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Satiny deep green to black leaves and glowing white veins on 18-inch-long leaves make this elephant's ear great in containers, in a shady border, at the edge of a pond, or as a houseplant. It also has pale stalks with purplish banding. 'Frydek' is very tolerant of a range of soil pH, heat, humidity, and heavy soil. It can even take about a half day of sunlight.
This 3-foot-tall canna from the 1920s has impossibly deep, pure-rose flowers recalling orchids and leis. It's an old French variety.
A great canna to start with if you're convinced you hate them is 'Madame Paul Caseneuve', from 1902. The pearly-bronze leaves and almost purple stems of this 3- to 5-foot-tall antique beauty are the perfect foil for its elegant, sensual flowers of soft pink shading to peach and apricot.
Growing to 6 or 7 feet, 'Sémaphore' features slender, dark-bronze leaves topped by spikes of narrow-petaled flowers of an unusual glowing color that's not quite yellow and not quite orange; perhaps flickering tongues of flame would be the best description. It is a Victorian classic from 1895.
Coleus are tender tropicals that are generally grown as annuals because they are hardy only in Zone 11. The variously shaped leaves of these popular bedding plants typically combine several colors, such as chartreuse, rust red, cream, and purple-black. Some cultivars sport almost all of these colors combined. The darker the red in the leaf, the more sun the plant will tolerate. Coleus blooms in summer, but the blue to white nettle-like flowers are unremarkable and tend to detract visually from the impact of the foliage. -Debra Lee Baldwin, Regional Picks: Southern California, Fine Gardening issue #127
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