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This deciduous shrub is related to the forsythia, but differs in that it has white (rather than yellow) flowers that open in early spring before true forsythia. It is a member of the olive family (Oleaceae). In early spring, before the new leaves form, purplish buds all along the grey naked branches open into small white four-petaled, almond-scented flowers with yellow stamens. After flowering, green, glossy abelia-like leaves appear.
Acanthus mollis is prized for its bold clumps of shiny green leaves topped with striking, 3-foot-tall spires of white flowers which are clasped by showy purple bracts. This is a great plant for an eye-catching structural element in a part-shade border.
With their white margins and mottling, the jagged leaves of 'Tasmanian Angel' are a real showshopper, and in late summer, 3-foot-tall, pink-and-cream flower stalks heighten the effect. The variegation may be less pronounced as the leaves age, but the plant still draws the eye. Use it as a multiseason container specimen or as a bedding plant. -Allan Armitage, Plants to know and grow, Fine Gardening issue #119
This slow-growing understory tree has highly ornamental, peeling orange-cinnamon bark. Its dark green, three-lobed leaves turn a brilliant orange-red in autumn.
Full-moon maple has deeply lobed leaves, crimson autumn color, and plenty of small, reddish flowers in spring. It can be grown as a small tree or multi-stemmed shrub. Its growth habit is mounded, bushy, and spreading. The cultivar name 'Aconitifolium' refers to the fact that its ferny foliage resembles that of monkshood (Aconitum). This beautiful tree makes a great specimen plant and is very hardy.
This round, mound-forming, deciduous Japanese maple has many qualities that make it an excellent garden plant, including a sculptural form, deeply cut foliage, arching shoots, and golden autumn color. The reddish purple flowers are tiny but attractive up close. They are followed by winged fruit. Threadleaf Japanese maple makes a beautiful specimen in small gardens and can be grown in large containers or used for bonsai.
This is a rounded to open-crown deciduous tree up to 70 feet tall and 30 feet wide with early, brilliant red fall coloring.
This broadly columnar to spreading tree has peeling brown bark, three-palmate mid-green leaves, and brilliant orange-red fall foliage. It grows up to 30 feet tall and 25 feet wide.
This 3-foot-tall and 2-foot-wide clumping perennial displays spiky racemes of white flowers in late spring and early summer followed by bright white berries with dark tips on bright red stalks. The berries are exceptionally showy and especially effective in shady woodland beds.
Actaea rubra bears white flowers from spring to early summer on plants up to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide. In late summer, glossy red berries develop. A few cultivars exist. This woodland perennial is native to the U.S.
This clumping woodland perennial with deep green foliage up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide bears spikes of fragrant white flowers 1 to 2 feet long in fall. Cultivars exist with varying leaf colors and forms.
This chocolate-leaved cultivar up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide bears compact spikes of white flowers in late summer. This plant may languish in very warm temperatures. The flowers remain ornamental for three to four weeks.
Unlike other bugbanes, 'Hillside Black Beauty' offers deep purple-black foliage. From late spring to late summer, its dark hue makes a wonderful backdrop for colorful foliage and flowering shade plants. In fall, fragrant, cream-colored flowers appear on tall, wandlike stems. An added plus: this plant is deer resistant. --Michael Ruggiero, Regional Picks: Mid-Atlantic, Fine Gardening issue #127
This is an elegant, deciduous fern with medium green fronds on dark brown or black stalks with thick creeping rhizomes. It provides a distinct form in a woodland setting or shaded border.
Elegant, lacy foliage on black stems makes this maidenhair fern a standout, even among others in the genus. In addition, when new fronds emerge in late winter or early spring, they are bright bronze-pink. Only about a foot high, Himalayan maidenhair ferns can spread by creeping rhizomes to form a sizeable colony. They also make eye-catching indoor plants and pair well with orchids.
Large palmate-leaved shrub with showy white 12-inch-tall blooms in summer, followed by smooth-skinned fruit. Leaves emerge bronze and turn yellow in autumn.
This is an erect, bushy perennial with scented gray-green leaves. Its raspberry-red flowers grow on loose, foot-long spikes from midsummer to late fall. The flower spikes have a long bloom period and attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects.
A classic plant for both herb gardens and borders, anise hyssop is composed of erect branches of mint-and-licorice-scented, medium green leaves ending in fuzzy spikes of small lavender flowers. The plant grows to 3 to 5 feet tall and 1 foot wide and reseeds freely. The flowers are edible and are charming crumbled into salads. The flowers are highly attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
This 4-foot-tall and 18-ich-wide, bushy perennial, very similar to the more common anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) has strongly mint-and-licorice-scented leaves and short spikes of lavender-blue flowers from midsummer to early fall. Unlike most agastaches, both of these species can tolerate more moisture and humity, making them highly suited to climates outside the arid west.
There are many cultivars available of this fast-growing annual. They are best used as bedding, edging, or container plants. Panicles of blue, pink, purple, or white flowerheads arise from oval, downy leaves in midsummer and continue until frost. They have a soft, fuzzy appearance and attract butterflies.
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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