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'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
This vigorous cormous perennial has semi-erect, lance-shaped leaves 7 to 10 inches long that emerge in spring, then go dormant in late May. In September, it bears 1 to 3 leafless, goblet-shaped, intense pink flowers with yellow anthers and often white throats.
This variety has fragrant, deep blue, cornucopia-shaped flowers carried tightly on red stems above 6-inch tall, blue-green foliage. It is considered one of the best blue forms for color and performance.
The first of the coveted blue corydalises to be introduced, it produces fragrant clusters of long-spurred, azure flowers on a compact plant.
This choice corydalis produces fragrant clusters of periwinkle-blue flowers and ferny foliage infused with purple hues. It is similar to 'Blue Panda,' yet is slower to spread and blooms more reliably during the summer.
Don't let its delicate appearance fool you: Western bleeding heart is hardy and tenacious. This elegant, herbaceous perennial spreads slowly from rhizomes to form drifts of soft blue-green, ferny foliage in shady woodland areas. Above the leaves in late spring, pink heart-shaped flowers hang gracefully from long, arched stems, attracting scores of hummingbirds but not the local deer. It is surprisingly drought tolerant during the summer months.
Longspur barrenwort is a clump-forming, deciduous, rhizomatous perennial. Leaves, light green and flushed bronze when young, are heart-shaped with spiny margins. Four-petaled white, yellow, pink, or purple flowers, hanging in clusters, appear in mid- and late spring.
This native terrestrial orchid produces basal rosettes of striking silvery-veined evergreen foliage. Small white flowers are borne on single slender stems about 6 to 10 inches tall in late summer.
Year-round gray-green foliage persists through shade and snow and is fairly deer and rabbit resistant. Flowers appear in early spring with daffodils and tulips. This cultivar produces flowers that sit well above the foliage and point upward, which adds to its showiness.
This compact heuchera has dark greenish silver leaves with crimson undersides. The plant grows up to 8 inches tall and 16 inches wide and sports soft red flowers in spring.
'Midnight Rose' is a striking heuchera with burgundy leaves heavily splashed with hot pink. The plant grows to 10 inches tall and 16 inches wide and produces small flowers in spring, though this plant is grown primarily for its foliage. Grow it in garden beds, as an edger, or in containers, where it will blend well with a multitude of other plants.
Heucheras make excellent foliage plants for sun to part shade gardens. Most flowers are not as impressive as the foliage, but they do add a second level of interest. 'Silver Scrolls' heuchera's leaves are burgundy overlaid with silver and withstand even hot summers, unlike many other silver plants. It grows up to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide.
Spectacular, but fleeting, stemless blooms have blue-lilac petals, each with a white patch and a yellow or orange crest on each fall. Crested iris blooms in May. Dagger-shaped leaves 5 to 6 inches tall form an attractive, cool green carpet of stiff leaves. ‘Alba’ is a white-flowered variety.
‘Pink Chablis’ has pink flowers above silvery gray leaves edged with dark green. These trailing plants make fine ground covers or cascaders.
Lewisia cotyledon is an evergreen perennial of incredible beauty and well-balanced proportions. Fleshy leaves emerge in flat rosettes of spoon-shaped dark green leaves. Funnel-shaped flowers to 1 inch across are borne in compact panicles. The true species has candy-striped pink flowers. Hybrids bloom in shades from white to magenta.
The old-fashioned shamrock houseplant is now high fashion. Several introductions from Proven Winners push this group to the fore for its elegant foliage; abundant, delicate flowers; and vigor. Only 6 to 10 inches high with a spread to 12 inches, this plant’s tiny, ¾-inch-wide, bronze-colored leaf clusters and bright yellow flowers are massed on trailing stems that spill over the sides of shaded window boxes and containers.
This is a very fragrant native woodland phlox with powder-blue flowers in spring. Reaching only 1 foot tall, it can spread to almost 2 feet and makes an attractive groundcover under shrubs or planted with other spring-blooming wildflowers. Leaves are semi-evergreen and hairy; stems root along their length. The blue flowers are salverform with petal lobes. This plant attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
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.
This eye-catching perennial has silver-plated leaves with speckled margins. Its blooms are among the largest of all lungworts, beginning as pink buds and opening in early spring to display platinum blue flowers.
This plant will eventually form a decent-sized mound that resembles a mountain of liquid silver. It's perfect in a woodland border and makes a great ground cover and container plant. In mild winters, its leaves may stay evergreen.
‘Bertram Anderson’ is an older cultivar of lungwort with excellent foliage. In early spring, pink buds open to bright blue flowers, then silver-spotted leaves unfurl for a season-long show. Lungworts can have mildew problems, but ‘Bertram Anderson’ is highly resistant. When you cut off the old foliage in late winter, wear gloves; the tiny hairs all over the leaves (which keep the deer away) can irritate your skin. -Irvin Etienne, Fine Gardening #147 (October 2012), page 72
10 Outstanding Succulents
Skip the finicky selections and go for these unique yet reliable beauties
by Maureen Gilmer
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
Q&A Ground covers to avoid
by Nancy Ondra
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