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There's nothing subtle about an African marigold, and thank goodness for that! It's a big, flamboyant, colorful punch of color for the sunny bed, border, or large container. Most are yellow, orange, or cream. Plants get up to 3 feet tall and produce huge 3-inch puffball blooms while dwarf varieties get just 1 foot tall. The mounded dark green foliage is always clean, fresh, and tidy. Grow them in a warm, sunny spot with moist, well-drained soil all summer long.
Though akebia has beautiful purple or white flowers that smell of chocolate, it's really the beautiful foliage that makes this lovely vine worth growing. The blue-green leaves are divided into leaflets, giving it a wonderfully soft texture as it scales walls, pergolas, and other structures. Give it a sturdy support -- akebia can get to be big at maturity and may crush small structures.
If the flowers are pollinated, akebia may produce edible, sausage-shaped fruits -- but the vines usually need a different variety planted nearby to produce the fruits.
Alliums may be in the onion family, but these top-notch garden plants are anything but utilitarian vegetable-garden residents. Among the most carefree bulbs you can grow, alliums bloom in a wide range of colors (including shades of yellow, white, pink, and purple), seasons, and sizes (from inch-wide heads to volleyball-sized bloom clusters).
Alliums offer whimsical structures and great textural contrasts unique to the late-spring bulb garden. Clustered florets in a globe-shape flower head are held aloft on a thick stem. In the species, loose bouquets of flowers sprout from clustered, hollow stems. The larger allium flower heads are fun focal points for dried arrangements. Plant alliums in any well-drained garden soil in full sun. The smaller types are especially well suited for growing in rock gardens. Plant a few larger hybrids in a pot for a flowering surprise in early summer.
An elegant tree or large shrub for tropical regions, Michelia 'Allspice' will form a striking privacy hedge or backdrop for an annual or perennial border. Fuzzy, copper-color flower buds open in spring and summer to reveal richly fragrant white blossoms that resemble magnolia flowers. The cup-shape flowers have a sweet banana scent and continue to open from time to time throughout summer. Glossy green leaves and a pyramidal form give Michelia 'Allspice' pleasing texture and shape in the landscape.
Plant Michelia in sun or part sun and moist, well-drained soil. Water regularly after planting to establish a deep, extensive root system.
Truly a plant to wow your friends and neighbors, Amazon lily is nothing short of magnificent. In a large pond, this plant's leaves can reach 6 feet across and are covered in spiny prickles. The flowers, which appear in summer, start as thorn-covered green buds that open to large white masterpieces that fade pink. The blooms have the fragrance of ripe pineapple.
A drought-tolerant tree with fragrant flowers is a challenge to come by, but Anacacho orchid tree is up for the challenge. Native to Texas and New Mexico, this plant thrives in lean, fast-draining soil and is decorated with sweetly fragrant white flowers that resemble orchids in spring. It has an open, thin growth habit in shade but will form a denser canopy that can be useful for privacy if planted in full sun. It's an excellent tree for xeric landscapes and offers great deer resistance to boot.
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.
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.
Astilbe brings a graceful, feathering note to moist, shady landscapes. In cooler climates in the northern third or so of the country, it can tolerate full sun provided it has a constant supply of moisture. In drier sites, however, the leaves will scorch in full sun.
Feathery plumes of white, pink, lavender, or red flowers rise above the finely divided foliage from early to late summer depending on the variety. It will spread slowly over time where well-situated. Most commercially available types are complex hybrids.
A grand Southern lady, banana shrub is a member of the magnolia family. Its lovely springtime flowers resemble magnolia blooms but have a bold banana fragrance. The evergreen shrub's flush of flowers in spring is followed by sporadic flowering through summer. Plant this lovely shrub in beds or borders, or use it as a fragrant hedge. It tolerates pruning well and can be maintained at 4-5 feet tall. Water banana shrub regularly after planting. After it is established, it tolerates drought with ease.
Bayberry forms a beautiful semi-evergreen shrub that tolerates either wet or dry soils. The shrub also withstands salt spray, making it a good choice for coastal landscapes. Plants gradually spread from underground suckers, eventually forming a thicket. Pruning is rarely necessary.
Bayberry has long been prized for its fragrant, waxy gray berries, which can be used to make candles. Plants are either male or female; to ensure berry production, plant several shrubs in the same landscape. The berries are also attractive to a wide range of songbirds.
Bee balm is a wonderful plant for attracting butterflies and helpful bees. This prairie native has fascinating-shape flowers in jewel tones of red, pink, purple, and white, surrounded by dark bracts. They grow atop substantial clumps of dark foliage.
The aromatic foliage is sometimes used for making tea, and bee balm is often grown in herb gardens. Established plants tend to spread, especially in damp soil. This plant is extremely prone to mildew problems, so be sure to plant in full sun and seek out cultivars touted as resistant to mildew diseases.
One of the most distinctive flowers in the garden, bells of Ireland has gorgeous, slightly fragrant blooms that are a striking yellow-green. You can use it almost like a foliage plant to set off more standard greens as well as yellow or white flowers.
Bells of Ireland is highly prized for bouquets, so consider it in a cutting garden. It also dries well. Plant it outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Bidens is a perfect container plant. It spills down the edges of windowboxes, large pots, and planters with starry, yellow flowers and ferny, green foliage. Some varieties are fragrant so plant them where you can enjoy their sweet scent. Bidens likes rich, well-drained but moist soil. While it's a perennial in Zones 8-10, it's usually grown as an annual.
One of the toughest trees around, black locust thrives just about anywhere you plant it. The plant doesn't mind poor soil (in fact, it improves soil by adding nitrogen), drought, air pollution, salt spray, or even light shade. It's attractive, too, with divided blue-green foliage and fragrant clusters of white or pink flowers in late spring or early summer. It's native to areas of Eastern North America.
Black locust does have some downsides, however. It's a thorny tree and can spread by seeds or suckers and a couple of insect pests feed on the leaves so it may look scraggly by the end of the season.
Offering rare blue late-season flowers, bluebeard grows into a compact and flattering companion to other late bloomers such as asters and black-eyed Susans. The wispy bunches of flowers develop along the stems in midsummer to early fall. Silvery bluebeard foliage adds a little extra shine to the landscape.
Two tricks to growing bluebeard well: Prune the plants hard in spring when they begin to show new growth, and plant in well-drained soil to ensure the best bounceback after cold winters. A plethora of new varieties are available, including those with variegated green and white leaves, gold leaves, and pink flowers.
An evergreen shrub ideal for sculpting, boxwood can take the shape of a neat mound or grow into small green clouds of foliage if left unmanicured. It's one of the most popular choices for garden topiaries. This fragrant shrub is frequently used as an outliner and definer around garden beds and path; it forms graceful short hedges. Garden neat freaks will want to wield the pruning shears frequently to keep boxwood in bounds. Provide a well-drained soil for boxwood to prevent problems with root rot.
Drenching the air with a fruity scent, butterfly bush's flower spikes are an irresistible lure to butterflies and hummingbirds all summer long. The plants have an arching habit that's appealing especially as a background in informal flower borders. In warmer climates, butterfly bushes soon grow into trees and develop rugged trunks that peel.
To nurture butterfly bush through cold Northern winters, spread mulch up to 6 inches deep around the trunk. Plants will die down, but resprout in late spring. Prune to the ground to encourage new growth and a more fountainlike shape. Avoid fertilizing butterfly bush; extra-fertile soil fosters leafy growth rather than flower spikes. Remove spent flower spikes to encourage new shoots and flower buds.
Note: Butterfly bush can be an invasive pest in some areas; check local restrictions before planting it.