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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 hummingbird mint boasts large spikes of reddish-pink tubular flowers with an orange tint over a long season in summer and early fall. The whole plant is aromatic. Grow in a bed, border, rock garden, or xeric garden.
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 showstopper produces conspicuous, red-purple leaf sheaths with dense, purple domed flowerheads.
Angelica is a striking ornamental biennial or short-lived perennial with jade green, glossy, bold leaves and large umbels of white flowers. It makes a unique statement in the garden.
This is a high-drama native. Its gracious, high-impact, powdery-white shrubby mounded foliage grows to 4 feet tall.
False blue indigo's spikes of clear blue flowers in late spring can nearly carry a border by themselves. They also make great cut flowers. Large, inflated nearly black seed pods set in after flowering, giving this plant another interesting element. It is low maintenance and will look great in any natural or informal setting.
Boltonias are vigorous perennials grown for their sprays of aster-like flowers, which appear above clean, gray-green foliage. Their vigorous nature makes them suitable for naturalizing. They are also great in the border (and for cutting), but will benefit from frequent dividing to keep in bounds, and may be cut back in late spring for more compact plants.
This 3-foot-tall canna from the 1920s has impossibly deep, pure-rose flowers recalling orchids and leis. It's an old French variety.
A great canna to start with if you're convinced you hate them is 'Madame Paul Caseneuve', from 1902. The pearly-bronze leaves and almost purple stems of this 3- to 5-foot-tall antique beauty are the perfect foil for its elegant, sensual flowers of soft pink shading to peach and apricot.
Growing to 6 or 7 feet, 'Sémaphore' features slender, dark-bronze leaves topped by spikes of narrow-petaled flowers of an unusual glowing color that's not quite yellow and not quite orange; perhaps flickering tongues of flame would be the best description. It is a Victorian classic from 1895.
Tropicanna Gold is perhaps the showiest of all of the variegated cannas and one of the best for hot, humid, sunny southern gardens. Favored for its bright green and yellow variegated foliage and deep tangerine flowers, Tropicanna Gold will grow at the edge of ponds in shallow water as well as in normal garden conditions. It is adaptable to heat and humidity. Protect in the northern part of its range, or lift tubers in fall where not hardy and store over winter.
Rising to about 36 inches, the elephant ear's deep-purple stalks suspend luxurious leaves of the same color. When the leaves’ undersides are dusted with chalky-looking bloom, they have an intriguing, almost gray look. This plant does well in a bog or even in the margins of a water garden, as well as in average garden soil.
'Bed Head' is a tall plant with 4-inch-wide salmon-colored blooms with an unusually tangled appearance. It flowers less abundantly than many other dahlias, but is striking nonetheless. 'Bed Head' is a lush grower that benefits from strong staking. Plant it at the back of the border, and show it off as a cut flower in a vase. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
'Bodacious' lives up to its name, with brilliant color and blooms that are supersized in both height and diameter. Heavy-headed 'Bodacious' requires beefy stakes. The rich color and ruffled effect of the loosely arranged petals make it stunning as a cut flower. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
'David Howard' is large and vigorous dahlia with fine color. Apricot blooms contrasts nicely with the dark foliage and with dark-colored companion plants. It pairs well both with hot colors such as red and orange and cool blues and purples. A tall grower, it requires staking and looks best in the middle or back of a border. Perhaps best of all, it blooms continually without deadheading. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
'Hissy Fitz' isn't a fussy plant, in spite of its amusing name. Its prolific and strong clear yellow blossoms look like pompoms, thanks to the small incisions at the tip of each petal. Of medium height, 'Hissy Fitz' is a sturdy grower and not hard to stake. It's a fine addition to the sunny border. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
The 20th century's most celebrated dahlia is 'Jersey Beauty'. This towering, 4- to 6-foot-tall 1920s classic will produce so many lively, true-pink, classic dahlia flowers that you can cut all you want and still have a great garden display. This selection is exceptionally vigorous and beautiful.
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Use plant combinations that focus on complementary colors, textures, and forms
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