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An excellent architectural specimen, New Zealand flax has a striking geometric shape and intriguingly colored foliage. Rigid, upright leaves to 10 feet long grow in a clump. Cultivars come in chocolate-brown or a mixture of cream, pink, and green stripes. In summer, this Phormium produces a 12-foot-tall spike of tubular red flowers.
Pale yellow, four-inch-long flowers dangle all around the stems of this evergreen, fuchsia look-alike. Given a long enough growing season, it can reach 5 feet tall and as wide. Where not hardy, grow it as a tender perennial.
Obedient plant is a clump-forming native perennial that grows aggressively. From midsummer to early fall, spikes of purple or pink (and sometimes white) flowers rise above sharply toothed leaves to four feet high.
As the name implies, this plectranthus has green leaves with lime green edges. Some of the leaves are entirely lime green. It looks great mingling around the feet of perennials, shrubs, and annuals.
Soft, fuzzy, purple-tinged leaves make this Plectranthus a good companion plant in containers.
As the cultivar name suggests, the leaves of ‘Kaleidoscope’ have distinctive markings, which can range in color from silver to light green to nearly black. Maroon flowers bloom in early summer. This plant is mostly evergreen. The plant's growth habit is umbrella-like. -Sylvia Matlock, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #127
Mayapple is a rhizomatous, native woodland perennial with leaves in the shape of an umbrella. They may form large colonies. In spring, white or pale pink waxy flowers are mostly hidden under the leaves. The greenish "mayapple" follows and is often eaten by wildlife. When fully ripe, the fruits may be used to make preserves or jellies, but they are toxic when unripe. Leaves and roots are poisonous. Plants often go dormant in the summer. Grow in a woodland garden.
This North American native bears deep blue or occasionally white, bell-shaped blossoms in spring and possibly late summer if deadheaded. It grows from 1 to 3 feet tall. Use Jacob's ladder in a lightly shaded border, rock garden, woodland, or cottage garden.
This dramatic cultivar has bright green leaves that are richly edged with cream. It bears lavender-blue blossoms in spring, and grows from 1.5 to 2 feet tall.
This North American native bears light blue bell-shaped blossoms in spring to early summer. It has a lax, sprawling habit to 1.5 feet tall. The leaflets are arranged like the rungs of a ladder, hence the common name.
This variegated cultivar offers white-edged leaves with pink tints on a compact plant to 1.5 feet tall. It bears light lavender-blue bell-shaped blossoms in spring.
From late spring into summer, this species bears tubular greenish-white flowers that dangle underneath the arching stems. The foliage is smooth; in autumn it turns to clear yellow, contrasting with the blue-black berries this plant produces. Its height varies wildly from 1.5 to 6 feet tall.
Polygonatum humile is an upright, rhizomatous perennial native to eastern Europe and western Asia. Ovate leaves are arranged alternately on the stems. Pendent, tubular white flowers hang like little bells from the leaf axils, followed by round bluish-black fruit. Grow in a shady border, rock garden, or woodland.
From late spring to early summer, this species bears pendent, green-tipped white flowers along arching stems. These mature into spherical black fruit in autumn, when the foliage turns yellow.
Gracefully arching 2 to 3-foot tall burgundy stems support narrow leaves streaked in pure white. From late spring to early summer, this species bears white flowers that mature into spherical black fruit in autumn, when the foliage turns a golden yellow. Variegated Solomon's seal is a fine choice for a shady bed. -Matt Griswold, Regional Picks: Northeast, Fine Gardening issue #27
This clumping, bushy perennial bears clusters of single, extremely vibrant red flowers all summer. The saucer-shaped flowers often attract butterflies. 'Gibson's Scarlet' is very hardy and tolerant of most soils.
This eye-catching perennial has silver-plated leaves with speckled margins. Its blooms are among the largest of all lungworts, beginning as pink buds and opening in early spring to display platinum blue flowers.
This plant will eventually form a decent-sized mound that resembles a mountain of liquid silver. It's perfect in a woodland border and makes a great ground cover and container plant. In mild winters, its leaves may stay evergreen.
‘Bertram Anderson’ is an older cultivar of lungwort with excellent foliage. In early spring, pink buds open to bright blue flowers, then silver-spotted leaves unfurl for a season-long show. Lungworts can have mildew problems, but ‘Bertram Anderson’ is highly resistant. When you cut off the old foliage in late winter, wear gloves; the tiny hairs all over the leaves (which keep the deer away) can irritate your skin. -Irvin Etienne, Fine Gardening #147 (October 2012), page 72
This cheerful, reliable plant brings a nice touch of color to the garden in spring. The leaves are pointed and hairy and splattered with silvery blotches. As the plant grows, the leaves overlap, creating a swirly pattern. In spring, clusters of silky pink flowers appear. They fade to a soft blue that harmonizes well with the leaf color. -Sue Whetten, Regional Picks: Rocky Mountains, Fine Gardening issue #127
This perennial coneflower, sometimes grown as an annual, has a long season of flowers on thin, branching stems. The flowers resemble small hats, with yellow reflexed ray florets and large greenish-brown columnar centers.
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
Building Better Borders
Use plant combinations that focus on complementary colors, textures, and forms
Find out what all the buzz is about by planting these colorful perennials
by Sally Roth
10 Shrubs for Summer Color
These vibrant bloomers give even the showiest annuals and perennials a run for their money
by Paul Cappiello
PLANTING PLAN: A deer-resistant bed that shines in fall and winter
by Nancy Matthews
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