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West Texas cobalt sage is a marvelously distinct species that can be enjoyed by gardeners farther north, as long as they purchase the west Texas form, which is quite cold-hardy. This salvia has rigid stems with narrow, pungent leaves and resembles a bright green, upright grass for much of the growing season. In early fall, cobalt blue flowers burst open almost overnight and are a big draw for hummingbirds. Thanks to its deep roots, this wildflower is extremely xeric. West Texas cobalt sage grows to 4 feet tall.
A familiar native shrub, American elderberry is commonly seen along streambanks and roadsides and in moist woodlands and thickets throughout eastern North America. It has pinnate leaves with toothed leaflets and small white flowers borne in large flattened clusters in summer. Purple-black, round fruit comes next, attracting wildlife to the garden. Elderberries typically grow to about 12 feet high, but they tolerate pruning to a smaller size. Fruit is edible when cooked.
This choice specimen livens up the garden all season long with its stunning leaves of green splashed with gold. It bears flattened, creamy white flowers that mature into glossy black fruit. It grows more slowly than most elderberries. It makes an attractive specimen.
This vigorous cultivar has attractive dark green leaves with yellow margins that fade to white. In summer, it bears flattened clusters of creamy white flowers which mature in fall to glossy black fruit. Plants grow 10-20 feet tall and wide.
This choice specimen has a graceful habit with finely divided golden foliage that emerges as bronze. It is less susceptible to sun scorch than the other gold varieties. It bears creamy white flowers that mature into red fruits.
Saruma henryi is as sublime as it is uncommon. Its velvety leaves and distinctively shaped, soft yellow flowers make it a superb specimen in a shady border, where it can contrast with more finely textured plants.
This Scabiosa cultivar is a compact perennial with gray-green leaves and a long bloom period featuring pretty lavender-blue flowers that look like pincushions surrounded by frilly petals. It's nice when used as edging or in large groups in borders or rock gardens.
Little bluestem is a tidy, finely textured clumping grass with a blue-green summer color. Its silvery seed heads rise to a height of nearly 2 feet in late summer and are at their best when backlit in the morning or afternoon sun. In fall, the grass turns a rosy rust color that lasts all winter.
This glorious conifer constitutes the sole member of both its genus and plant family. It is without a peer in its beauty; on a mature specimen, its rich needles compose a sculpture of form, texture, and color that is unrivaled. The foliage develops a bronzy tint in winter. While it often grows to 30 feet in cultivation and 90 feet in the wild, its slow-growing nature inspires patience.
'Postman's Pride' sedum is a wonderful dark-foliaged plant for sunny, dry locations. It has a semi-upright habit and produces masses of red to purple flowers from late summer through fall. The flowers attract honeybees and butterflies. Like other sedums, 'Postman's Pride' is useful in rock and xeriscape gardens because, once established, it thrives without irrigation except during severe droughts. Curious about the cultivar name? This plant was discovered by a Belgian postal carrier in his garden. -Ron Smith, Regional Picks: Upper Plains, Fine Gardening issue #120
This plant is as dependable and adaptable as they come. Its flowers bloom from August into November; they open pink and mature to a copper befitting of autumn. It is 2 feet tall and wide, with succulent stems and leaves. 'Autumn Joy' looks great with ornamental grasses.
In summer to late summer, this low-growing Sedum has rosy-red flowers atop small, fleshy blue-green leaves with ruddy highlights. Plants grow 8-12 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
This Japanese native is perfect for the rock garden. It is a compact species with blue-green foliage and pink stems, and bears purplish-red flowers in fall. Sedum cauticola grows to about 3 inches tall and a foot wide.
This tough, drought-tolerant species has glossy deep green leaves and, in early summer, half-inch golden yellow flowers that open from pink buds. It grows to about 6 inches tall and a little wider and makes a good groundcover.
This variety is more compact than the species, and its leaves are variegated with creamy margins. In late spring to summer, its star-shaped yellow flowers open from pink buds and mature to crimson. It grows to just 4 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
This low-growing sedum has dependable, dark bronzy green foliage and prolific flowering. New spring growth is a welcome, cheerful red. Prolific, star-shaped flowers are golden yellow with pinkish orange overtones and cover the plant twice during the growing season. Plants grow to just 2-4 inches tall and 10 inches wide.
An upright species to 18 inches tall and wide, this plant bears pink flowers in August that persist into fall. Thick, almost succulent leaves are bluish green. S. spectabile was crossed with S. telephium to create the very popular 'Autumn Joy.'
This mat-forming species forms a carpet of rosy-red flowers in late July and August, contrasting against green leaves with bronzy-maroon highlights.
This choice cultivar boasts domed clusters of starry, pale-pink flowers with dark-tipped stamens. The foliage is medium blue-green, overlaid by tints of burgundy and stormy gray. The rich red stems reach up to 3 feet tall.
Hens & chicks are always a welcome sight, and this exciting 'Black' variety is a newer take on the old favorite.
10 Outstanding Succulents
Skip the finicky selections and go for these unique yet reliable beauties
by Maureen Gilmer
Building Better Borders
Use plant combinations that focus on complementary colors, textures, and forms
PLANTING PLAN: A deer-resistant bed that shines in fall and winter
by Nancy Matthews
Q&A Economical edging for beds
by Kate Feely
Q&A Ground covers to avoid
by Nancy Ondra
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