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'Prairie Fire' is a distinctly red form of switchgrass. Blue-green spring foliage turns shades of deep red by early summer and butter yellow in late fall. The grass persists into winter. 'Prairie Fire' has a fibrous root system that grows to more than 10 feet deep, making it drought tolerant. -Scott Vogt, Native grasses, Fine Gardening issue #124
'Shenandoah' is truly a plant for all seasons. In early summer, its leaf blades are tipped in red, and by autumn, the entire leaf is a rich burgundy color, topped by pink plumes. In winter, the leaf color fades to beige; the blades persist and offer cover to birds. 'Shenandoah' is a compact selection of an American native prairie grass. -Chris Kelley, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
This species produces 2- to 5-foot-tall mounds of narrow green foliage and bottle brush-like silvery-pink to purple flowers, both of which mature to shades of brown. It is the parent of numerous cultivars with notable flowers that range from purple to gray/black. It and some of its cultivars self-sow plentifully in warm climates. It is marginally hardy in Zone 5.
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
This massive herbaceous shrub needs a lot of room to show off its vase-shaped form, but it does not spread or self-sow like some of its relatives. It blooms close to the ground from June and continues throughout the summer atop 6-foot-tall stems. The large, white, astilbe-like blossoms fade to pink and then reddish-brown as the season comes to a close.
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.
The yellow to lime green foliage of 'Nugget' ninebark makes an interesting contrast with the exfoliating, cinnamon-colored bark. Clusters of white flowers appear along the stems in early summer, followed by dark brown seed capsules, which add winter interest. Unsheared, the plant has a vase-shaped growth habit. -David Graper, Regional Reports: Upper Plains, Fine Gardening issue #122
This compact, rounded shrub produces reddish-purple buds that first open as soft-pink then mature to white. It grows to about 5 feet high and wide, making it a superb specimen for a container or small garden.
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.
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.
A native fern with triangular-shaped, stiff, upright fronds that can tolerate dry soil and full sun. Bracken can make very large colonies and are found in a variety of habitats ranging from dry and wet forests to meadows and bogs. They grow up to 4.5 feet tall.
In spring, this North American native shrub produces clove-scented, lemon-yellow flowers, which are followed by black edible fruits. It has attractive leaves, and grows 6 feet high and wide.
This species has palmate, wrinkled leaves that extend to 2 feet wide. The veins and leaf stalks are reddish-brown and densely woolly. In midsummer, the 2-foot-long, upright flower spikes are made up of white or pink florets.
This species creates tropical drama with its large, toothed leaves and ivory-green, footlong flowers. It exhibits reddish-bronze color in autumn.
'Betty Boop' is a bushy, upright, floribunda rose growing to 3 to 5 feet tall. Semi-double, ivory-white flowers with red edges are borne in clusters over a long period. They are mildly scented. New leaves are dark red, maturing to glossy green. This cultivar does not produce hips.
This rose produces single, carmine-pink, slightly fragrant blooms nonstop from June until frost. It grows 2.5 to 5 feet high and wide.
This vigorous, upright shrub rose sports smooth, olive-green leaves and clusters of cup-shaped, semi-double, fragrant, bubble-gum-pink flowers from spring to fall. Flowers are followed by round hips in shades of orange and red.
This rose has large clusters of small, violet-red pompom blossoms with a spicy fragrance. It blooms nonstop throughout the season and grows to 5 feet or more.
This choice rose has single, gently cupped light-pink flowers that exude an intense, clove-scented perfume. It blooms in spring and sporadically throughout the season, and produces red hips. In autumn, the foliage turns deep maroon, which changes to yellow tinged with coppery highlights. It grows to 3 to 4 feet high and wide.
This rose with an influential namesake has beautifully cupped double blossoms of rich pink. It produces arching stems to 5 feet or more and 3 feet wide, making it an ideal candidate for training up a low structure.
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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