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A native of Japan, andromeda (Pieris japonica) is a handsome broadleaf evergreen shrub that makes an ideal foundation or specimen plant. It’s a slow-growing shrub that can reach 10 feet tall if left unpruned. In the early spring, andromeda develops arching clusters of white flowers that resemble lily-of-the-valley blooms (there are also pink-flowering forms, as well as types that have reddish or pinkish new growth). The plants’ deer-resistant leaves are glossy green all year long.
A relative of rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries, and mountain laurel, andromeda does best in a sheltered location that has rich, slightly acidic soil in partial sun. Avoid planting it in an open, exposed windy location.
Anemones are lovely, delicate flowers that dance atop slender stems, giving them their poetic common name -- windflower. Depending on the type, anemones bloom in spring, summer, or through fall with pretty, slightly cupped flowers in rose, pink, or white rising over distinctive, deeply lobed foliage.
Plants grow best in partial shade but tolerate full sun in Northern regions. If you're lucky, they'll be happy where they're planted. In some cases, you may even need to divide plants frequently to prevent them from overtaking neighboring perennials.
Anemones naturalize easily in good garden soil, spreading their early-spring cheer in the ephemeral garden under bare trees and shrubs that later leaf out. These daisylike blooms feature thin, silky petals that quickly disperse in the breeze after flowering. A color range of white, sky blue, pink to the velvety reds and purples of poppy anemones provide jewellike tones for early in the season before the tulips open.
Soak anemone corms in warm water overnight before planting to speed sprouting. These hardy Mediterranean natives flourish in a well-drained, lighter soil in full sun to partial shade.
Angel's trumpet is a heat-loving tropical or subtropical shrub that likes warm (80 -85 degrees F) days and cool nights. In cold-winter regions, you can grow it in a container and take it indoors over winter or simply treat it as an exotic, amazing annual. Grow it in moist, well-drained soil. Its fragrant, trumpet-shape flowers dangle from upright stems and appear in shades of white, yellow, pink, orange, and cream.
Note: All parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten, and the plant has been banned in some communities. Check local restrictions before planting it.
Angelica is a tall, hardy biennial herb with dramatic stalks that can be candied and used on cakes or cookies. The first year, the plant produces beautiful frilly green foliage. The second year, angelica sends up flower stalks and then produces seeds. The flowers and foliage make a dramatic back-of-the-border accent in perennial beds. The celery-flavor stems may be eaten raw or candied for use in baking. Use the dried root in tea. Plants might self-sow, but plant new angelica each year to ensure a constant supply. Grow it in full sun or dappled shade in rich, organic soil.
Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you'll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but they're studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It's the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections.
While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.
Annual phlox is a native wildflower in areas of Texas. As such, you can guess it's a wonderfully heat- and drought-tolerant variety. In late spring and summer, it shows off clusters of red, pink, lavender, or white flowers.
Because it's easy to grow and puts on such a great display, it's a good choice for beginning gardeners who have to tackle a hot, dry spot. Remove the flower clusters as they fade to encourage more blooms and pinch the plants back in summer if they start to get leggy.
Old-fashioned annual statice is found more often dried in crafts stores than growing in gardens. But this easy-to-grow plant is a great pick for containers or the middle of a border, especially if you want to harvest it for everlasting bouquets indoors.
Statice bears papery flowers in a wide variety of colors. The flowers dry well -- so much so they practically dry on the plant. The plant is also very drought-tolerant, so you can enjoy its blooms even if you forget to water it from time to time. In fact, statice thrives in hot, sunny spots with well-drained soil. Plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Resembling a miniature snapdragon, toadflax is a great choice to bring color to the garden early in the season when you're most starved for it. In areas with cool summers, annual toadflax blooms from spring to fall. In warmer areas, the blooms fade come hot weather. Shear them back by about half. If the weather isn't too hot, they may rebloom in fall.
Toadflax grows well in the ground, but also try it in containers, especially with pansies, bulbs, and other early-season stars.
You've gotta love annual vinca -- it really delivers. It will tolerate a wide variety of conditions and still keep it up with almost unreal-looking, glossy green flowers and pretty pink, lavender, or red flowers that look like tiny parasols.
Whether the summer is dry or wet, hot or cold, vinca plugs along unfazed. It makes a great container plant. Or plant it in a bed or border, grouping at least eight or more together for best effect.
Plant established seedlings in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Vinca withstands drought but does best with moderate moisture. Fertilize occasionally. Like impatiens, this plant tends to be "self-cleaning" and needs little deadheading.
Shown above: Pretty in Pink vinca
Apple is the most widely adapted of all temperate-zone fruit trees. A copious producer if it's planted in full sun and well-drained soil, a mature tree will supply several families with bushels of fruit. Many cultivars have chilling requirements that must be met for fruits to develop properly. Choose a cultivar that will thrive in your climate. Also, plant two or more cultivars that bloom at the same time to ensure cross-pollination and a variety of fruits, or choose a self-pollinating cultivar if you have room for just one tree.
Arborvitae will flourish where no other evergreen does, spreading a lush screen of fan-like foliage that provides privacy and gives winter shelter to the birds. For garden sculptors, arborvitae offers just the right texture and growth habit for topiaries. Many dwarf varieties are available as fillers and vertical accents for smaller gardens. Arborvitae prospers in deeply cultivated, moist and fertile soil in full sun.
Arrowhead is an easy-care water plant perfect for adding a tropical feel to water gardens. This tough perennial bears attractive, arrow-shaped foliage and clusters of three-petaled white flowers. The leaves grow longer and more tapered in deeper water. Arrowhead can be an aggressive spreader. To control growth, confine this plant to containers when placed in a pond.
Arrowhead vine is a lush foliage plant that holds its variegation well in low light. Young plants usually remain compact mounds of foliage in various shades of green, bronze, and pink. As plants age, they develop more of a vining growth habit. Cut them back to keep them compact, or train them onto a moss pole. Arrowhead vine grows well in low to medium light with average room temperature. Keep the soil evenly moist. It is sometimes called nephthytis.
Grow artemisias for the magnificent silver foliage that complements nearly all other perennials and ties together diverse colors within the garden. They're nothing short of stunning next to white or blue flowers.
They thrive in hot, dry, sunny conditions such as a south-facing slope. A number spread rapidly to the point of being aggressive, so consider limiting yourself to varieties listed below that are well-behaved.
This delicacy has been prized by gourmands for decades and fetches top prices at supermarkets. In warmer climates, though, it grows like a weed (in fact, in Mediterranean regions it is a weed, growing wild in hot, dry spots). Best of all, when you grow your own, you can harvest while the bracts are still small and extremely tender.
The edible parts of this relative of the thistle are actually flower buds. Steam or boil the green bracts ("leaves" enclosing the flower bud), and scoop out the fleshy inner side of each bract. The most highly desired part of the vegetable is the heart, positioned at the base of the bracts, below the hairy center. In Zones 8-10, set out transplants in fall. In all other areas, sow seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost, and move plants outdoors early enough to receive at least 10 days of temperatures above freezing but below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. (Plants must be exposed to cold in order to bloom.)
This delicious salad green fetches top dollar at the supermarket, but you can grow it for pennies at home. It has an intriguing, spicy, nutty flavor that gourmets love. Make a salad of arugula only or mix it with other greens.
Arugula grows best in cool weather, becoming peppery and bitter when weather turns hot. Full heads mature in five to six weeks; baby greens may be harvested after three weeks of growth.
The magnificent shade tree that has it all: tolerance for difficult soils and conditions; spectacular purple, red, orange, or gold fall color; and a stately silhouette. Shapes range from broad-domed to narrow teardrop, but most ash varieties will require a large, open space to become the crowning glory of your landscape. Ashes are good choices for dry or alkaline soils.
Add a touch of the exotic to your vegetable garden with Asian greens. They come in a fascinating array of colors and textures. Some have curled or rounded leaves, while others produce feathery, deeply lobed leaves. Leaf colors range, too, from deep red to light green. Flavors vary from mild to spicy, so experiment -- an easy thing to do because they're fast and easy to grow from an inexpensive packet of seeds.
Plant Asian greens in early spring or late summer so that plants will mature in cool weather.
This early-spring treat is one of the few perennial vegetable crops, so once you get a patch established, it will give you many years of delicious harvests for little work.
Growing asparagus can take time, but it's well worth the effort. Grow asparagus in well-drained soil with a neutral pH. (Add lime to the soil if it is acidic.) Asparagus is usually planted in trenches from two-year-old plants called crowns. You can also start it from seed, but it will take an extra year or two to reach harvestable size.