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Rounded, ruffled leaves form a solid, weed-free, evergreen ground cover. In the spring, elongating shoots open to rounded heads of small four-petaled white flowers. Plants remain in bloom for nearly a month, opening new flowers from expanding terminal clusters as well as from numerous side shoots. Mature plants stand 12 to 18 inches high when in flower, and spread in time to form clumps 2 to 3 feet wide.
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.
This plant has leathery, evergreen dark green foliage with slightly indented margins. It reaches about 8 to 10 inches tall and bears tiny white male flowers. It spreads by rhizomes, eventually forming a mat at least 2 inches thick. Cultivars offer more compact form with smaller, finely toothed leaves ('Green Carpet') or glossy dark green leaves ('Green Sheen').
This stunning herbaceous woodland peony has upright red-mottled stems and dark green leaves that are elliptic or lance-shaped with rough margins. It bears usually solitary, single creamy white to pale pink blossoms that are cup-shaped and elegant. The blooms measure 3 to 4 inches across and have pale yellow stamens. Like all peonies, the flowers are with us for too short a time. They are followed by beautiful seedpods.
This plant is a beautiful addition to the garden from early spring until autumn. Red shoots with a crystalline dusting emerge in early April, followed by 5-inch-long, egg-shaped leaves that mature to a dark, reddish green. Each 18-inch stem bears a 2-inch-wide, chalice-like, single pure-white flower with yellow anthers and purple filaments. Mature seedpods open to reveal metallic-blue pea-sized fertile seeds and holly-berry red unfertilized seeds.
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.
A stunning, native dune grass, 'Dewey Blue' is perfect for coastal areas as well as inland gardens. Heat, drought, and humidity won't faze its noticeably graceful habit. This grass has exceptional blue foliage and a vigorous constitution. Airy, light beige flowers emerge in late summer and fall, persisting well into winter for a long season of interest. 'Dewey Blue' grows 4 to 5 feet tall and almost as wide.
'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
Panicum Ruby Ribbons’ soft blue-green foliage emerges in the spring on upright, clumping plants. The foliage takes on a wine-red color in early summer, which intensifies as the season progresses. Flower heads appear in late summer, followed by ornamental seed heads, which, if left uncut, provide long-lasting winter interest.
'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 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.
Iceland poppy is a short-lived perennial usually grown as a cool-weather annual, or biennial. From hairy tufts of linear blue-green foliage rise wiry stems bearing a pendant bud. The single (occasionally double) short-lived flowers unwrinkle their petals into a wide-spreading saucer shape 3 inches across.
The 4- to 6-inch-wide blooms of 'Flamenco Dancer' poppy stand out in late spring and early summer with their true red color and fanciful fringes. It is a sport of the popular 'Turkenlouis'. After the flowers fade, this perennial will go dormant, so plant it near neighbors that will fill the vacancy.
This native of Australia has blue-green perfoliate leaves (similar to some eucalyptus) and blue-lilac flowers on somewhat floppy stems. Digger's speedwell likes a hot location and will ramble over walls or grow through shrubs beautifully.
The flowers of vesper iris open in the late afternoon over a period of several minutes, just about the time the sound of evening vespers might have wafted over an old monastery garden. It is a valuable addition to the garden also because of its late blooming season (high summer into early fall) and for its ability to bloom from seed started the same spring. The vesper iris has typical iris-looking leaf fans and abundantly branched, willowy bloom stalks rising to 4 feet. The inch-wide flowers range in color from pure white to violet.
Wild quinine bears lustrous foliage and long-lasting white flowers throughout the season, even in heat and drought. It is native to moist prairies, low meadows, and open woods from Massachusetts and Minnesota, south to Georgia and Arkansas.
This plant produces 3- to 4-inch-diameter, slightly scented flowers sporadically during summer, increasing in late summer through autumn. Intricate blossoms have an outer ruffle of petals and sepals; an inner disc of filaments composed of rings of blue, white and purple; and a central “antenna.” Deeply lobed dark green leaves cover stems that grasp supports with tendrils. Blue passion flower can reach 10 feet tall in one season. The ovoid, orange-yellow fruit is edible.
From a basal mound of toothed leaves (similar to scabiosa's foliage) rise 4- to 6-foot stems of tiny chrome-yellow flowers.
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.
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