to 15 inches wide. They bloom from late summer into fall.
This lovely native of the eastern U.S. offers delicate, lemon-yellow broccoli-like flowers in late spring to early summer. Flowers last for weeks. Plants grow to about 2 feet tall and half as wide.
Building Better Borders
Use plant combinations that focus on complementary colors, textures, and forms
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