1. Silver Mullein
Name: Verbascum bombyciferum
Usda Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
Size: 3- to 4-foot-wide mounding rosettes with flower spikes to 6 feet tall
Conditions: Plant in full sun with well-drained soils.
This biennial forms loose rosettes of large, blue-gray leaves that are covered in fine white hairs and that offer luminosity matched by few plants during early hours of twilight. In its first year, mounds of brilliant, feltlike foliage provide a stunning contrast to other plants. In the second year, woolly silver candelabralike spikes emerge in early to midsummer, becoming dotted with canary yellow flowers until early autumn. Allow the flower spikes to mature and set seed that will self-sow in open gravelly soils and sunny barren areas. Don’t worry about too many seedlings: Unwanted plants are easily removed. While silver mullein is tolerant of sandy and rocky soils, avoid overly fertile conditions, or the flower spikes will flop.
2. Gold Brocade Hardy Jasmine
Name: Trachelospermum asiaticum ‘Ogon Nishiki’
Zones: 7 to 10
Size: Climbing to 10 to 12 feet
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil
Any jasmine is an exotic gem when added to the garden, but gold brocade hardy jasmine is a priceless treasure. Often thought of for fragrant flowers, this selection is a stunning foliage plant. New growth emerges in vivid tones of reddish orange and amber fading to gold and finally maturing to a creamy butter yellow. Through most of the growing season, all of these colors can be found on this evergreen vine. It is reluctant to flower as a ground cover, so allow it to climb a trellis or old stump to encourage fragrant, pinwheel-shaped, ivory blooms.
3. Goldilocks Japanese White Pine
Name: Pinus parviflora ‘Tenysu-kazu’ (syn. ‘Goldilocks’)
Zones: 5 to 9
Size: 6 to 8 feet tall and wide in 10 years
Conditions: Full sun to light shade; prefers well-drained soil
A sensational small pine with vibrantly colored new growth, this Japanese white pine was first introduced under its original name of ‘Tenysu-kazu’. Later, it was reimported and renamed ‘Goldylocks’ and typically sold under the popular, but misspelled name ‘Goldilocks’. New growth is a gleaming primrose yellow from late spring to early summer, then the needles soften to bright blue-green gently brushed with creamy gold. The colored needles accentuate the crooked, windswept growth habit and gracefully layered branching. It’s stunning as a container plant; its slow growth and unusual habit make for a dramatic focal point, creating a prized specimen in any setting.
4. ‘Shindeshojo’ Japanese Maple
Name: Acer palmatum ‘Shindeshojo’
Zones: 6 to 9
Size: 10 to 12 feet tall and wide in 10 years
Conditions: Open or bright shade to dappled light: rich, well-drained soils
Some plants create an unforgettable moment in the garden. Shindeshojo maple is one of them. In mid-spring, as the buds begin to break, flaming red leaves quickly expand to reveal a shockingly hot pink canopy of foliage. At its glorious peak, it is a beacon of brilliance to rival any flowering tree or shrub. The small leaves mature to a bright green and cast a light shade for the summer, but then have a lovely red and orange autumn color late in the season. The small stature of this tree makes it easy to work into any size garden. Avoid full sun or hot afternoon sun. Water regularly during prolonged dry weather.
Photos, except where noted: millettephotomedia.com; Joshua McCullough; courtesy of Richie Steffen