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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.
A large shrub or small tree, Albizia julibrissin is native to Iran to Japan. It is a fast-growing plant whose seedlings can become invasive. It can be seen growing in the wild in the southeastern U.S. and California in waste places, fields, and along roads.
However, its bipinnate, ferny leaves and fluffy pink flowerheads that cover the tree in summer make it a garden-worthy plant, as do the fragrance emitted by the flowers, which attract bees. Seed pods that resemble flat beans follow the flowers and persist into winter. Still, care should be used so that seeds from garden plants can't escape into the wild.
Satiny deep green to black leaves and glowing white veins on 18-inch-long leaves make this elephant's ear great in containers, in a shady border, at the edge of a pond, or as a houseplant. It also has pale stalks with purplish banding. 'Frydek' is very tolerant of a range of soil pH, heat, humidity, and heavy soil. It can even take about a half day of sunlight.
'Casablanca' Peruvian lily is the closest to white that this genus has gotten as of yet. Inside its amaryllis-shaped white flowers, reddish dashes on a yellow wash and a pale pink throat add interest. 'Casablanca' is also taller than most other Alstroemerias. They make great cut flowers and are frequently used by florists; they also add a tropical feel to beds and borders. Roots are very brittle and care should be taken when planting.
A. ficoidea ‘Red Threads’ is a slender-leaved perennial selection that doesn't wander, forming a textured carpet in shades of deep burgundy. A single plant makes a mound about 8 inches tall and 14 inches wide. It blooms on and off all year, but you may never notice. The small, pale flower buttons are held in the leaf axils, where they are nearly indistinguishable from the foliage unless you're paying close attention. Use 'Red Threads' at the base of taller plants in the border to provide vibrant color echoes or contrasts. Grow as a warm-season annual in cooler climates, mass the plants in beds, or use in a formal knot garden as the Victorians did.
'Yellow Form' Alternanthera is an easy-to-grow, tropical plant with a fast-spreading habit and pointed, chartreuse-yellow leaves. It forms a mat of color from spring's frost-free date to fall's first frost. Like others of this genus, it makes a great edging, bedding, or container plant. In formal landscapes, it can be used in a knot garden. It looks great with dark-leaved plants.
A half-hardy perennial, this sophisticated climber grows to 8 feet tall. It has a profuse show of 1.5-inch indigo, violet, pink, or white flowers. It's great for the cold greenhouse or conservatory, and will often bloom until the end of the year unless there is a hard frost.
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.
This fern has cool, grey-green, almost silvery, foliage and reddish-purple stalks that are useful for brightening dark spots in borders. It is deciduous, and although it reaches only 8 to 12 inches in height, it is easy to grow, prolific, and easily divided.
Red Japanese barberry is a deciduous shrub with multi-season interest. Most striking are the deep reddish purple inch-long leaves. In spring, scented yellow flowers appear on arching stems. This barberry is an excellent hedge pland, and it also looks good in the middle to rear of beds and borders. Watch out for the brittle, three-pronged thorns. -Gerald Gibbens, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue#120
The white- and pink-mottled leaves of 'Roseo-picta' make it appear as if the plant has been snowed upon, even though it is a tropical plant. It is an evergreen shrub growing to 3 feet or more with pink and red stems in zigzagged formation. Native to Pacific islands, it is grown as an indoor plant or perennial, or as an annual in cooler climates. The tiny flowers go generally unnoticed. Do not allow the soil to dry out, as leaf drop will occur.
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.
C. bicolor is a tuberous-rooted perennial of garden origin often grown in containers, as annuals, and as indoor plants. The large, heart-shaped leaves of 'Freida Hemple' caladium are edged in bright green and have bold red centers. Caladiums are excellent choices to add color, texture, and form to shady areas.
A tuberous-rooted perennial most often grown as an annual or a houseplant, 'White Queen' has large frosted-looking white leaves that have green margins and bright red veins that "bleed". A great plant for full shade, it can also be grown in sun if provided with consistently moist soil. Greenish-white flower spathes appear in spring and are followed by white berries, but the foliage is the main show. Its arrow-shaped leaves light up a dark spot and work well as bedding or in containers. It can also be grown as a houseplant and tubers can be overwintered indoors.
This versatile ornamental grass has slender, upright, deep-green foliage. A cool season grass, it is upright and clump forming, with purplish-green, feathery plumes that can reach 6 feet in height. It blooms in early summer rather than fall and must have winter chill to bloom.
Information provided by Santa Rosa Gardens.
This large, conical-shaped tree has dark green flattened sprays of evergreen scale-like leaves.
Cannas bear broad, smooth paddle-like leaves reminiscent of banana plants. The oversize leaves make it easy to create dramatic combinations with other, more finely textured plants. Each stout, fleshy stem is topped with attractive spires of brightly colored flowers. Cultivars vary widely in height, foliage, and bloom.
This pepper boasts the most dramatically deep purple-black leaves and fruit imaginable. The vigorous, bushy plants grow to 18 inches tall and almost as wide. Flowers are lilac, and dark black peppers emerge in fall.
Flowering Paperwhites for Winter Windowsills
These easy-to-force bulbs have superior blossoms and scents
by Brent Heath
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
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
How to Prune Conifers
These plants are unforgiving, so make the right cuts for the right reasons
by Bert Cregg
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