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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.
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.
The flowers of this celosia cluster together in great numbers and look like silky, feathery plumes in vivid hues of yellow, red, magenta, or apricot. The plumes rise above the foliage on 2-foot-tall stalks, which wave their flags of color in the breeze from July to frost.
Bachelor's buttons bear charming and prolific flowers in hues of blue, pink, lavender, white, and maroon. Those with a true blue color are especially welcome in the garden as that color is rare in nature. Each disc-shaped flower is about 1.5 inches across, with ragged petals radiating out from the center.
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.
This species produces copious purplish-blue flowers in spring and fall. It has light green ferny leaves with a mid-rib of silver.
'Summer Sundae' Sweet William is a nice mix of red, pink, and white flowers held in rounded groups at the tops of stems. Plants bloom from late spring to early summer. The flowers are lightly fragrant. Use in a cottage garden or border, or in containers. It flowers the first year from seed.
Fringed flowers in shades of bright red with white centers open without fragrance in summer.
A captivating little plant for the front of the border, tassel flower produces small, scarlet-orange pompons which, when viewed from a distance, seem like they’re floating in air. The flowers cluster at the top of wiry stems that rise from a basal rosette of blue-green leaves. Plants occasionally self-sow when sited in a good location. With its small habit, tassel flower lends itself well to container gardens and fresh-cut flower arrangements, adding an element of whimsy. Its delicate and airy nature looks best with bold-leaved or showy plants in the background, creating a see-through effect. To magnify their magic, mass several plants together.
Blanket flower is a bushy annual that produces red or yellow (or red and yellow) flowers over a long season. The blooms are daisy-shaped with a dark purple central disk. Growing to about 18 inches tall, this native of central and southern U.S. and Mexico is nice in a meadow, cut flower garden, border, or rock garden.
An upright, bushy annual with flowers (actually bracts) that resemble bright red strawberries with tiny yellow "seeds." Flowers are produced from summer to early fall and are great for cutting and drying. Leaves are hairy. Gomphrena is fairly drought tolerant and very heat tolerant. Use as bedding, in a border, or in a cut flower garden.
Heliotrope has a compact form with broadly oval to lance-shaped, wrinkled leaves tinged with purple. In summer, it bears a profusion of deep violet-blue or lavender-blue flowerheads up to 6 inches across. Cultivars vary in height as well as bloom fragrance and color.
A seldom-seen annual or short-lived perennial, this easy-to-grow plant performs as the perfect filler in beds and containers. It forms a well-branched compact mound of deeply lobed, dark green leaves, which provide an interesting textural backdrop to its charming, hibiscus-type flowers. The flowers are truly stunning with their cream petals, purple-hued undersides, and deep burgundy centers. While each flower lasts only a single day, the plant blooms profusely all season and produces inflated seedpods. The flowers will not normally open on a cloudy day, but this is a small price to pay for such a gem of a plant.
This plant has a sparsely branched form and narrow lance-shaped, pale green leaves. Cup-shaped hooded flowers 1-2 inches across, either singly or in clusters, are followed by explosive seed capsules. A variety of colors are available, including rose, lilac, and creamy yellow.
Love-in-a-mist-bears delicate flowers 1.5 inches across in various shades of blue and white, surrounded by finely divided foliage. Blooms appear mainly in May and June, and sporadically throughout the summer, followed by attractive 1-inch-wide green seedpods that change to cream and burgundy over time.
This easy-going annual has 2- to 3-inch-wide blue flowers with black centers and wine-colored stamens, along with light green ferny foliage. Striking chalice-shaped seedpods form on sturdy stems and are green when they emerge, turning tan as they harden.
In summer, beautiful brilliant red flowers top the branching stems with downy leaves of this 3-foot-tall poppy.
This penstemon cultivar has huge red flowers with white throats on upright spikes. The plants bloom all summer, even more so when given a weekly dose of liquid fertilizer. Hardy in Zones 9 and above, Phoenix™ Red is usually grown as an annual.
Long, narrow leaves grow in rosettes near the ground. Flower stems shoot upward to 2 feet with 3-inch-wide, petunia-like, purple, blue, or scarlet flowers marked with broad veins of gold. Cultivars include 'Splash,' 'Bolero,' and the more compact-growing 'Casino'.
This old-fashioned cultivar of the species has a mounding habit and grows 12-18 inches tall and wide. In summer and fall, it bears mahogany red, single to semi-double flowers. The rounded leaves and spurred, five-petaled flowers are edible.
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Two experts pick their favorites based on color, shape
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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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