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A fine plant for fall, this cyclamen's frequently scented, mottled flowers emerge directly from the soil, followed by a carpet of patterned, mid- to dark green leaves attractively variegated with patterns in white or silver. It often blooms for up to two months. Each small pink or white flower has swept-back petals resembling a dove in flight, marked with maroon at the mouth. It makes a good foliage display all winter after the flowers have faded.
Cardoon is an architectural splendor with bold texture, thanks to its large, prickly, almost dagger-shaped gray-green arching leaves and a statuesque, vase-shaped frame. It is topped with round, purple, thistlelike flowers in midsummer. Cardoon can reach up to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
'Bashful' is a reliable and prolific bloomer. The blooms (purplish petals surrounding a golden center) have a velvety feel that draws bees and butterflies. As dahlias go, 'Bashful' is not a tall plant, so it's best to place it near the front of a bed. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
'Bed Head' is a tall plant with 4-inch-wide salmon-colored blooms with an unusually tangled appearance. It flowers less abundantly than many other dahlias, but is striking nonetheless. 'Bed Head' is a lush grower that benefits from strong staking. Plant it at the back of the border, and show it off as a cut flower in a vase. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
With its deep purple-black leaves and brilliant summer blooms, 'Bishop of Llandaff' is a fine addition to the sunny bed or border. The 4- to 6-inch-round red-petaled flowers have deep purple and yellow centers, which are set off nicely by the plant's dark foliage. Use this long-stemmed cultivar in cut-flower arrangements. -Gerald Gibbens, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue#120
'Bodacious' lives up to its name, with brilliant color and blooms that are supersized in both height and diameter. Heavy-headed 'Bodacious' requires beefy stakes. The rich color and ruffled effect of the loosely arranged petals make it stunning as a cut flower. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
'David Howard' is large and vigorous dahlia with fine color. Apricot blooms contrasts nicely with the dark foliage and with dark-colored companion plants. It pairs well both with hot colors such as red and orange and cool blues and purples. A tall grower, it requires staking and looks best in the middle or back of a border. Perhaps best of all, it blooms continually without deadheading. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
'Figaro' is a dwarf "landscape" dahlia with semi-double flowers in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, and white. It works well as bedding and in containers, and blooms from planting time until frost.
'Hissy Fitz' isn't a fussy plant, in spite of its amusing name. Its prolific and strong clear yellow blossoms look like pompoms, thanks to the small incisions at the tip of each petal. Of medium height, 'Hissy Fitz' is a sturdy grower and not hard to stake. It's a fine addition to the sunny border. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
'Honka' has a simple, cheerful charm. Its eight-petaled, star-shaped flowers are lightly scented (not many dahlias are fragrant). 'Honka' brings a subtle presence to the late-summer border. Sturdy stems support the flowers above the plant and look good in the front of the border alongside taller perennials with a backdrop of dark foliage. No staking is required. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
The 20th century's most celebrated dahlia is 'Jersey Beauty'. This towering, 4- to 6-foot-tall 1920s classic will produce so many lively, true-pink, classic dahlia flowers that you can cut all you want and still have a great garden display. This selection is exceptionally vigorous and beautiful.
Of the maybe 10,000 named dahlias introduced in the 1800s—when dahlias ranked right up there with roses in popularity—only three survive. One of them is 'Kaiser Wilhelm', introduced in 1892. Its 3-inch flowers have neatly curled petals of soft custard-yellow brushed with burgundy, and a green button eye just like that of an old rose. The plant can grow to 5 feet.
The pink-and-cream dinner-plate-sized 'Kidd's Climax' of 1947 has 10-inch flowers atop 4-foot-tall plants.
If you like the combination of peach and pink, you'll love 'Myrtle's Folly', whose narrow, twisted petals of deep pink and light orange mature to reveal a yellow center. Perhaps too ungainly to use as a border plant, 'Myrtle's Folly' will provide a reliable supply of flowers that look perfect in a vase. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
This new dahlia has gorgeous, bright yellow blooms that pop against its rich, dark purple (nearly black) foliage. 'Mystic Illusion' is well branched and makes a strong statement in beds, borders, and containers.
A charming choice, 'Pooh' has orange-red petals with gold and lemon-colored petal-like sepals. Plant this dahlia toward the back in a border, where its small flowers on tall stalks will be sure to stand out. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
For a change of pace, 'Zorro' looks fantastic floating stemless in a bowl of water. The ruffled petals accentuate the dark red hue. Staking is a must to prevent the stems from flopping beneath the weight of its huge and heavy blooms. Pinch back the young shoots to promote branching and sturdier stalks. 'Zorro' consistently produces quality tubers for division and, as such, is the perfect cultivar to start (or sustain) a dahlia collection. -Alastair Gunn, Dahlias that deliver, Fine Gardening issue #121
Despite a soft, delicate appearance, trailing indigo bush is one of the toughest groundcovers around. The feathery, silvery green compound foliage makes the clusters of tiny, rosy purple flowers stand out at close range. The blooms, which occur most heavily in spring and summer, return sporadically the rest of the year. This plant is excellent for stabilizing soil on slopes because its stem nodes root wherever they come in contact with the ground.
Darmera's flower stalks emerge from the ground on naked stems in spring, and are followed by cupped, rounded but indented leaves up to 24 inches across. The foliage forms a lovely, vase-like clump, 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The flower clusters are composed of many 5-petaled, starry, pink or white florets with conspicuous stamens. This native of the western U.S. is found growing along woodland stream banks, and helps to add a tropical look to temperate gardens. Darmera makes a distinct and long-lasting foliage statement in moist conditions, and exhibits autumn color also.
Covering itself with glowing fuchsia daisy-like flowers with many narrow petals, 'John Proffit' makes a beautiful groundcover or container plant. The succulent foliage looks like it has small pieces of ice on it (hence the name "ice plant') and is evergreen in warmer climates. Growing to only a few inches tall, it can spread almost 2 feet wide. It blooms from late spring to early fall.
Q&A Ground covers to avoid
by Nancy Ondra
Planting Ground Covers
Proper spacing and regular care are the best ways to create a lush, weed-free carpet
by Mary Hirshfeld
Flowering Ground Covers
To blanket an area small or large, these are the perennials to pick
by Nancy Ondra
Great Plants for a Fall Cutting Garden
Rely on colorful, long-stemmed plants to keep your vases filled as the season winds down
by Suzanne McIntire
Dividing a ground cover
by Liana Mackey
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