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This deciduous shrub is related to the forsythia, but differs in that it has white (rather than yellow) flowers that open in early spring before true forsythia. It is a member of the olive family (Oleaceae). In early spring, before the new leaves form, purplish buds all along the grey naked branches open into small white four-petaled, almond-scented flowers with yellow stamens. After flowering, green, glossy abelia-like leaves appear.
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).
Acanthus mollis is prized for its bold clumps of shiny green leaves topped with striking, 3-foot-tall spires of white flowers which are clasped by showy purple bracts. This is a great plant for an eye-catching structural element in a part-shade border.
With their white margins and mottling, the jagged leaves of 'Tasmanian Angel' are a real showshopper, and in late summer, 3-foot-tall, pink-and-cream flower stalks heighten the effect. The variegation may be less pronounced as the leaves age, but the plant still draws the eye. Use it as a multiseason container specimen or as a bedding plant. -Allan Armitage, Plants to know and grow, Fine Gardening issue #119
This round, mound-forming, deciduous Japanese maple has many qualities that make it an excellent garden plant, including a sculptural form, deeply cut foliage, arching shoots, and golden autumn color. The reddish purple flowers are tiny but attractive up close. They are followed by winged fruit. Threadleaf Japanese maple makes a beautiful specimen in small gardens and can be grown in large containers or used for bonsai.
'Apricot Delight' has deep reddish apricot blooms that then mature to a pale salmon, and they harmonize well with other colors. 'Apricot Delight' has a long blooming season (from early to late summer, with deadheading). This cultivar is smaller than most yarrows, and the blooms make nice cut flowers. -Allan Armitage, Plants to know and grow, Fine Gardening issue #121
This 3-foot-tall and 2-foot-wide clumping perennial displays spiky racemes of white flowers in late spring and early summer followed by bright white berries with dark tips on bright red stalks. The berries are exceptionally showy and especially effective in shady woodland beds.
Actaea racemosa is a native woodland perennial with white, somewhat fuzzy flowers in midsummer that wave above astilbe-like, deeply cut foliage. The flowers can be unpleasantly scented, thus the name "bugbane." Formerly in the genus Cimicifuga, this plant is great for use in a woodland garden or moist border.
Actaea rubra bears white flowers from spring to early summer on plants up to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide. In late summer, glossy red berries develop. A few cultivars exist. This woodland perennial is native to the U.S.
This clumping woodland perennial with deep green foliage up to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide bears spikes of fragrant white flowers 1 to 2 feet long in fall. Cultivars exist with varying leaf colors and forms.
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
Variegated kiwi vine is an attractive woody vine that tolerates shade. The male has lovely pink, white, and green variegated leaves and small flowers that are fragrant and cream-covered. This species needs both a male and female plant to produce its sweet, grape-sized fruit. The fruits have no fuzz, and the skin is soft and tender. Best fruit production is achieved in full sun. The cultivar 'Arctic Beauty' has smaller leaves but is hardy to Zone 3.
The southern maidenhair fern has fluffy, airy, and elegant foliage, which works equally well in containers or in open ground. It's a perfect plant for providing light, airy texture to shady beds. -Tom Nelson, Regional Picks: Northern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
Northern maidenhair fern's curved fronds have wiry black stems that wave in the wind. This plant spreads slowly (by branching rhizomes) and eventually forms large colonies. Its delicate texture looks most beautiful when paired with broad-leaved plants. -June Hutson, Regional Picks: Midwest, Fine Gardening issue# 127
Elegant, lacy foliage on black stems makes this maidenhair fern a standout, even among others in the genus. In addition, when new fronds emerge in late winter or early spring, they are bright bronze-pink. Only about a foot high, Himalayan maidenhair ferns can spread by creeping rhizomes to form a sizeable colony. They also make eye-catching indoor plants and pair well with orchids.
This is an erect, bushy perennial with scented gray-green leaves. Its raspberry-red flowers grow on loose, foot-long spikes from midsummer to late fall. The flower spikes have a long bloom period and attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insects.
A classic plant for both herb gardens and borders, anise hyssop is composed of erect branches of mint-and-licorice-scented, medium green leaves ending in fuzzy spikes of small lavender flowers. The plant grows to 3 to 5 feet tall and 1 foot wide and reseeds freely. The flowers are edible and are charming crumbled into salads. The flowers are highly attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
This 4-foot-tall and 18-ich-wide, bushy perennial, very similar to the more common anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) has strongly mint-and-licorice-scented leaves and short spikes of lavender-blue flowers from midsummer to early fall. Unlike most agastaches, both of these species can tolerate more moisture and humity, making them highly suited to climates outside the arid west.
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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