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Forming a pretty mat of flowers in pure white, wall rockcress looks spectacular in early spring. The flowers are so thick they nearly obscure its attractive grayish-green foliage.
An excellent groundcover for tight spots and well-drained soil, it's perfect in a rock garden, along a retaining wall, between pavers in a patio or walk, or along the edge of a raised bed.
Wallflowers are another cool-season annual that can brighten gardens and containers in early spring when we're so eager for color and fragrance. They will bloom alongside pansies, and wallflowers' bright colors often complement pansies nicely.
Wallflowers are short-lived perennials often grown as annuals. The frost-tolerant plants add a bright dose of color to early-spring gardens. Many are delightfully fragrant. They also tolerate poor soil well. They're often used as winter annuals in Southern gardens.
If you can find them in garden centers, plant wallflowers in spring a few weeks to several weeks before your region's last frost date. Otherwise, start from seed, following seed packet directions exactly. Once established, wallflowers tend to reseed freely. They have average water needs; do not overwater.
Water clover looks lucky and lives up to its name because of its floating leaves. This versatile plant thrives in just about any water garden, even in shade, making it a great choice for beginning water gardeners.
A jewel in the water garden but invasive in waterways, water hyacinth is a pond fish's best friend, providing shelter and feeding area. Rosettes of glossy green leaves float leisurely across a pond, gradually covering the surface and sending down thick roots that shelter fish. In warm weather, the plants send up lavender bloom spikes that last about a day. It should be planted early in the season so its spread outpaces algae, and thin out old plants every year to reinvigorate growth. Because it's a tender plant, it requires overwintering indoors in an aquarium to survive from year to year.
Note: This plant can be invasive in warm-weather areas. Check local restrictions before planting it.
This water plant is grown for its beautiful, velvety foliage that really does resemble a dense carpet of lettuce heads flowering on the water. It can be an important plant for ponds as it shades the water and gives small fish a place to hide. In cold climates, treat this tender floating plant as an annual and replace every year.
Note: In warm-winter climates, water lettuce can be invasive. Check to see if the plant is banned in your area before planting it.
Water lilies offer a floating mat of foliage crowned with resplendent blooms that open every morning, then close for the afternoon (though night-blooming water lilies open at night and close every morning). Each bloom generally lasts 3-4 days, and then is quickly replaced. In addition to the luminous color choices, water lilies are often fragrant. Some dwarf varieties are available for container water gardeners. To keep lilies vigorous, divide them every 1-4 years.
Nympohides is a charming plant to float in the water garden, both for its fringed, snowflake-like flowers and bunches of glossy, heart-shape leaves. The white form is tender, but in cold climates, you can overwinter it by bringing pots indoors or by submerging them in a container of water in a cool place.
Grow a summer feast! A single homegrown watermelon makes a refreshing hot-weather dessert or special snack for a crowd. And there's a vast array of different types of watermelon out there to grow, too. They may be round icebox types or oval picnic types. The flesh may be red, yellow, orange or pink, and the size ranges from a few pounds to nearly 200 pounds. Watermelons require heat to germinate and grow well. Wait until two weeks after your last frost date to sow seeds, or in short-season regions, start seeds indoors four weeks before the last frost date. Provide plenty of room for plants to sprawl, and keep them watered well to speed development.
A delightful fern for arid regions, perennial wavy cloak fern has a long name and a long life in the garden once it becomes established. It offers narrow, upright, semi-evergreen fronds with eye-catching white undersides. Perennial wavy cloak fern forms an upright clump and spreads slowly by rhizomes. In nature it thrives on limestone outcrops and rugged slopes. In the garden it is the perfect plant for dry, gravely soil. Pair it with other drought-tolerant natives for a texture-rich scene.
Note: While the leaves like full sun, the roots of this plant prefer to stay shaded. Use mulch or pair it with a low groundcover.
If wet soil challenges your green thumb, then the graceful willow is your tree. Fuzzy winter catkins, colorful bark, contorted branches, and delicate foliage are just a few of the many bonuses of growing willows. They're especially dramatic located near a pond. Prune weeping willows in winter or spring to bring out their beauty. Avoid planting willows in damp places, such as over septic tanks, where invasive roots could become a problem.
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.
Little known and underused in spring gardens, leucojum earns its name from the Greek "white violet." Larger, but similar in looks to galanthus, leucojum has nodding, bell-shape blooms borne on stalks that, depending on the variety, are 9-14 inches tall.
The plants hold their bloom for one to two weeks. Leucojum autumnale is a small, fall-blooming cousin.
Plant leucojum in the fall in locations with sandy, well-drained soil that receive full sun or part shade. Plant bulbs 3-4 inches deep and 4 inches apart. Crowded clumps can be dug and divided after the foliage has withered in summer. This bulb naturalizes well and produces lovely, white, bell-shape blooms and attractive foliage that becomes more dense every year.
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.