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Delicate and airy, gaura is known as 'Whirling Butterflies', inspired by its dainty, dancing butterflylike flowers. It has long reddish stems that bear loose panicles of flowers, which open from pink buds. In beds and borders, they are best massed for greater effect or can be planted in small groups among shrubs. Gaura prefers rich, well-drained soil; it will not tolerate wet feet. Cut back by half after the first bloom flush for rebloom. It grows best where nights are cool.
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Phlox are one of those bounteous summer flowers any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn't be without. There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of colors. They also add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as ground covers, at the front of the border, and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. These native gems have been hybridized extensively especially to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need amply moist soil for best overall health.
Perhaps the best-loved perennials, herbaceous peonies belong in almost every garden. Their sumptuous flowers -- single, semidouble, anemone centered or Japanese, and fully double -- in glorious shades of pinks and reds as well as white and yellow announce that spring has truly arrived. The handsome fingered foliage is usually dark green and remains good-looking all season long. Provide deep rich soil with plenty of humus to avoid dryness, and don't plant the crowns more than 2 inches beneath the surface. But these are hardly fussy plants. Where well suited to the climate, they can thrive on zero care.
There are hundreds of different types of salvias, commonly called sage, but they all tend to share beautiful, tall flower spikes and attractive, often gray-green leaves. Countless sages (including the herb used in cooking) are available to decorate ornamental gardens, and new selections appear annually. They are valued for their very long season of bloom, right up until frost. Not all not hardy in cold climates, but they are easy to grow as annuals. On square stems, clothed with often-aromatic leaves, sages carry dense or loose spires of tubular flowers in bright blues, violets, yellow, pinks, and red that mix well with other perennials in beds and borders. Provide full sun or very light shade, in well-drained average soil.