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Arching stems covered in bell-shape flowers in late spring to early summer make weigela a traditional favorite for mixed shrub borders and backgrounds. But there's a bevy of new varieties that also flaunt flashy foliage in shades of gold, green, white, and rose for a season-long spectacle. Sizes range from vigorous 6-foot shrubs to very compact varieties well suited to mingling with perennials. Weigela likes a fertile, well-drained soil in full sun with adequate water, but it will also tolerate drier soils and partial shade.
Wild ginger is a workhorse of a groundcover, spreading readily with beautifully glossy, slightly heart-shape leaves. It must have shade and moist but well-drained soil to thrive, but with the right conditions this native plant is indispensable, doing well where many other plants wouldn't.
In spring it bears purplish maroon bell-shape blooms mostly hidden in the foliage.
There's a willow for every gardener. If you don't have room for a weeping willow tree, consider one of the fantastic shrub varieties. Most shrubby willows are prized for their beautiful, limber branches that dance with every gust of wind. There are a variety of shrubby willows, but perhaps the best for the landscape is dwarf arctic willow (Salix purpurea 'Nana'). This little charmer has red-tinged shoots with rich blue-green leaves. And in the spring, small green catkins dangle from the branches.
Willows are tolerant of poor, wet soil and grow well in full sun or part shade. The vigorous plants are easily pruned into hedge form if desired.
These buttercup relatives spread their sunny goblet flowers in woodland borders in early spring. In fact, for many gardeners, they're the spring season's first flower. Winter aconites aren't as widely known or used as crocus, but are equally charming when they pop up in very early spring. Aconites spread easily in humus-rich soil and can be planted either as tubers or seed. The cup-shaped flowers are surrounded by a fringed collar of long leaves.
Winter squashes are a welcome late summer and fall addition to seasonal meals. Stuff them, roast them, bake them, or turn them into hearty soups and stews. And grow plenty, because they store beautifully for months at room temperature. Winter squashes come in an amazing array of shapes and colors. All need rich, fertile soil and adequate heat and water to produce their best. In cool-summer areas lay black plastic mulch over the planting beds to warm the soil and sow seeds or set transplants through holes in the plastic. Provide 1 to 2 inches of water per week through the growing season. Give the plants an extra dose of fertilizer once the vines begin to run.
An American native evergreen groundcover, Gaultheria procumbens, also called wintergreen, requires a shady location with rich, organic soil to thrive. This low-growing shrub spreads by underground runners. It can be difficult to get established unless you can offer it a cool, moist climate with acidic soil. The plants produce white blooms in the summer that eventually turn into handsome and edible bright red berries that attract birds and other wildlife. Leaves are glossy green all year long and release a minty fragrance when crushed.
Tired of impatiens? Try this enchanting little wishbone flower, also dubbed clown flower for its vividly marked flowers that are said to resemble the face of a clown. It's a wonderful, relatively new choice for shade. The flower shape resembles tiny snapdragons, mouths wide open and showing off delicate throats marked with a contrasting color.
Torenia grows easily from seed sown indoors in pots or outdoors in the ground. This little clown flower blooms nonstop until frost.
Make a statement with wisteria; this vine is a showstopper in spring when it bears its hanging, grapelike clusters of fragrant blooms. Some varieties have huge flower clusters -- to 2 feet! In fall, the foliage takes on cheery yellow tones, too.
Wisteria is a great choice for adding privacy to sturdy pergolas. Note: Some types of wisteria are considered invasive pests; check for any local restrictions before planting it.
Also: All parts of this plant, especially the seeds, are poisonous.
Add a brilliant splash of color to your autumn landscape with witch hazels. These shrubs feature fantastic fall color in shades of gold, orange, and red. Better yet, they bloom -- usually when other plants are done. Chinese witch hazel blooms in winter; vernal witch hazel blooms in early spring, and common witch hazel blooms in late autumn. The fragrant flowers appear in shades of red, orange, and yellow, and have a spidery appearance.
All witch hazels do best in a spot that gets full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter.
Fuzzy gray-green leaves give woolly stemodia its name. In bright sun, this creeping groundcover's leaves appear almost white. Native to Texas and northern Mexico, it thrives in dry, sandy soil. Plant it in a mixed border where it can ramble among the nearby plants. Or add it to a container planting where it will spill over the edge of the pot. In mild winter areas, it will stay green year-round. In other areas, it will die back but quickly unfurl new leaves when spring hits.
Yarrow is one of those plants that give a wildflower look to any garden. In fact, it is indeed a native plant and, predictably, it's easy to care for. In some gardens, it will thrive with almost no care, making it a good candidate for naturalistic plantings in open areas and along the edges of wooded or other wild places.
Its colorful, flat-top blooms rise above clusters of ferny foliage. The tough plants resist drought, are rarely eaten by deer and rabbits, and spread moderately quickly, making yarrow a good choice for massing in borders or as a groundcover. If deadheaded after its first flush of blooms fade, yarrow will rebloom. If left to dry on the plant, flower clusters of some types provide winter interest. Flowers of yarrow are excellent either in fresh or dried arrangements.
Bring on the heat and dry conditions: Yellow bells blooms through the challenges nature throws at it. Native to the North American Southwest, this tough plant has spectacular yellow trumpet-shape blooms from late spring through fall. Grow it as a shrub, using it to screen unsightly views or add color to a mixed border, or plant it in a container to add instant size and structure to your container planting. It grows best in full sun or part shade and well-drained soil. In Zone 8, yellow bells may die back to the ground in winter.
Yellow wax-bells offer a stunning change of pace for fall gardens. The plant's dramatic dark stems are clothed with handsome 8-inch lobed leaves. From late summer into fall, nodding clusters of pale yellow, waxy bell flowers arise. Provide a sheltered position out of the wind where the soil is high in humus and retains moisture.
Dark green color and fine-textured needles make yews a softer, often hardier, replacement for other evergreens in the landscape. The tall, stately English yews are must-haves for garden history buffs in temperate climates. Otherwise, the intermediate hybrids and Japanese yews offer plush texture for hedges, screens, groundcovers, and topiaries. Yews grow in fertile well-drained soil, either alkaline or acidic, from sunny to heavily shaded sites. Yews are tolerant of dry soils and air pollution. The clear red berries appear on female varieties.
A yucca in bloom is a showstopper. It produces imposing spires of large, bird-attracting white flowers in summer and fall. The evergreen rosettes of stiff, sharply pointed leaves, often variegated with cream or white, are striking. Use them to punctuate the end of a walkway, mass them as a barrier, or plant them as accents throughout the border. Be careful not to site them away from paths or other places people could be scratched by their sharp leaves. Free-draining soil and sun is all yuccas require.
This plant is also sometimes called Hesperoyucca.
Zeezee plant tolerates low light and neglect, and still looks great. It forms a cluster of thick, fleshy leafstalks that are so glossy that they almost appear artificial. Although the plant tolerates low light, it will grow better in medium to bright light. Grow it at average room temperature and keep the soil moderately dry. It is sometimes called eternity plant because it is long lasting.
Want fast color for just pennies? Plant zinnias! A packet of seeds will fill an area with gorgeous flowers in an amazing array of shapes and colors -- even green! And it will happen in just weeks. There are dwarf types of zinnias, tall types, quill-leaf cactus types, spider types, multicolor, special seed blends for cutting, special blends for attracting butterflies, and more.
Zinnias are so highly attractive to butterflies that you can count on having these fluttering guests dining in your garden every afternoon. But to attract the most, plant lots of tall, red or hot pink zinnias in a large patch. 'Big Red' is especially nice for this, and the flowers are outstanding, excellent for cutting. Zinnias grow quickly from seed sown right in the ground and do best in full sun with dry to well-drained soil.
Like its dogwood relatives, bunchberry has flowers surrounded by showy white bracts in spring. After flowering, small bunches of bright red, edible berries appear in late summer. Foliage turns bright yellow to red in autumn.
The essence of low-maintenance, goldenstar is also sometimes called green-and-gold for its combination of attractive green foliage and upward-facing star-shape yellow blooms. So attractive, and so little work!
It forms a spreading mat in sun or partial shade but does not spread invasively.