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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.
Tropicanna Gold is perhaps the showiest of all of the variegated cannas and one of the best for hot, humid, sunny southern gardens. Favored for its bright green and yellow variegated foliage and deep tangerine flowers, Tropicanna Gold will grow at the edge of ponds in shallow water as well as in normal garden conditions. It is adaptable to heat and humidity. Protect in the northern part of its range, or lift tubers in fall where not hardy and store over winter.
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.
Cut-leaved toothwort has sharply cut foliage and single white, lavender, or pink nodding flowers that bloom in early spring. Evergreen forms exist.
Two-foot-tall, stiff, orange-brown blades curve at the end like a shepherd’s staff. Burnished red-bronze foliage, which fades to flax at the tips, gives off a warm glow when backlit by the sun.
This sedge is one of the most adaptable of the ground-cover grasses. Its ability to look the same in sun or shade makes it a valuable asset in plantings that go in and out of full sun. Berkeley sedge is a good solution for areas under stress where lawn grasses often fail. The flowers are not particularly noteworthy.
This beautiful sedge's vivid foliage adds bright color to the garden. The yellow seems to glow in partial shade. Use this dramatic clump of foliage near water or in shallow water, or in another moist location.
'Ice Dance' is a dense, spreading sedge grown for its foliage. This sedge looks good year round, even in winter.The early-spring flowers are insignificant, but the white-edged leaves complement most other plants. Grow as a groundcover in woodland areas or in a shade garden. This sedge is evergreen in warm climates. -Jane Hutson, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
Seersucker sedge is an evergreen, spreading sedge with narrow brown-black flowers on 8-inch stems in spring. Its wide, puckered foliage is shiny and bright green, reaching over a foot long. This sedge is native to rich woods of the eastern U.S. and makes a nice edger or accent plant.
This sedge's pearly, straplike leaves resemble striped ribbon waiting to be wrapped around a package. It sports fuzzy green flowers with green stamens in late spring. Grow as an edging or groundcover.
The papaya is a herbaceous, fast-growing shrub that grows best in tropical and subtropical climates where it will flower continually, but it will perform in colder climates from high summer to early fall. It offers a striking sculptural presence to the landscape due to its lobed, 2-foot-across leaves and large, delicious fruit (sometimes reaching 20 pounds).
These plants can take worst of the a hot summer (heat, lack of water, and humidity) and still manage to perform well. They generally live four to five years before they need replacing, but during that time, they offer dependable foliage and pretty blue flowers from mid- to late summer. Blue-mist shrubs form low-growing, finely-textured mounds and are deer-resistant.
'First Choice' is ideal for a mixed or shrub border. It's an attractive woody shrub with dark green leaves, dark purplish blue flowers, and a compact habit. Misty blue flowers appear in late summer and early autumn.This plant is relatively drought tolerant and very heat tolerant. The shrub expands as branches that touch the ground form their own roots and may self-seed.
'Longwood Blue' is ideal for a mixed or shrub border. It's an attractive woody shrub up to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide with silvery leaves and violet-blue flowers.. The flowers appear along the stems in late summer and early autumn.This plant is relatively drought tolerant and very heat tolerant. The shrub expands as branches that touch the ground form their own roots and may self-seed.
'Worcester Gold' is an attractive, mounding, woody shrub with warm yellow to chartreuse foliage and lavender-blue flowers in late summer and early autumn. The flowers are fragrant and attractive to bees and butterflies. The foliage is also aromatic. It is ideal for a mixed or shrub border.
'Jason' has bright yellow-green foliage with rich amethyst blue flowers in late summer and fall. It's a vigorous grower for a mixed border or mass planting in sunny areas.
A tender perennial native to Madagascar, most often grown as an annual, Catharanthus roseus has attractive, glossy foliage and a bushy form that is covered by phlox-like flowers from summer to first frost. It is a very popular bedding plant and works in containers as well. Many cultivars are vividly colored, but 'Peach' has subtle pale pink-peach flowers with a darker eye.
The disease-resistant Cora™ series of periwinkles comes in a range of flower colors—from white to lavender to burgundy—and looks great until the first fall frost.
Mountain sweet is a low-growing, broad, compact, deciduous shrub. Dark-green leaves are irregularly toothed, 2 to 3 inches long, and softly hairy or nearly hairless beneath. This plant bears profuse white flowers in 1- to 2-inch-long terminal clusters.
The flowers of this celosia cluster together in great numbers and look like silky, feathery plumes in vivid hues of yellow, red, magenta, or apricot. The plumes rise above the foliage on 2-foot-tall stalks, which wave their flags of color in the breeze from July to frost.
Building Better Borders
Use plant combinations that focus on complementary colors, textures, and forms
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by Phil Wood
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When starting a bed, choose the method that suits you best
by Steve Carroll
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