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Sweet alyssum, with its dainty, fragrant flowers, is often used in containers and hanging baskets to spill over the edges, creating a soft, frothy look. It's also a great edging plant because of its tidy, compact habit. Regardless of how you use it, sweet alyssum does best in spring and fall's cool conditions (or use it for winter color in very warm climates).
In cool-summer conditions, such as the northern third of the United States, sweet alyssum will bloom steadily through the summer. It halts bloom in summer in warmer areas.
A plump, juicy cherry is a luxurious treat. Whether you grow sweet or sour cherries, plan to share a few with the wildlife in your area. This is usually not a problem as a mature tree will produce more fruit than one family can consume. When choosing a cherry tree, select for disease-resistance and small size. The smaller the tree, the easier it will be to harvest the fruit.
Sweet cherries grow in the coast valleys of California, near the Great Lakes, and in the Northwest. They thrive where winter and summer are mild. Sweet cherries require a pollinator so be sure to plant two varieties. Sour or pie cherries are easy to grow for most home gardeners. The hardy plants are adaptable and self-fertile -- you only need one plant for fruit set.
Sweet cicely is one of the few herbs that thrives in the shade. It prefers moist soil and cool temperatures. All parts of sweet cicely are edible and impart a slight anise flavor to recipes. Use the leaves either fresh or dried in salads. Seeds are sometimes substituted for caraway; roots may be peeled, boiled, and eaten as a vegetable. The plant grows 3 feet tall and wide with fernlike foliage. In late spring, sweet cicely bears clusters of attractive white flowers.
Although sweet flag looks like a grass, it is in a family by itself. Like grasses, though, sweet flags are grown for their textural foliage, especially the boldly variegated types. The plants grow best in moist soil and may even grow in several inches of standing water, making striking upright accents in water gardens or moist borders.
The sweet gum tree creates fireworks in the garden, with star-shape leaves that change to fiery hues in fall. The handsome foliage is glossy green spring through summer. This U.S. native possesses a narrow habit that opens up and rounds with age. A fragrant sap bleeds from the tree when the bark is wounded. Spiny seed balls form on the tree and persist through the winter months. Sweet gum thrives in moist, acidic soil with lots of organic matter.
Sweet peas are a gorgeous group of annual or perennial vines with colorful flowers. The annual types are the most common, and they bear large, often ruffled blooms in a rainbow of shades. Many are strongly fragrant, too -- so it's no wonder why they're such classic plants. Note: Though they're related to garden peas, sweet pea seeds are poisonous.
Sweet woodruff makes a big statement in the shade garden. In spring, the plants are smothered with white flowers and the foliage has a sweet, haylike fragrance. It makes a great groundcover for hard-to-plant dark corners of the landscape. Sweet woodruff can become invasive if given the right conditions. Plant it where you can control it easily. It does not tolerate drought.
When in bloom, this narrow, upright tree's fragrance will remind you of the sweet scent of plumeria. Sweetshade's yellow flowers debut in early summer, perfuming the entire landscape. The flowers are a creamy color when they open and darken to deep yellow with age. A good choice for small lots or streetside planting areas, sweetshade has a pleasing narrow habit. In time it will grow 40 feet tall and 20 feet wide.
Plant sweetshade in full sun or part shade and well-drained soil. It grows best with deep, infrequent watering. Prevent wayward growth and clusters of leaves at the branch tips by shortening branches by several inches to as much as a couple of feet after it blooms.
Ringing in spring in the Lone Star State and beyond, this bold purple-blue annual is known for its tenacity. It self-seeds, coming back year after year and thriving in drought-prone areas. In fact it languishes in moist soil. Plant it in fast-draining loam or gravelly soil. It is a great choice for a hillside.
Texas bluebonnet is native to areas of North America.
Shiny evergreen leaves and drooping clusters of lavender flowers make Texas mountain laurel popular in warm regions. Commonly grown as a shrub, it also can be pruned into a small tree. Its lush purple flowers have a strong grapelike fragrance that permeates the area around the plant. Some people find the fragrance overwhelming. To be cautious, plant Texas mountain laurel several feet from an entryway or window. It thrives in a variety of soils and is drought-tolerant. When in blooms in spring, it attracts butterflies.
Introduce scenery from the Greek Isles to your garden with lush plantings of thyme. This sun-loving, drought-tolerant herb carpets hillsides in Greece, thriving in well-drained soil. Drought conditions concentrate the aromatic oils in thyme, so the drier your growing conditions, the better. In your garden, tucking plants into raised beds or mulching them with gravel will give thyme the conditions that cause it to thrive and be flavorful.
The flowers beckon honeybees, so add thyme near vegetable gardens to assure an ample supply of pollinators. Shear plants back after bloom, cutting off about a third of stems. With dainty proportions, thyme suits containers or the tight growing quarters between stepping stones.
Thyme introduces a savory flavor to dishes, such as roasted vegetables, soups, and sauces. It is also a key ingredient in bouquet garni, fines herbes, and herbes de Provence. Use thyme to enhance poultry, beef, pork, or seafood. This herb also adds a kick to cheese and egg creations. Thyme's oils take time to be infused into dishes; add thyme early in the cooking process to release the greatest flavor.
Among the tallest of all tulips, Darwin Hybrids offer big, showy flowers that stand out in spring gardens. Blooms can reach 6 inches in diameter when fully open! They bloom in almost every color, including bicolors with striping, speckling, and edging. Their long stems make them great cut flowers, but that also means they need to be protected from wind so strong breezes don't snap the flowers off the stems.
Pictured above: Ad Rem tulip
Double-flowered tulips stand out because their blooms are packed with petals. Some have so many petals that they are referred to as peony-flowered tulips for their resemblance to those flowers. Bloom time depends on type; some bloom in early spring and others bloom late. Regardless of when they show off their flowers, the blossoms last a long time because the flowers have so much substance.
Double tulips' large, heavy blooms can be a drawback: Rains and strong winds easily damage the flowers, so plant them in a protected location. Or grow double tulips in containers that you can easily protect during storms. Staking the 10- to 16-inch-tall stems may also be necessary.
Pictured above: Uncle Tom tulip
Fosteriana tulips bloom early in the spring with large cup-shape flowers. The large bloom size has earned them the alternate name of Emperor tulips. The flowers may be red, orange, yellow, pink, or white, and some varieties are fragrant. Foliage may be glossy green or gray-green. Some are mottled or striped with maroon.
Use Fosteriana tulips in mass plantings, beds and borders, or containers. They naturalize well.
Pictured above: Orange Emporer tulip
Fringed tulips got their name from the distinct frayed edge on their petals. This fringe may be the same color as the rest of the petal or it may contrast. The fringe makes the flowers appear full of substance.
The frayed edging comes from mutations in tulips of various categories, so the blooming time and heights vary. Most bloom in mid to late season and can reach 30 inches tall. Flower colors come in the same range as other tulips -- red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and black.
Pictured above: Hamilton tulip
Greigii tulips are also known as Greig's tulips and Turkestan tulips, a reference to the geographic origin of the species from which these hybrids derive. They are shorter than most tulips, averaging about 10 inches tall. Flowers appear in midspring. Most varieties are bright shades of red, yellow, pink, white, or bicolor combinations of these hues. The foliage tends to be mottled in purple, creating additional texture in the garden.
Because greigii tulips are short, they're perfect for the front of the border, rock gardens, or container plantings. They naturalize well.
Pictured above: Rob Verlinden tulip
Lily-flowered tulips are named for the shape of their blooms, which resemble old species tulips from Turkey. Their long, pointed petals arch outward and, when fully open, look like a six-point star. They come in a wide array of colors including purple, pink, white, orange, red, yellow, peach, and combinations of these shades. Most varieties bloom late in the spring season.
Stems of lily-flowered tulips grow 1-2 feet tall. They are not as sturdy as some other tulip types, so plant them in a location protected from strong winds.
Pictured above: Ballade tulip
Parrot tulips are flamboyant with their curly, twisted, and fringed petals that resemble the colorful feathers of the tropical bird of the same name. However, their beak-shape buds are what earned them their moniker. Nearly all varieties of parrot tulip are vibrantly colored, and many are two-toned.
Parrot tulips bloom mid- to late season on stems ranging from 12 to 28 inches tall. Their huge blooms do not stand up well in windstorms or rain, so plant them in a sheltered location.
Pictured above: Flaming Parrot
Single early tulips are available in nearly every color of the rainbow, including white, red, orange, yellow, and purple. Pastel colors of pink, peach, apricot, and cream are also available. Generally, the flowers are borne on short, strong stems, which means they can tolerate wind and rain better than some types of tulips. Those with the shortest stems may not work well as cut flowers, but those in the taller range make fine bouquets. Some varieties are fragrant, too.
Use single early tulips in flowerbeds, borders, container gardens, rock gardens, or for indoor forcing. Because they bloom early, they generally need less chilling to force them into bloom than later-blooming types.
Shown above: Purple Prince tulip
Single late tulips are also sometimes called May flowering tulips because in most regions they bloom in May after all other types of tulips have finished. These tall tulips grow up to 30 inches tall, making them excellent as cut flowers. They come in a wide range of colors, including red, yellow, orange, pink, purple, black, and white as well as bicolors and blends.
Pictured above: Dreamland tulip