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This upright, sparsely branched, woody shrub reaches 4 to 10 feet tall. It's easy to grow but slow-growing. It displays dark green leaves that are blue-green beneath, and large, silken blossoms 6 to 12 inches across in late spring and early summer. The plants maintain a graceful branching structure throughout the winter.
The flowers of vesper iris open in the late afternoon over a period of several minutes, just about the time the sound of evening vespers might have wafted over an old monastery garden. It is a valuable addition to the garden also because of its late blooming season (high summer into early fall) and for its ability to bloom from seed started the same spring. The vesper iris has typical iris-looking leaf fans and abundantly branched, willowy bloom stalks rising to 4 feet. The inch-wide flowers range in color from pure white to violet.
This plant produces 3- to 4-inch-diameter, slightly scented flowers sporadically during summer, increasing in late summer through autumn. Intricate blossoms have an outer ruffle of petals and sepals; an inner disc of filaments composed of rings of blue, white and purple; and a central “antenna.” Deeply lobed dark green leaves cover stems that grasp supports with tendrils. Blue passion flower can reach 10 feet tall in one season. The ovoid, orange-yellow fruit is edible.
This species produces 2- to 5-foot-tall mounds of narrow green foliage and bottle brush-like silvery-pink to purple flowers, both of which mature to shades of brown. It is the parent of numerous cultivars with notable flowers that range from purple to gray/black. It and some of its cultivars self-sow plentifully in warm climates. It is marginally hardy in Zone 5.
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.
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.
Penstemon cobaea has shiny dark green leaves and purple, pink, or white flowers on spike-like panicles in mid-spring. It grows to 2.5 feet tall. The flowers are larger than most other penstemons. Dew flower is native to the Lower Plains and the southwestern U.S.
This vigorous perennial bears elegant clusters of pure white flowers marked with purple or pale violet from early to late summer. Semi-evergreen basal rosettes and deciduous or semi-evergreen stems are also often marked reddish purple.
Tubular lavender-pink flowers with paler pink lobes are borne in late spring to early summer. The foliage is evergreen.
Rocky Mountain penstemon is an upright perennial that forms a mat of glossy green leaves from which arise straight, 2-foot-tall stems bearing rich purple blooms. It flowers in early June and occasionally throughout the summer. Blooms contrast nicely with yellow-blooming plants.
The light, lavender-blue flowers, which attract butterflies to the garden, bloom in July, and often last throughout September. Russian sage is a particularly striking plant when grown along with white, yellow, or orange flowered perennials. Tones down bright yellow in the garden as well. Its silver-gray, deeply cut foliage and stiff stems are striking in the winter. -Santa Rosa Gardens
This vigorous, but noninvasive perennial flowers from early summer into autumn with bright red, purple, or white blossoms. The narrow blossoms are up to 4 inches long, and are held on long stalks above pointed, slightly puckered leaves. It grows to 4 feet high and wide.
This easy, fast-growing annual cascades 3 feet or more from window boxes or hanging baskets. It's a prolific bloomer, with nonstop, violet flowers approximately 1.5 inches wide blanketing the foliage. Plants bloom from May through the first frost.
This cultivar of the popular blue phlox has round, full flowers with overlapping petals. It is noteworthy for its particularly rich blue-violet color. Use it in rock gardens or alpine houses, in a dry wall, or as edging.
This spreading, semi-evergreen perennial has hairy leaves and lavender-blue to pale violet and white flowers borne in open clusters in early spring. Flowers can have notched or unnotched petal lobes. Cultivars include ‘Clouds of Perfume’ with light lavender-blue flowers; ‘Eco Texas Purple’ (dark purple with a violet eye); ‘Fuller’s White’ (white); and ‘London Grove’ (lavender-blue flowers).
This upright, herbaceous perennial has slender, hairy stems reaching 1.5 to 3 feet tall, with clusters of lavender-rose, lilac-pink, or white flowers. The stems often have burgundy spots on them. Blooms appear in early summer and midsummer.
This sturdy, upright perennial reaches 2 to 4 feet tall. In July and August, and through September with deadheading, it bears flowers in shades of white, coral, pink, red, lavender, and violet, depending on the cultivar. Some have a lighter or darker eye, and others have variegated leaves. Many of the cultivars are fragrant; scent is most noticeable at night.
This garden phlox has striking, bicolor lavender-and-pink flowers beginning in early summer and displays a pleasing compact form. Its slightly waxy leaves hold powdery mildew at bay, and the plant doesn't even flinch in heat, humidity, or drought. 'John Fanick' grows to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
A dense, vigorous, mat-forming ground cover, creeping phlox has short flower stems from 3 to 12 inches tall. The flowers can be pale lavender-blue, rose-pink, medium violet, or white, with unnotched petals and a yellow center.
Moss phlox is a dense ground cover blanketed with notch-petaled flowers in April and May. Blooms can be muddy hot pink, bright rose, and magenta, while other cultivars include white, soft lavender-blue, clear pale pink to deep pink, clear scarlet, and lavender, some with a darker or lighter eye. Evergreen foliage is narrow, short, and stiff. Darker-flowered forms have dark-green leaves or red-tinged leaves that darken to burgundy in winter.
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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