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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.
We’ve been cheerleaders for wild species peonies for years. Although they may not have the big flowers of peony hybrids, like ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, they are in a classy category all their own. Among our favorites is Japanese forest peony, not because of its blooms but because of its stunning fall seedpods. In late summer or early fall, the pods begin to split, revealing gleaming, blue-black pearls nestled among infertile, brilliant red seeds. To us, this display trumps the flowers and is longer lasting.
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.
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.
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.
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 erect perennial has basal rosettes and stems bearing lance-shaped mid-green leaves. The plant bears long panicles of scarlet or yellow flowers from early summer to early autumn.
This upright perennial sports hanging, tubular bright-pink flowers to 1 inch across above serrated blue-green leaves. It blooms summer to fall.
Penstemon cobaea has shiny dark green leaves and purple, pink, or white flowers on spike-like panicles in mid-spring. It grows to 2.5 feet tall. The flowers are larger than most other penstemons. Dew flower is native to the Lower Plains and the southwestern U.S.
This vigorous perennial bears elegant clusters of pure white flowers marked with purple or pale violet from early to late summer. Semi-evergreen basal rosettes and deciduous or semi-evergreen stems are also often marked reddish purple.
'Husker Red' is one of the few penstemons that does well in wet winters and hot, humid summers. Ruby-toned leaves appear in spring, followed in late spring and early summer by 3-foot-high stems adorned by panicles of white blooms. The flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, but the plants are not magnets for deer or rabbits. In autumn and winter, songbirds feast on the seed. For a stunning display, plant 'Husker Red' in groups. -Chris Kelley, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
Tubular lavender-pink flowers with paler pink lobes are borne in late spring to early summer. The foliage is evergreen.
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
Rocky Mountain penstemon is an upright perennial that forms a mat of glossy green leaves from which arise straight, 2-foot-tall stems bearing rich purple blooms. It flowers in early June and occasionally throughout the summer. Blooms contrast nicely with yellow-blooming plants.
This is an upright penstemon with striking deep burgundy, purple, sometimes lavender or cream flowers on thin stems. The stem leaves are lance shaped and the basal leaves are spoon shaped.
The light, lavender-blue flowers, which attract butterflies to the garden, bloom in July, and often last throughout September. Russian sage is a particularly striking plant when grown along with white, yellow, or orange flowered perennials. Tones down bright yellow in the garden as well. Its silver-gray, deeply cut foliage and stiff stems are striking in the winter. -Santa Rosa Gardens
This vigorous, but noninvasive perennial flowers from early summer into autumn with bright red, purple, or white blossoms. The narrow blossoms are up to 4 inches long, and are held on long stalks above pointed, slightly puckered leaves. It grows to 4 feet high and wide.
This vigorous but noninvasive perennial flowers from early summer into autumn with crimson blossoms to 6 inches long. Its leaves are dark green, arrow-shaped, and slightly puckered. It grows to 4 feet high and wide.
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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