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This dark-leaved, tropical foliage plant loves heat, and is useful spreading through a bed, border, or in a container where its deep purple leaves can contrast with brightly colored flowers or foliage. Alternanthera are native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of Central and South America. Their flowers are generally an afterthought. This plant works well for edging, as an annual groundcover, or in a formal knot garden.
Amaranthus cruentus makes a striking statement in beds or borders. Growing to 6 feet in height, it bears somewhat fuzzy-looking spires of purplish red flowers in summer, followed by seed heads that can be red, purple, or yellow. It is native to tropical regions of North and South America, and is one of three Amaranthus species cultivated for their grain.
This hardy annual has vibrant, ornamental red, yellow, and green foliage that lends a tropical effect to the garden. Small flowers, borne from summer to early autumn, are inconspicuous in comparison to the effect of the foliage. Cultivars feature yellow and maroon-shaded leaves, but the species still offers the showiest foliage.
This tuberous begonia bears green heart-shaped foliage with red veining and claret-stained undersides that steal the show when backlit. Pendent clusters of slightly fragrant, satiny pink or white blossoms open from midsummer until frost. It makes a good perennial companion for ferns and hostas.
This is a sweet Swiss chard with beautiful candy-apple-red stalks and dark green, crinkly leaves with touches of red. Both the leaves and the stalks are very ornamental and 'Ruby Red' is great in a vegetable or cottage garden, or in an ornamental bed or border. It is especially attractive when grown with plants whose colors call attention to the red coloring. Although related to beets, the root is inedible, but the leafy greens are valued for their mild flavor and high nutritional value.
This fast-growing annual of the Midwestern wet meadows grows to 4 or 5 feet tall. Hundreds of 2-inch golden daisies with buttery tips and dark, fringed eyes smother fine foliage in late summer. Be cautioned, this plant generously self-sows, and is on Kentucky's invasive plant list.
These fast-growing plants with succulent, bristly stems are old-fashioned favorites of the border or herb garden. They self sow to produce a succession throughout the season of new plants and blossoms. The beautiful flowers are edible and are particularly bequiling on salad or floating in summer drinks.
Rosettes of cabbage foliage are grown as annuals for fall and winter interest. Color intensifies in cooler temperatures (below 50°F). Good for bedding and containers.
This plant produces distinct, 2-inch blossoms primarily in rich blue (but also in shades of purple and white), with dark eyes smudged white. It is suitable for sun and partial shade.
Pot marigolds bloom most of the summer, but are intolerant of intense heat and may die out during periods of hot humid weather. Their branching stems are covered with simple, alternate leaves and they produce large flowers in different hues of yellow and orange in the summer.
This pepper boasts the most dramatically deep purple-black leaves and fruit imaginable. The vigorous, bushy plants grow to 18 inches tall and almost as wide. Flowers are lilac, and dark black peppers emerge in fall.
The disease-resistant Cora™ series of periwinkles comes in a range of flower colors—from white to lavender to burgundy—and looks great until the first fall frost.
A rare and graceful beauty, this plant is not a true foxglove, but its flowers are similarly shaped and hang in clusters. They come in shades of white and pink with pale violet stripes highlighting the inner throats. This plant’s soft coloring brings the delicacy typical of spring-blooming plants into the summer garden. The gray-green foliage has a distinctly nutty fragrance and is deer resistant. As a large-scale plant, South African foxglove holds its own when planted among shrubs and is best complemented by plants with deep purple foliage. It also makes a good cutting flower.
Though subtly colored, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ draws comment wherever it inserts itself. The steely purple bracts and leathery gray foliage of this annual seem extraterrestrial poking up among more conventional herbaceous plants. It is an annual from the Mediterranean region with leaves like a eucalyptus and flowers like a purple euphorbia. This plant produces large black seeds that drop to the ground in late summer and germinate in fall to start the cycle all over again if growing conditions are right.
This colorful annual legume bears attractive yellow flowers that have reddish-purple spots at their base. The compound, feathery leaves look like those of sensitive plant. Fruit is contained in a pea pod, which adds additional garden interest and may attract birds.
'Ernest Markham' is a vigorous, late-flowering climber with abundant small flowers in summer. Blossoms are rich magenta, 4 inches across, with blunt-tipped sepals and light chocolate anthers.
Pink Champagne™ (‘Kakio’) is one of the earliest large-flowered clematis to bloom. As the name implies, this variety boasts bubbly, bright pink tepals with pale centers and bright yellow stamens. Pink Champagne™ is a strong climber with a fairly narrow expanse, meaning it works well in tight spaces. I grow this variety alongside my garden gate in a cramped space that is less than a foot wide. The stems shoot straight up, making a beautiful pink exclamation point. -Richard Hawke, Big blooming clematis, Fine Gardening issue #146
'Nellie Moser' is easy to grow, producing large, flat flowers 6 to 8 inches in diameter with distinctive, gleaming lilac bars on each petal. This clematis blooms from May to late June, with a second, less profuse bloom in mid-August. Planted in a shady spot, the cheery pink-and-mauve-striped blossoms last for weeks instead of days.
A deciduous climber native to the southeastern United States, Clematis crispa bears lavender-blue, bell-shaped flowers with curly edges in summer. Its blooms are not profuse, but their elegant shape makes this plant a good choice for trellises, growing through shrubs, or planting in damp areas. The flowers are slightly fragrant and are followed by attractive seedheads. It also makes an unusual cut flower.
This species produces copious purplish-blue flowers in spring and fall. It has light green ferny leaves with a mid-rib of silver.
Alliums All Season Long
Deer resistant and dynamic, these bulbs provide color from the first showers of spring to the last leaves of fall
by Stephanie Cohen
Spectacular Spring Bloomers
These perennials are the light at the end of the long, wintry tunnel
by Dave Demers
Find out what all the buzz is about by planting these colorful perennials
by Sally Roth
Enchanting Japanese Maples
Two experts pick their favorites based on color, shape
by Francie Schroeder
How to Grow Trilliums
Plant the best species for your region in fall for a spectacular display in spring
by Gene E. Bush
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