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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 annual grass produces deep pink flowers that resemble rabbits' tails. Flowers persist throughout the season. It forms a tidy, evergreen clump, 2 feet high and 3 feet wide.
This annual produces deep reddish-black flowers that resemble rabbits' tails. Flowers persist throughout the season. This plant forms an evergreen clump of green foliage with burgundy highlights, 2 feet high and 3 feet wide.
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.
Native to South Africa, this non-invasive evergreen species produces showy pink flowers in spring, which are held 2 to 3 feet above the foliage on stiff, wiry stalks.
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.
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 vigorous but noninvasive perennial flowers from early summer into autumn with crimson blossoms to 6 inches long. Its leaves are dark green, arrow-shaped, and slightly puckered. It grows to 4 feet high and wide.
This massive herbaceous shrub needs a lot of room to show off its vase-shaped form, but it does not spread or self-sow like some of its relatives. It blooms close to the ground from June and continues throughout the summer atop 6-foot-tall stems. The large, white, astilbe-like blossoms fade to pink and then reddish-brown as the season comes to a close.
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.
Many gardeners know ninebark as an undistinguished shrub with ordinary green leaves, white flowers, and fall fruit. But 'Seward,' sold under the trademark name Summer WineTM, has outstanding burgundy leaves and pink flowers that bloom in early summer. This plant is super tough and makes a stunning focal point in a summer border.
Dark green, 4- to 6-inch-long needles and furrowed bark (on mature trees) make Austrian pine an attractive large specimen tree. It can also be used as screening, although its growth habit becomes more open with age.
This robust evergreen tree has a narrowly columnar crown with ascending branches, slender gray-green leaves, and smooth gray bark. Tapered green female cones ripen to brown.
This North American native bears deep blue or occasionally white, bell-shaped blossoms in spring and possibly late summer if deadheaded. It grows from 1 to 3 feet tall. Use Jacob's ladder in a lightly shaded border, rock garden, woodland, or cottage garden.
This dramatic cultivar has bright green leaves that are richly edged with cream. It bears lavender-blue blossoms in spring, and grows from 1.5 to 2 feet tall.
This North American native bears light blue bell-shaped blossoms in spring to early summer. It has a lax, sprawling habit to 1.5 feet tall. The leaflets are arranged like the rungs of a ladder, hence the common name.
This variegated cultivar offers white-edged leaves with pink tints on a compact plant to 1.5 feet tall. It bears light lavender-blue bell-shaped blossoms in spring.
'Schubert' choke cherry, with its vivid foliage and pyramidal form, makes a fine focal point. Ephemeral, light pink flowers are followed by abundant, dark red-purple fruit that birds love. (Don't plant it near patios or walks, as they'll quickly be covered by bird droppings.) If the tree you buy isn't grafted onto nonsuckering rootstock; otherwise, suckers could become problematic as the years go by. -Ron Smith, Regional Picks: Upper Plains, Fine Gardening issue #120
This easy-to-grow, pest-resistant pear resembles a Bradford pear in size and shape, with profuse white blooms in spring and great crisp fruit. There are 30 cultivars.
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
Dividing a ground cover
by Liana Mackey
Plants for Pathways
These durable creeping perennials discourage weeds and soften the look of a walkway
by Marty Wingate
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