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This New Zealand native subshrub has 3-inch-wide scalloped leaves and little purple-brown to pale olive leaflets. Its rhizomatous roots spread in a mat to support this plant's wonderful ground-cover form. In early summer, 3/4-inch-wide flowers appear on short stems, and brownish green sepals and white anthers contrast with the dark leaves. The rhizomatous roots of this plant spread slowly into a mat, forming a nice ground cover. Prune every five years or so for a neat appearance; little other care is required. -Gerald Gibbens, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
Dutch crocus is one of the hardiest, if not the hardiest, crocus species readily available to home gardeners. A true harbinger of spring, it can be planted in borders, rock gardens, and even lawns. After flowering, the foliage must be left intact until it withers, which may cause lawn-mower anxiety in some gardeners. Often sold as "mixed crocus," cultivars of this species are typically white, lilac, or purple and white striped.
'Minimus' has smaller leaves than other plants of the species and a very low-growing, spreading habit. This evergreen shrub is best used as a groundcover, but it can climb as a vine if given support. It forms a dense mat of quarter-inch leaves. It may suffer winter burn in cold climates.
The giant snowdrop has larger flowers and broader leaves than the more common G. nivalis, but grows to the same 4 inches tall and wide. Its white, nodding blooms appear in late winter, signalling spring around the corner.
Snowdrops are some of the earliest bulbs, and flowers in general, to bloom in spring. Galanthus nivalis is the most common species, and its cultivars are the most commonly grown snowdrops on the market. They are reliably hardy and perennial. They grow to 4 inches tall and wide and flower in mid- to late winter, long before most other plants. They are the first sign of spring around the corner. Flowers are nodding and white.
This prostrate evergreen species produces a mass of richly textured leaves, making it an attractive groundcover for formal areas, rock gardens, or woodland beds. The leaves are thick, neatly rounded and formed, with bronzy undersides and autumn color that persists through the winter. In summer, it bears white flowers, which are sometimes followed by red fruits.
This compact, evergreen subshrub has glossy, dark green leaves and grows to only 5 inches tall and 16 inches wide. It bears long-lasting, lavender flowers, and it is a great choice for low edging or for a rock garden.
This species tulip blooms in mid- to late spring with fire-engine-red flowers that look like open, pointed stars with purple centers. It reaches 4-6 inches tall and not quite as wide. Species tulips prefer sharp drainage and plenty of room to grow; they will often naturalize. Most do well in rock gardens, small displays, and containers.
These Mexican native bulbs actually offer demanding gardeners flowers on demand. They produce strappy foliage to 12 inches tall and clusters of buttery-yellow, starry, crocus-like blossoms two to three days after every rain in summer and early autumn. Or, if it doesn't rain, simply water and fertilize three days prior to your intended display, and the moisture will prompt the flowers to appear, hence the common name, rainflower. These bulbs are widely adaptable to diverse soil conditions, and may be grown in full sun to partial shade, but they prefer some shade.
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
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
Enchanting Japanese Maples
Two experts pick their favorites based on color, shape
by Francie Schroeder
Q&A Moving houseplants outdoors for the summer
by Tim Pollak
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