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Few shrubs offer flowers as late as this one, which starts blooming in late October or early November. The upright, 10- to 12-inch-wide flower clusters last until January or February, then give way to long strings of dark purple fruit that the birds devour. The evergreen foliage is so architectural, 'Charity' would be a spectacular shrub even if it didn't bloom. Some years, the leaves turn red, but instead of relying on it, consider it a pleasant surprise when it happens.
A 2-foot-high evergreen shrub native to the woods and woodland edges of the Pacific Northwest, mahonia gives a shady area three seasons of interest. Erect racemes covered with clear yellow flowers rise from the plant's leaf axils or from the main stem tip in spring. In contrast to these upright blooms are long, elegant, compound leaves made up of leaflets with spiny edges. In fall, some leaves turn a lovely wine-red. During summer, clusters of berries mature to dark blue with a powdery whitish coating.
From May to frost, whatever the temperature, this plant's creamy yellow markings do not fade. It looks good in containers or in garden beds, and you can use it in the foreground or as a focal point in distant plantings. Variegated tapioca attains a height and width of 3 to 4 feet. It is normally grown as an annual, but can be overwintered indoors. -Allan Armitage, Plant picks, Fine Gardening issue #121
Horehound is a spreading perennial with scalloped, toothed, gray-green leaves, white-felted beneath, to 2 inches long. Small tubular flowers open in whorls in late spring, varying from tepid gray and pale lilac to greenish white.
Mazus reptans is a mat-forming perennial with rosettes of lance-shaped toothed leaves. It spreads quickly through rooting stems. From late spring to mid-summer, it bears 2- to 5-flowered racemes of snapdragon-like purple-blue flowers with lower lips spotted with yellow and red.
A native perennial shrub that grows to about 2 feet tall and wide and covers itself the whole season with honey-scented, white and yellow daisy flowers. The foliage is typical of the aster family. Plant en masse in a well-drained border or use in a rock garden. Blackfoot daisy can be short-lived.
Honey bush has attractive, 12- to 20-inch-long pinnate leaves with sharply toothed silver-green leaflets. It bears spike-like racemes of oddly scented brownish crimson to brick-red flowers from late spring to midsummer.
This clumping, blue-green foliaged grass has amethyst-pink flowers that create fluffy, 8- to 12-inch-long plumes throughout the summer. Eventually, the flowers mature to the color of root beer foam. It is heat and drought tolerant, and it makes a fine annual in colder climates. Excellent drainage will help it thrive in humid summer climates. Not invasive from seed, ruby grass works great grown singly in pots or in groups.
This bushy perennial has oval, deep green leaves on branched stems. In summer, blooms appear: fragrant red, pink, magenta, yellow or white flowers with a delicate, faded-vanilla aroma. Flowers open in late afternoon and die by morning.
Native to the southwestern U.S., California, and Mexico, wild four o'clocks cover themselves with hundreds of purple-pink, petunia-like blooms that open in unison in the afternoon or in the morning on cloudy days. Their musky fragrance attracts their primary pollinator, the hawkmoth. Grow in a border. xeric garden, or rock garden.
Variegated Japanese silver grass is a boon in any garden where fine texture, a gentle color scheme, and a bit of swaying in the wind are welcome. This grass can be used as a focal point, an anchor plant, or even as a privacy screen.
This elegantly shaped grass has narrow leaves with white mid-ribs and a vase-like form to 6 feet tall. It shows bronze autumn color and can stand throughout winter to provide architectural interest. Tassel-like inflorescences appear in fall and can be used as cut or dried flowers.
This beautiful grass has an "inner light" that emanates from the white midribs of its fine-textured leaf blades and the threads of white around their edges. A graceful shape usually between 5 and 6 feet tall, ‘Morning Light’, turns golden in November and fades to beige in winter.
This tufted, compact perennial has dense clumps of slender, foot-long green leaves marked with stripes of creamy yellow. In summer, slim, pale yellow flower stalks rise up 3 feet tall in an arching pattern. Each inflorescence holds well into the fall, turning a toasty tan.
'Skyracer' grows to about 3 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet wide, and in late summer to early fall, sends up delicate panicles to a height of 6 or 7 feet. This finely-textured ornamental grass is great for areas where you need height but don't have space for a wider, heavier plant. It works well in a sunny border but make sure you site it so you can see it closeup. Expect outstanding yellow color in fall.
Bee balm, a clump-forming perennial, bears minty-scented scarlet, pink, or purple flowers in midsummer on branching, square stems. Leaves are aromatic as well. This native of eastern North America attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
In autumn, this unique specimen creates a spectacular, billowy inflorescence of massed, vibrant pink, airy flowers on 4-foot stems. It is noted for its tolerance to poorly drained soil. It is possibly hardy to Zone 6 with protection.
This beautiful warm-season grass produces attractive, pale purplish-gray plumes in autumn and goes dormant in the cold season. It forms a neat, upright clump with fine blue-gray foliage.
Attractive, glossy, fan-shaped leaves and creamy white bell-shaped flowers are borne in dense panicles for several weeks in spring. After flowering is complete, green leaves turn a rich burgundy color with reddish orange highlights on their margins.
An oversize tender perennial, blood banana has large, fleshy, rubberlike leaves with dark markings. The foliage is green with random reddish purple blotches. On mature plants, orange or red flowers develop into inedible orange fruits. -Julia Jones, Designing with annuals, Fine Gardening issue #120
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
PLANTING PLAN: A deer-resistant bed that shines in fall and winter
by Nancy Matthews
Q&A Economical edging for beds
by Kate Feely
Are Pressure Treated Woods Safe in Garden Beds?
by Phil Wood
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