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This New Zealand native subshrub has 3-inch-wide scalloped leaves and little purple-brown to pale olive leaflets. Its rhizomatous roots spread in a mat to support this plant's wonderful ground-cover form. In early summer, 3/4-inch-wide flowers appear on short stems, and brownish green sepals and white anthers contrast with the dark leaves. The rhizomatous roots of this plant spread slowly into a mat, forming a nice ground cover. Prune every five years or so for a neat appearance; little other care is required. -Gerald Gibbens, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
This spreading shrub is grown for its multi-colored, toothed, oval leaves. Use it as a houseplant or as an annual or container plant outdoors where it is not hardy. Flowers are small, green or pinkish, and generally not noteworthy.
This spreading shrub from tropical and subtropical regions can reach 6 feet tall. It is grown as a houseplant or as an annual outdoors where it's not hardy. Its oval leaves are splashed with red, green, and yellow and its long, fuzzy flowers are borne periodically throughout the year, although they are somewhat hidden. Acalypha wilkesiana 'Tricolor' can be grown in a warm greenhouse, in a border, or as a specimen or hedging plant (especially in warm areas).
This chocolate-leaved cultivar up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide bears compact spikes of white flowers in late summer. This plant may languish in very warm temperatures. The flowers remain ornamental for three to four weeks.
Unlike other bugbanes, 'Hillside Black Beauty' offers deep purple-black foliage. From late spring to late summer, its dark hue makes a wonderful backdrop for colorful foliage and flowering shade plants. In fall, fragrant, cream-colored flowers appear on tall, wandlike stems. An added plus: this plant is deer resistant. --Michael Ruggiero, Regional Picks: Mid-Atlantic, Fine Gardening issue #127
The "flowers" of black rose. are actually rosettes of burgundy-black leaves at the ends of stalklike stems. In winter, bright yellow flowers contrast with the dark foliage. 'Zwartkop' is a wonderful backdrop plant that can show off many companion plants to maximum advantage. -Jeff Moore, Regional Picks: Southwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
This dark-leaved, tropical foliage plant loves heat, and is useful spreading through a bed, border, or in a container where its deep purple leaves can contrast with brightly colored flowers or foliage. Alternanthera are native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of Central and South America. Their flowers are generally an afterthought. This plant works well for edging, as an annual groundcover, or in a formal knot garden.
A. ficoidea ‘Red Threads’ is a slender-leaved perennial selection that doesn't wander, forming a textured carpet in shades of deep burgundy. A single plant makes a mound about 8 inches tall and 14 inches wide. It blooms on and off all year, but you may never notice. The small, pale flower buttons are held in the leaf axils, where they are nearly indistinguishable from the foliage unless you're paying close attention. Use 'Red Threads' at the base of taller plants in the border to provide vibrant color echoes or contrasts. Grow as a warm-season annual in cooler climates, mass the plants in beds, or use in a formal knot garden as the Victorians did.
'Yellow Form' Alternanthera is an easy-to-grow, tropical plant with a fast-spreading habit and pointed, chartreuse-yellow leaves. It forms a mat of color from spring's frost-free date to fall's first frost. Like others of this genus, it makes a great edging, bedding, or container plant. In formal landscapes, it can be used in a knot garden. It looks great with dark-leaved plants.
This hardy annual has vibrant, ornamental red, yellow, and green foliage that lends a tropical effect to the garden. Small flowers, borne from summer to early autumn, are inconspicuous in comparison to the effect of the foliage. Cultivars feature yellow and maroon-shaded leaves, but the species still offers the showiest foliage.
This is the bronze-purple form of the common Queen Anne's lace. It produces beautiful, highly fringed, lacy foliage in a dusky purple.
This is a dwarf astilbe with attractive red-green leaves and reddish pink flowers in broad, dense conical groups. Its blooms appear mostly in summer.
Here's a fern with an upright habit and silvery fronds that give it a ghostly look, hence the name. Emerging new fronds have a shimmering whitish color that darkens slowly to a silvery green with burgundy accents. 'Ghost' spreads slowly by shallow rhizomes, eventuallly becoming an excellent ground cover. -Matt Griswold, Regional Picks: Northeast, Fine Gardening issue #127
This fern has cool, grey-green, almost silvery, foliage and reddish-purple stalks that are useful for brightening dark spots in borders. It is deciduous, and although it reaches only 8 to 12 inches in height, it is easy to grow, prolific, and easily divided.
'Burgundy Lace' is a real showstopper in shady borders and containers, with its silvery purple-bronze fronds. The low-growing clumps are a good choice for edging pathways, and the plant looks terrific when planted in groups. 'Burgundy Lace' grows best in humus-rich, moist soil but will also adapt to conditions that are less than ideal. -Chris Kelley, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue #120
The broad silvery leaves of ‘Ursula’s Red’ have a showy burgundy band at the center of the leaves in spring. This plant can double in size in a single growing season, as it spreads from rhizomes. Though deer do like it, it may simply grow more fronds and not show any lasting damage. --Michael Ruggiero, Regional Picks: Mid-Atlantic, Fine Gardening issue #127
Unlike many other shade garden plants with their cool blue colors, 'Cowardly Lion' rex begonia offers rich warm tones. Chocolate-colored leaf veins veil the golden leaves, which become darker with age and make a fine counterpoint to yellow-based foliage plants. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
'Escargot' takes its name from the snail-like curl pattern at the base of the leaf. The foliage is striking enough to stand on its own but it's a good mixer, too. Use it with other foliage plants and brightly colored blooms. This is an extremely popular Rex hybrid begonia. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
Like other Rex begonias, 'Fireworks' is noteworthy for the coloration of its foliage. Its silvery leaves are edged in purple and have a black burst of fireworks in the center. Use it in a container or shady garden, or grow it as a houseplant. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
'Marmaduke' Rex begonia sports chocolate-colored speckles across golden leaves. The earth tones of 'Marmaduke' go well with solid-colored foliage plants and yellow or rusty-hued blooms. -Rita Randolph, Rex begonias, Fine Gardening issue #120
10 Outstanding Succulents
Skip the finicky selections and go for these unique yet reliable beauties
by Maureen Gilmer
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
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