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A stunning, native dune grass, 'Dewey Blue' is perfect for coastal areas as well as inland gardens. Heat, drought, and humidity won't faze its noticeably graceful habit. This grass has exceptional blue foliage and a vigorous constitution. Airy, light beige flowers emerge in late summer and fall, persisting well into winter for a long season of interest. 'Dewey Blue' grows 4 to 5 feet tall and almost as wide.
'Prairie Fire' is a distinctly red form of switchgrass. Blue-green spring foliage turns shades of deep red by early summer and butter yellow in late fall. The grass persists into winter. 'Prairie Fire' has a fibrous root system that grows to more than 10 feet deep, making it drought tolerant. -Scott Vogt, Native grasses, Fine Gardening issue #124
Panicum Ruby Ribbons’ soft blue-green foliage emerges in the spring on upright, clumping plants. The foliage takes on a wine-red color in early summer, which intensifies as the season progresses. Flower heads appear in late summer, followed by ornamental seed heads, which, if left uncut, provide long-lasting winter interest.
'Shenandoah' is truly a plant for all seasons. In early summer, its leaf blades are tipped in red, and by autumn, the entire leaf is a rich burgundy color, topped by pink plumes. In winter, the leaf color fades to beige; the blades persist and offer cover to birds. 'Shenandoah' is a compact selection of an American native prairie grass. -Chris Kelley, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
This cultivar of pearl millet has wide, deep purple foliage and stems. It forms a 5-foot-high specimen with tight cylindrical flowers of purple-brown seeds—a favorite of many birds. This plant makes a stunning container specimen. In the mixed border, its foliage contrasts nicely with other plants.
A refreshing new look to an old time favorite ornamental grass! Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ is the first variegated purple fountain grass. The midvein is the typical burgundy color and is flanked by hot pink margins. Produces beautiful red-burgundy foxtail flowers. Great accent plant and excellent in containers. -Santa Rosa Gardens
This tropical annual produces mounds of narrow burgundy-red foliage and purple plumes to 1 foot long. It is invaluable for containers and stunning, annual foliage color in a border. It rarely sets seed.
'Husker Red' is one of the few penstemons that does well in wet winters and hot, humid summers. Ruby-toned leaves appear in spring, followed in late spring and early summer by 3-foot-high stems adorned by panicles of white blooms. The flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, but the plants are not magnets for deer or rabbits. In autumn and winter, songbirds feast on the seed. For a stunning display, plant 'Husker Red' in groups. -Chris Kelley, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
This New Zealand flax has dark reddish brown leaves that form a neat clump less than 2 feet tall and about as wide. It makes a great container plant.
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.
This is an upright evergreen shrub with lance-shaped leaves. Foliage emerges bright red or bronze, turning a leathery dark green. Small white flowers appear in mid- to late spring.
This ninebark's new leaves unfurl a golden yellow and then mature to a rosy red-burgundy. Clusters of white blooms accompany the dramatic foliage in early summer, followed by bright red seedheads that fade to tan. 'Center Glow' is a fast grower and an ideal candidate for mixed borders or foundation plantings. It grows to 8 to 10 feet tall and almost as wide. In winter, the older stems have attractive peeling bark.
With its upright, arching branches and dark chocolate to purple foliage, Diabolo® ninebark offers a color contrast with silver-leaved plants and makes a fine backdrop hedge. Clusters of button-like, pinkish white flowers appear in summer. Even when they fade to a tawny tone, they stand out nicely against the dark leaves. -Chris McKernan, Regional Picks: Lower Plains, Fine Gardening issue #120
Many gardeners know ninebark as an undistinguished shrub with ordinary green leaves, white flowers, and fall fruit. But 'Seward,' sold under the trademark name Summer WineTM, has outstanding burgundy leaves and pink flowers that bloom in early summer. This plant is super tough and makes a stunning focal point in a summer border.
The yellow to lime green foliage of 'Nugget' ninebark makes an interesting contrast with the exfoliating, cinnamon-colored bark. Clusters of white flowers appear along the stems in early summer, followed by dark brown seed capsules, which add winter interest. Unsheared, the plant has a vase-shaped growth habit. -David Graper, Regional Reports: Upper Plains, Fine Gardening issue #122
'Procumbens' is similar to 'Pendula' in color but prostrate in habit, with cascading branches sometimes staying stiffly horizontal. Makes a spreading, undulating, mounding ground cover of silvery white needles.
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
'Schubert' choke cherry, with its vivid foliage and pyramidal form, makes a fine focal point. Ephemeral, light pink flowers are followed by abundant, dark red-purple fruit that birds love. (Don't plant it near patios or walks, as they'll quickly be covered by bird droppings.) If the tree you buy isn't grafted onto nonsuckering rootstock; otherwise, suckers could become problematic as the years go by. -Ron Smith, Regional Picks: Upper Plains, Fine Gardening issue #120
Lemon-lime foliage, fuzzy stems, and intense fall color make this sumac cultivar a standout. It grows into an upright, rounded form about 6 feet tall and as wide. New growth emerges chartreuse. Fall brings leaves of yellow, scarlet, and orange. Flowers are yellowish green and followed, on female plants, by hairy, dark red fruit. This plant spreads by suckers and can be invasive. The species is native to North America.
Heirloom dahlias, gladioli, and cannas offer flower colors and forms unmatched by more recent introductions
by Scott Kunst
Annuals Pep Up Perennial Borders
Use the flowers and foliage of annuals to spark summer’s show
by Elisabeth Sheldon
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.
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
Sweetly Scented Annuals
Pique your senses all season long with colorful, long-blooming beauties
by Danielle Ferguson
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