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This exemplary species has felted, gray, crinkled leaves. Over a long period, it exhibits sprays of butterfly-shaped, rich wine-red flowers, which contrast dramatically with the foliage. Its small stature makes it a perfect candidate for a container or a walkway edge. It has been used medicinally for the treatment of various infections, including bronchitis. It is a native of Africa.
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.
With its deep purple-black leaves and brilliant summer blooms, 'Bishop of Llandaff' is a fine addition to the sunny bed or border. The 4- to 6-inch-round red-petaled flowers have deep purple and yellow centers, which are set off nicely by the plant's dark foliage. Use this long-stemmed cultivar in cut-flower arrangements. -Gerald Gibbens, Regional Picks: Northwest, Fine Gardening issue#120
This New Zealand flax has dark reddish brown leaves that form a neat clump less than 2 feet tall and about as wide. It makes a great container plant.
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