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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.
Elegant, lacy foliage on black stems makes this maidenhair fern a standout, even among others in the genus. In addition, when new fronds emerge in late winter or early spring, they are bright bronze-pink. Only about a foot high, Himalayan maidenhair ferns can spread by creeping rhizomes to form a sizeable colony. They also make eye-catching indoor plants and pair well with orchids.
This is a fine plant for cascading over the edge of a wall. It's a hardy, prostrate shrub with intricate branching that often forms mats up to 3 feet wide, by runners. Fragrant, white bell-shaped flowers tinged with pink are borne in May and followed later in the season by red berries. The common bearberry's stunning red stems are studded with small, glossy, evergreen leaves.
This shrub produces abundant, long-lasting, coral-red to scarlet berries, which stand out against dark-green, glossy leaves.
European wild ginger is a low-growing groundcover with glossy, evergreen, heart-shaped leaves. Its unusual purple-brown flowers lie mostly concealed beneath foliage.
This wild ginger is an evergreen groundcover with heart-shaped, shiny leaves that are often marbled. Its interesting brown-purple flowers hide beneath the foliage.
This is an ovate, glossy-leaved plant usually grown as a houseplant. In early summer, it produces fleshy, bell-shaped, cream colored flowers with maroon interiors.
The dense, glossy foliage of this evergreen plant is splattered with yellow. Gold-dust plant can be planted near nearby tree roots, and it responds well to pruning. Combine it with yellow-blooming or variegated plants for appealing color harmonies. -Debra Lee Baldwin, Regional Picks: Southern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
Aucuba are grown for their bold foliage, autumn fruit, and adaptability to shade, dry soil, pollution, and coastal conditions. A. japonica is a rounded, evergreen shrub with small, reddish purple flowers in spring, and red berries (on female plants) in fall. It grows to about 10 feet tall and wide. 'Crotonifolia' has leaves that look like they were speckled with yellow paint. 'Gold Dust' is female with heavy yellow speckling. 'Mr. Goldstrike' is male, more upright, and has gold-splashed leaves. Use as a hedge or specimen, in a container outdoors, or as an imposing houseplant.
"Thorny but irresistible" best describes this low-maintenance, elfin barberry. Tiny leaves are smothered in coral-colored buds opening to bright yellow-orange spring flowers. These, in turn, produce silver-frosted, blue-black berries in fall. 'Corallina Compacta' is evergreen, tolerates most soil types, and is pest-free and drought tolerant once established.
A better-behaved cousin to the less-than-polite trumpet vine, cross vine is a colorful solution for a fence or arbor with afternoon shade. Although this east Texas native is slow to establish, ‘Tangerine Beauty’ sports brighter, showier flowers than other cultivars and will reward your patience with loads of orange blooms in both spring and fall. Flowers bloom on old wood, so prune this vine immediately only after blooms fade. -Leslie Finical Halleck, Fine Gardening #147 (October 2012), page 74
Foot-long blossoms are nocturnally fragrant, and pour out from narrow calyces of light yellow, to terminate in fluted, reflexed openings the hues of golden summer squash.
Few plants evoke tropicalia quite like the Brugmansias, with their voluminous tubular flowers that drip from imposing shrubs or small trees. They look fantastic in containers or plunged into a border, and the dramatic display persists from late spring until autumn. In cooler climates, they may be brought under glass or cut back and held dormant in a cool basement. All parts are highly toxic if ingested.
Foot-long, rich pink blossoms are nocturnally fragrant and pour out from narrow calyces to terminate in wide, flared openings.
This upright, oval, dark green boxwood grows to about 3 feet high and wide. It flowers in spring, but it is grown for its handsome foliage. Use as hedging or topiary, or in a border.
This large, conical-shaped tree has dark green flattened sprays of evergreen scale-like leaves.
Japanese camellias shine in winter, with their glossy, deep green leaves and brilliant symmetry. Red, pink, and white lowers appear in spring, and they range from solids to stripes and from single cups of petals to tight double blooms. -Nellie Neal, Regional Picks: Southeast, Fine Gardening issue #127
Cut-leaved toothwort has sharply cut foliage and single white, lavender, or pink nodding flowers that bloom in early spring. Evergreen forms exist.
This stunning evergreen conifer can be a very large specimen tree (to over 100 feet) in the landscape. Its young, silvery foliage turns vivid glaucous blue as it ages; the sharply pointed leaves are arranged in whorls. Female cones are green and can be up to 4 inches long; they ripen slowly over 2 years to pale brown. This tree needs a lot of space to reach its majestic potential.
This plant has a cypress-like, densely conical form with erect feathery branches of ovate blue-gray juvenile leaves. Oblong male cones emerge bluish black, opening brick red. Female cones are wrinkled and reddish brown, to one half-inch. A native of western North America, it is a very popular species since it is highly adaptable.
Experts Pick Their Favorite Plants
We asked 42 gardening experts from around the country to select their favorite plants. Now you can see the complete results of the survey.
Conifers for Shade
Yes, you can grow evergreen trees and shrubs in shade. Who knew?
by Christine Froehlich
Sweetly Scented Annuals
Pique your senses all season long with colorful, long-blooming beauties
by Danielle Ferguson
4 Ways to Design with Coleus
If you're having trouble finding the right plant for the right place, this versatile performer offers a multitude of options
by Ray Rogers
How to Prune Conifers
These plants are unforgiving, so make the right cuts for the right reasons
by Bert Cregg
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