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eBook -The Nonstop Color Garden Design Flowering Landscapes Flipbook PDF

eBook -The Nonstop Color Garden Design Flowering Landscapes




The Nonstop Color Garden

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First published in 2014 by Cool Springs Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., 400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA

Digital edition: 978-1-62788-553-9 Softcover edition: 978-1-59186-605-3 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Neal, Nellie.

© 2014 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc.

The nonstop color garden : design flowering landscapes and gardens for year-round enjoyment / Nellie Neal.

All rights reserved. With the exception of quoting brief

pages cm

passages for the purposes of review, no part of this

Includes index.

publication may be reproduced without prior written

ISBN 978-1-59186-605-3 (sc)

permission from the Publisher.

1. Flower gardening. 2. Gardens--Design. I. Title.

The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations are

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made without any guarantee on the part of the author or Publisher, who also disclaims any liability incurred in connection with the use of this data or specific details.

Acquisitions Editor: Billie Brownell Project Manager: Madeleine Vasaly

We recognize, further, that some words, model names,

Design Manager: Brad Springer

and designations mentioned herein are the property of

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the trademark holder. We use them for identification

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purposes only. This is not an official publication.

Illustrator: Chandler O’Leary

Cool Springs Press titles are also available at discounts in bulk quantity for industrial or sales-promotional use. For details write to Special Sales Manager at Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., 400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401 USA.

On the front cover: © On the back cover (from left): Krawczyk-A-Foto/ Shutterstock; Jean-Pol Grandmont/CC-BY-SA-3.0; Guzel Studio/Shutterstock On the title page (from top): Richard Shiell,

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ISBN-13: 978-1-59186-605-3

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The NoNsTop Color GardeN design flowering landscapes and gardens for year-round enjoyment Nellie Neal


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Dedication To my oldest friend, the dear Kathy Greer, and my brilliant daughter, LauraClaire, for making me want to be a better person. As always, to Dave.

Acknowledgments EVERY AUThOR WORTh hER SALT knows that each

design. These gurus and the hundreds of people who

book can only be as good as those who taught her. The

have invited me into their gardens have given me an

lessons of color and its emotional power came to me first

invaluable education and inspiration. It has been my

from my grandmother, the seamstress and tailor, and

privilege to meet and work with amazing landscape

my mother, the runway model. Mrs. Oliver taught me to

architects, professionals who were kind enough to

see in line and form and to paint with understanding.

share notes with me and invite me to consult on plants.

She showed me the world of classic design through her

They are expected to be magicians, to effortlessly birth

voluminous postcard collection. I was transformed by

the client’s wildest dreams, and more often than not,

studying under Dr. Robert Reich, for whom the landscape

they succeed. My sincerest thanks to my editors, Billie

architecture school at Louisiana State University is

Brownell and Madeleine Vasaly, and to their team at

named. he introduced me to the work of Garrett Eckbo

Quarto Publishing Group USA.

and to the reality of personal expression through garden

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Contents n Welcome to your nonstop color garden n 1. Design inspiration gallery n 2. Designing with color




Design principles

Understanding color concepts



Color relationships

Color for maximum garden impact

n 3. Problem-solving with color 82

Xeriscape solutions


Winter interest

Annual flower power

88 92

Small-space challenges

n 4. Plants for nonstop color 124

Flowering perennials


USDA zone map


Planting chart


More colorful plants Reading list Photo credits




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Shady strategies

n n n n n



Top-down color




185 186


Meet Nellie Neal


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Welcome to your nonstop color garden WhEN YOU WALK INTO a beautiful garden, what do

into a year-round garden destination. Your feet are down

you notice first? The temperature drop in a shady grove

the path to it in a heartbeat, drawn to its color. When

on a summer day, a fountain’s gurgle, berried hedges on

you smile to see the first flowering quince (Chaenomeles)

a snowy day, the abundance of spring flowers? Yes, but

of spring or thrill as maples (Acer) turn in autumn, each

time and again the colors in the garden are what you

time you feel like celebrating lilacs (Syringa) or beau-

remember long after because they set the mood for every-

tyberry (Callicarpa), it’s their colors that touch your heart.

thing else. The power of plants to focus attention and set

This book will put them close at hand.

moods with their colors cannot be understated, but not to

All the colors in the organic crayon box are featured

be left out, structures and hardscape gain attention here,

here with suggestions for plants in every category to

too. Whether they are meant to fade into the scene or

enrich the colors throughout your garden every month

create a focal point, color defines their roles: a wooden

of the year. here’s a look at what else you’ll find in The

shed is a utilitarian joy but a can of paint transforms it

Nonstop Color Garden.

A neat green carpet lawn and a classic brick hardscape set the stage for this charming border. It displays brilliant use of color to create form within closely related shades using plants that include upright delphiniums in mauve, lilac, and deep blue-purple; rosy flowering onion orbs; pale pink climbing roses; and purple salvia.


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About chapter 1

Design inspiration gallery

MUCh OF GARDEN DESIGN is first a broad vision, a

but the moods and styles of botanic gardens and

concept for coloring space across the seasons. To be suc-

residential landscapes offer wildly diverse possibilities

cessful, the plan exploits that big idea until every detail

for your interpretation.

carries the desired theme. In the best of them, a reward-

This chapter offers excellent examples of public and

ing design starts as a sparkle in one’s eye and becomes

private gardens in the lower forty-eight US states, from

tangible for all to enjoy. Landscape architects and

coast to coast and north to south in all seasons. The

garden designers see a year full of color, texture, line,

design inspiration gallery will charm, amuse, and show

and much more. They translate their visions into plants

you how design elements work together with color to

and hardscape in myriad different ways as you will see

make strong statements in large and small spaces. These

in the design inspiration gallery. Gardeners like to be

gardens have the wow factor, the joyful, timeless sense

inspired and sometimes can be downright copycats, with

of place that each person seeks and too few find whether

good reason. It’s perfectly acceptable to take good ideas

the project is a blank slate or the redesign of an exist-

home, even take photos, and then make them your own.

ing garden. here are plenty of classic and modern ideas

When you explore a pleasing design, the math

to draw on for inspiration in your personal process to

and geometry may be complex or minimalist, yet it’s

create colorful gardens from the top down, year round.

always coherent in its own way. The plants and colors fit

An old adage says that imitation is the sincerest form

together; their placement and hue has an inherent sense

of flattery, so begin with a tour through some amazing

of rightness. You can find fabulous color everywhere,

gardens to find your kindred spirits.

Beautiful, exuberant beds use color and geometry to express the gardener’s upbeat attitude in a rainbow of perennial and annual plants. By grouping shades together and allowing them to flow from the ground up, the design welcomes you to stroll, stoop, and sniff the flowers.


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About chapter 2

Designing with color

A TRULY WORKABLE DESIGN rests on the strength of

are flat, thick, and wavy, respectively, and your choice

basic elements and color to bring your vision to life in the

sets the table for the more soaring forms and colors.

garden. When you put these elements together to score

The texture of a plant or a rock or a wall refers to how

your own personal garden symphony, it doesn’t matter

hard or soft it looks and is usually explained in relative

whether yours is a courtyard or an estate. Their har-

terms between fine and coarse. The true design strength

mony plays in every space and you can scale the plants

of texture and its ability to hold your attention often

down or up to echo good examples from either end of

depends on color to be effective—a concrete patio is just

the spectrum. In illustrating each of these hallmarks

a surface, but a blue slate patio has cool appeal and fine

and the effect different colors can have on it, this book

texture that garners attention every day, all year long.

puts the building blocks of the nonstop color garden in

Because it is a relative term often seen in the eye of the

your hands. The strong establishing lines of a tall ever-

beholder, you will find a variety of examples in this chap-

green hedge in a public garden can translate into the

ter and throughout the book. They are chosen to assist

dwarf version of that species to anchor your home land-

you in implementing colorful textures to establish focal

scape. A mixed hedge that includes flowering trees uses

points and to create views that work in every season.

softer lines to set a cottage garden tone and a vignette

The power of contrast grabs your attention like

of the same plants can create that same style in a bed

a gentle tap on the shoulder or a loud cymbal crash,

next to your patio. Plant choices add seasonal color to

depending on its colors. Coral bells (Heuchera) can offer

the hedge line when you opt for shrubs with colorful new

shades from rose pink to orange and yellow to deep

growth, fall color, or flowers. That combination of line

purple in sweetly scalloped leaves. A patch of any one

and color takes the scene to a more prominent place in

contrasts well with upright green leaves, but a combi-

the nonstop color garden and gives you more pleasure

nation of coral bells’ colors will strengthen an area’s

in the doing.

appeal in sometimes startling ways. Variegation grows its own contrast; while bishop’s

Design Principles

weed (Aegopodium) is a neat groundcover plant, the

A plant’s overall shape, the geometric impression it

white leaf edges of the variegated form deliver real

makes, and the texture it displays constitutes its form in

pizazz. Emphasis in a design is sometimes measured

the garden. For example, no one can mistake the pyra-

by the viewer’s reaction to one spectacular plant, like

mid that is a spruce tree with the vase-shapes that char-

a spring-flowering tree when nothing else is in bloom.

acterize Kerria and mock orange (Philadelphus). Using

That can be achieved by using the power of color in con-

form and color together, from the top of a tree’s canopy

trast to everything else in that season or throughout the

to the groundcovers you choose, enables you to control

entire year.

the garden’s flow and vistas. A lawn sets one kind of

Why does your eye sometimes zero in on a distant

stage, a bed of vining Asiatic jasmine (Trachelospermum)

tree across the garden regardless of what is nearer to

or clumping lily turf (Liriope) quite another. Their forms

you? You simply see it, but the relationship between color


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Color defines this long, narrow space and widens it visually; and size gives that tree its attractive quality. If the tree

neatly kept evergreens repeat the clean lines of raised beds and a

is in scale with the rest of the garden, it pleases the eye.

whimsical throw rug of lawn. Gray pavers create paths, a seating

Wise manipulation of scale lets you see each part of a

area, and water garden with contrast provided by bunches of

design in harmony with the rest. It is the proper use of

color, among them blue salvia, white and yellow daisies, and

perspective in design that transforms a pasture into an

pink hydrangea.

intimate landscape or makes a zero lot line property feel spacious. Color aids perspective by allowing an element to recede or racing it into the forefront in support of the

of trees to frame a view and perennials to fill it, ways to

design. Gardens shown in Chapter 2 illustrate the ways

create one vista by masking another, and see how color

to use scale and perspective, and Chapter 4 offers plants

puts form front and center.

to achieve it with color in any growing zone. Sometimes

A focal point can be obvious, like a three-tiered gray

a tree can appear farther away or closer than it really is,

fountain at the center of a deep blue water feature or

illustrating another function of design perspective, which

a circular bed in the middle of a lawn made for sea-

is to manipulate space. In this book you’ll find examples

sonal annual color. You might fill it with brilliant gold

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violas topped with red tulips in spring followed by a dazzling display of tall, mixed-color zinnias in summer. Placement in the design determines where focal points will work best, and color puts the drama there to bolster their impact. Chapter 2 offers ways to find and create the focal points every garden needs and shows their impact in four seasons. harmony is a quality of balance, both in design and color, and works with focal point so the object of greatest interest can take center stage. These qualities create comfort, and while the balance and harmony of a design can shift through the year, they are essential. Without them, few views will offer satisfying emotional reactions for very long. Balanced garden scenes make sense visually but also geometrically regardless of their style or complexity. Even simplicity and variety in a design are not mutually exclusive if they are balanced. Think of “simple” as plain clean lines, clearly drawn forms with apparent texture, contrast, and clear proportions. But a cottage garden design can have all these qualities and still be wildly varied—raucous differences in flower shape and color within one vignette. Variety goes to the song among plants, ornaments, and hardscape within a planting that allows each to harmonize with the others and present a balanced view. We’ll take a timeless approach to garden design elements and offer modern strategies to use them, such as the idea of sequence as color across the seasons from top to bottom in the garden. Choreographing a year’s worth of color, its sequence, is hard to do if you consider just one plant at a time. You will find the tools to take the macro view of powerful, unfolding color.

Using Color for Design Impact Color matters in your garden because its presence or absence defines that space and distinguishes yours from all others. A garden design on paper comes to life when you choose its hues and put them to work expressing your desire for a color theme that spans the seasons

When a design is built around one tree, its beauty lies in symmetry and surprise. The contorted, deep-brown trunks of this maple combine rugged bark with elegant organic lines like arms on a candlestick. They are only outdone by the shocking orange fall foliage.


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The power of line in design resonates in winter like in no other season. Upright and sturdy, vertical lines guide the eye and the soul to new heights even more when a garden is snow covered and bare of adornment.


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or changes with them. The Nonstop Garden Color offers

fashion a plan to fill in the gaps or recolor your world to

many ways to do just that using universal color prin-

better suit your style.

ciples and concepts. For example, as you will see, there

The power in determining a personal color palette

are enough shades of any color to fill the year. Pink is no

and knowing which plants fit into it means you can

exception once you embrace its many variations. The

translate the examples that inspire you. Finding the

pastel pink of flowering cherry trees and rose pink tulips

right color can be rather like the adage about kissing a

in spring can lead to lush peachy shades in summer

lot of frogs to find a prince—you can go through many

annuals like verbena and impatiens, with hot pink ole-

shades before you find the ones you really want around

ander and bougainvillea nearby. Fall’s canna lilies can

for the long haul. The keepers constitute your personal

be a riot from peach to fuchsia, and a dusky pink paint

color palette that you will use to establish and reinforce

on that potting shed ensures that your theme endures,

your message. These colors are not limits by any means,

even in a snowstorm. No matter what other colors you

but rather are the launch pad for your exploration of

select as companions, your favorite color can reign; pink

possibilities. To have four to six colors in mind when

used this way invites a closer glance and sets a mood

you plan and shop for the garden keeps your vision on

that is hopeful and contemplative.

track and ensures that each new addition will fit in. Even

how we see color is revealed by a study of simple physics, but the pleasure we take in seeing it in the garden is

better is to know where each color pops and where more is needed, in a particular area or specific season.

decidedly complex. Our experience of color is rooted in

Chapter 2 offers insights into color relationships and

the associations we make to particular shades, and the

how they impact garden design elements. Its purpose

memories and dreams they stir in us. Your earliest dearly

is to inform the way you translate emotions into color,

treasured color memory may be the red and green of

select shades to enhance your mood, and so communi-

Christmas decorations. If those memories are pleasant,

cate both to family and friends in three dimensions. You

you likely gravitate toward red poinsettias, zinnias, and

will find insights into the go-to color relationships you

rhododendrons with abundant dark green leaves. On

can count on to express the shades of emotion you feel.

the other hand, if you much prefer the marching bands

The use of color families further changes the impact of

and flags of Independence Day, you’ll temper that bold

that design to set your personal tone. The absence of pri-

contrast by using shades of blue to cool the scene, with

mary colors in a garden sets a more casual mood while

white and gold to diffuse red’s impact. Neither approach

their dominance demands attention as surely as a tod-

is right or wrong, of course, but making the wrong

dler. Line a perennial border with a mix of white and

approach for you can be costly. The information in this

purple pansies, and you will draw eyes over them and

book is organized to guide you to the garden color palette

into the planting, but choose pure yellow if you want to

that sings your song. Your palette will feel well-rounded

move attention down their length to the lilac tree beyond.

when the colors are both diverse and compatible. On the

This difference is universal far beyond the garden; one

color wheel that means using opposite and complemen-

cannot imagine a set of pastel hazard cones on the high-

tary colors in pleasing portions to achieve color balance.

way, and few would embrace red as the only color in a

The Nonstop Garden Color moves from elegant examples

room. You’ll find innovative ways to put related colors

of this balance to offer ways to measure your site’s color

front and center. Your choices and the resources in this

quotient (or lack of one) with a color survey plan. By

book will shape a garden that grows where you live and

looking at your garden’s color as it is presently, you can

pleases you from the top down year round.

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About chapter 3

Problem-solving with color


areas like these, the garden benefits and so does local

year-round color to the scene. The right color in the right

wildlife. No matter where you live in USDA Zones 3 to

place can address many issues, from improving a bland

9, it can be a challenge to get satisfying color into the

winter scene to keeping up with a garden bed in promi-

winter garden. But the plants that shine in winter deserve

nent view. By taking a look at common garden issues

your attention for the drama they bring. The practice of

and ways to use color solution strategies to address

“planting out” huge drifts of annual plants has gone

them, you will step into the garden with a sharper, more

the way of telephone booths, still around but few and

optimistic attitude.

far between. When a space needs color quickly and for

For example, as trees grow and shade increases in an

months at a time, though, annuals still get the call, now

area, it can become a green soup of leaves that is easily

in new applications. One of the most intriguing chal-

ignored. Flowers for shade may be few in some areas, but

lenges is one that involves color palette, plant choice,

there are other options. Garden areas that are inherently

and a keen appreciation of one’s personal style: small

dry or wet can offer colorful opportunities that enhance

gardens and small spaces within gardens. You’ll hone

their natural beauty. When you bring color to difficult

your color skills and create sharp solutions in Chapter 3.

Stunning and practical, this pocket garden of color-rich succulents featuring Sedum and Echeveria provides clever living mulch to a difficult garden space. Wine and lime shades in thick, fleshy leaves are complemented by bright yellow variegation that lightens the mood.

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About chapter 4

Plants for nonstop color

GOOD ExAMPLES ARE ONLY pretty pipedreams without

It can be difficult to say when plants that thrive

the specifics necessary to realize them where you live.

across zone lines will deliver their color messages, so

The more than 100 plants profiled here represent the best

learning about them for your zone is important. The

color choices in trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, annuals,

heart and soul of the nonstop color garden is the plants

groundcovers, and bulbs. They are organized first by the

you choose and the pleasure you derive from them. The

color they bring and then by plant category with grow-

gallery in Chapter 4 offers options for different kinds of

ing zone information that you can cross-reference with

color in every season and inspiration to continue your

the USDA hardiness zone map in the Resources section.

exploration of colorful plants. From subtle shades to

Brief growing notes are included but the emphasis here

vibrant color statements, the plants included here come

is on plants, both native and not, with excellent repu-

from and/or transpose into seasonal color options using

tations for reliable growth and color in their zones. Of

illustrations shown in this book. With the gallery orga-

course, there are more plants you’ll want to consider but

nized into color groups and appropriate zones, you’ll find

this gallery meets these important tests:

inspiration for every garden style and size. The plants

• Plants compatible with a busy gardener’s life

are organized in groups associated by color impact: Reds,

• Widely available in garden centers

Pinks; Blues, Purples; Yellows, Oranges, Golds; Greens;

• Seldom known to require much beyond

Whites, Creams; and Grays, Browns, and Barks.

routine maintenance

Flowering trees such as white dogwood offer design focal points for the spring garden. They shine more brightly when accompanied by a dazzling floor show of fuchsia azaleas and bicolored tulips. Opposites attract to bring color from the top down in simultaneous bloom.


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How to use this book

IN THe NoNSToP CoLor GArdeN, you will expand your color horizons to embrace the real possibilities of year-round color and discover inspiring examples of what’s possible to do in your own garden. Whether you are a beginning gardener or a veteran with years in the dirt, an avid do-it-yourselfer or someone working with a landscape architect on the garden of your dreams, this book will offer practical strategies for your success. When you want color for a new garden, need color solutions, or seek to enrich and personalize the colors in an existing landscape, the information included here can be your guide. If you think of garden color mostly in terms of bloom color, the ideas presented here will expand your color perspective. Tree barks, seedpods, and berries can also be featured players to display your colors across the garden and so carry your personal style themes through the year. The twenty-first-century American landscape brings together the best of classic design with the outdoor living concepts of the modern era. This book draws on both to offer great examples of color use in diverse gardens and to present design ideas brimming with

Color harmony comes with repetition of shapes, even without

color, practical tips and solutions you can use, as well

similar shades to bring them together as when both weathered

as plants for every zone. You’ll use The Nonstop Garden

gray fence pickets and perfectly stacked lilac blossoms are

Color to inspire and inform your choices to enjoy color

sharply upright. The message is clearly optimistic and romantic,

all year from the top down in your own garden.

communicated by color.


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w in te r

sp rin g su m m fa er ll


Design inspiration gallery ART IS, AT ITS hEART, a way of seeing something where

here. When you explore a pleasing design, the math

nothing—or something else—exists. A sculptor sees a

and geometry may be complex or minimalist, yet it’s

subtle figure in a solid block of rock, a photographer sees

always coherent in its own way. The plants and colors fit

a clear view where others see chaos, and a writer sees

together; their placement and hue has an inherent sense

ideas that become words.

of rightness. You can find fabulous color everywhere, but

Landscape architects and garden designers see a year

the moods and styles of botanic gardens and residential

full of color, texture, line, and all the design elements

landscapes offer a range of wildly diverse possibilities for

in one unfolding plan. They translate their visions into

your interpretation. This chapter offers excellent exam-

plants and hardscape in myriad different ways to inter-

ples of public and private gardens, from east to west and

pret seasons, moods, and garden styles, as you will see in

north to south in all seasons. It will charm, amuse, and

this gallery. Gardeners like to be inspired and sometimes

show you how design elements work together with color

can be downright copycats, with good reason: there are

to make strong statements in large and small spaces.

some views too lovely to be seen only once. It’s perfectly

These gardens have the “wow” factor, that joyful, time-

acceptable to take good ideas home, even take photos or

less sense of place that each person seeks and too few

make sketches of them, and then transform them into

find whether the project is a blank slate or the redesign

your own. The next step comes with analysis—deciding

of an existing garden. here are plenty of classic and

what you like and why—then adapting those features

modern ideas to draw on for inspiration in your personal

into the reality of your garden. For example, a pure xeri-

process to create colorful gardens from the top down,

scape or tropical design may not, per se, be appropriate


in your climate, but its elements certainly can be and its mood will follow.

An old adage says that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so begin the path to your nonstop color

Whether it’s small touches that refine your garden or the complete redo approach, you will find a catalyst

garden with a tour through some amazing gardens. Rest assured—you’ll find kindred spirits among them.


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Spring garden design features the first colors and new growth


of the season and makes space for annual flowers to bring their shades up close and personal. This inviting seating area sings of comfort and hospitality on a cool spring night.

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When a spectacular flowering shrub, such as the Rhododendron genus, leads the spring show in a garden design, it is best accompanied by equally beautiful plants chosen for their compatible colors and bloom times.


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To reflect the emotional hopes of the season, a spring garden design paints a scene of bright colors in new growth, brilliant blooms, and freshly painted benches. Details of every flower catch the eye of visitors, both humans and pollinators.

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The design for a summer retreat puts the gardener above its



colorful plantings for a great view. Its casual style makes a space for working in the garden and relaxing in private all summer.

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Delightfully welcoming you from the street to the entrance, this front garden reveals its maker’s style and sets its mood. The public space puts a face on the family who lives here with friendly, cool colors on a summer day.

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The summer garden offers a chance to bask in the sun with a riot of flower hues as warm as the season. To create a cooler, more calming mood, give green shades more prominence; up their profile with variegation and a mix of hues.


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Fall Below: In many areas, the arrival of fall shifts our focus back outdoors as temperatures moderate, and successful landscape designs reflect that. Such designs feature weatherproof walkways, raised beds, and a fall color palette in plants.

right: In every garden style, consider how the scene shifts as colors come and go. Often the design includes ornaments in colors compatible with fall garden shades that create seasonal focal points.


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Favorite fall colors and plants are as varied as geography, yet everyone appreciates their changing hues. From native plants to fall color annuals, this garden embraces golds, reds, purples, and every shade in between.


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Winter colors don’t have to be dull. A quiet, snowy day brings


design strengths to the forefront with diverse, strong lines, bold forms, and gorgeous plant combinations that know no season in the Winter Garden at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in england.

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Winter landscapes in areas of little or no frost are designed to feature the architecture of structures and plants, more than colors. When flowers are fewer, repetition of line and harmonious colors delivers a unified message.


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look closely at the garden in winter to see its colorful jewels: a berry here or a flower there. Perhaps because they are fewer, the garden’s joys are all the more precious—to you as well as to birds and other wildlife seeking sustenance.

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de sig n un pri de nc i p rs co tan les lo d r r ing e co l co a lo lo tio rf ns r c on o h r i to ce p- ma ps pt do xim s w um n co lo gar r de n im pa ct



appearances, while scale and proportion reinforce per-

both are usually complicated and first seen on paper,

spective and enable color to work. The concept of unity

but are realized right before your eyes in living color.

can be understood as the marriage of balance and focal

Each design element can be considered alone, yet

point, much like the orchestra must coalesce for each

all must work together as surely as violins and oboes

solo to be appreciated.

must, or the composition fails. Line defines the vision,

Nowhere is color as powerful as when it drives

and form adds a third dimension to shape the scene.

emphasis, sequence, simplicity, variety, and contrast in

Texture illustrates the difference between reality and

the design. Because of their relative weight and importance, these elements as well as pure color, are addressed in this chapter. Color interprets the elements as you

A lark of a small garden space where the use of color is sure to

direct, from the simplest projects and plant choices to

incite smiles and invitations for a casual afternoon chat. The

the most sophisticated materials and installations.

blue-lilac color palette on the washed boardwalk repeats in the

To grasp how color can transform any one of them,

plantings of blue and purple annuals and vines and keeps the

it is essential to be aware of these basic principles of

scene cool on the hottest summer day.

garden design.


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Design principles Line

in the garden. You might want a bed that is edged neatly

Landscape design is universally acknowledged to be

but that also looks as if it were part of the lawn below.

both art and science, and nowhere is that more readily

You can achieve that by using the same color of greenery

apparent than in the use of line. You feel its effects as

to reduce the impact of the line between them. But if it’s

you instinctively follow a sidewalk, guided by its lines,

a tree you want as an early spring focal point, make sure

yet its calculations are arithmetic. The landscape archi-

its colors fill its silhouette with shades that are in stark

tect or garden designer must see a feature, such as a

contrast to those nearby. In turn, a particular color may

gently curving path, as a creative vision but must also

seem to almost embrace a line so as not to be overlooked

be able to measure its arc and calculate area. Otherwise,

on the garden palette. It’s hard to ignore a trellised

there would be no way to accurately draw the walkway,

rose or a mailbox that seems to grow out of a clematis

or know how wide it will be, or know what can grow

because the plant and its color have become the line and

alongside it without overcrowding or looking sparse.

so a seasonal focal point.

Lines lead the eye in the garden and often determine where and how fast the feet walk through it.

The combined power of line and color in garden design draws stunning gray trunks against a winter’s

Lines may be as narrow as a branch or as wide as a

blue sky and lights up the spring with salmon and gold

reflecting pool, and their arrangement may vary from

vase-shaped shrubs. The lines of a garden bench or patio

style to style, with differing impacts. Looking across a wide

may be quite utilitarian and geometric, even downright

lawn, for example, a line of trees across the way become a

boring; the colors you select for plants, hardscape, and

view you can walk past at any pace. But make that lawn

accessories are what make the scene bright and welcom-

longer than it is wide and it becomes a beeline, causing

ing. In a garden bed, the straight lines of many annual

you to hurry along as if the trees might disappear before

and perennial plants deliver a neat message, but it is the

you can reach them. Classic water garden design begins

colors and curvy petals of flowers like zinnia and daisy

with a strong upward line that flows from the surface sky-

that touch your heart.

ward. The line may be a tree at a pond’s edge, a clump of

Straight or zigzagged, steeply S-curved or formed

stately perennials along the west end to catch the sunset,

into long, winding paths, lines organize the garden, and

or a fountain right in the middle. Soaring lines offer

those that are unchanging create design unity. Fencing,

important and distinct contrast to the flat surface of the

trellises, and gates are often made of dissimilar materi-

water to draw your gaze toward the sky and the heavens

als, but they can be used to unify and ground the design

above, to appeal to your better angels. They are placed

Continued on page 42

intentionally, as every line in the garden should be. Without a diversity of lines, a garden would be a col-

Different kinds of lines can combine to feature the best of

lection of plants with no point. But without color, lines

diversity without confusion when color guides them. Burgundy

are lost. Line uses color to attract or distract, to establish

red and lime green use their narrow, curvy lines to soften the

a constant or bring on a moment of instant gratification

straight, brown lines of this entrance.


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Nonstop color illustrated STRUCTURES LIKE ThE PERGOLA, steps, rocks, and gravel in this design establish visual interest and provide a destination in the garden. Such hardscape is permanent; differences in textures and colors offer contrasts in shape, surface features, and a variety of earth tones. Without colorful plants throughout the year, however, their inherent beauty might feel cold and distant. With them, the structural elements draw in the eye and the feet follow to explore the space.

Summer creates a cozy retreat with color. From the hammock to the roses on the pergola to coneflowers and phlox in the beds, red, purple, and SUmmer pink warm the scene. The groundcover mondo grass, can be a year-round green carpet in some climates. Dwarf variegated shrubs, such as the abelia at the first step, set the stage with multicolored leaves in shades of green, white, and pink. Clumps of yellow cosmos and ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum bloom between the rocks to heighten the impact of both. Plants around pergola are mix of low evergreen shrubs, such dwarf yaupon, and mixed orange and yellow perennials, including daisies and daylilies. Tall conifers offer striking, dark green contrast to the shrubs, including dramatic oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) with creamy white flowers above dwarf weigela shrubs with their variegated leaves.


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FAll colors continue the theme, with seedpods adding additional earthy brown elements. Autumn crocus in patches along the steps and around the pergola add bright purple notes. Though the roses on the pergola are leafless, their striking dark gray vines remain. Oak-leaf hydrangea ages to reddish purple and a few dried flowers remain on the shrubs, adding a silvery sheen.

SPring introduces the new, lighter-colored leaves of the abelia. Sedum and coreopsis have new leaves, too, in a light green. The blue iris and pink SPrInG peony border the pergola, while the new green leaves and a few pink flowers on the roses lift the overall green effect. The oak-leaf hydrangea has light gray stems and new leaves. Weigela is covered in deep pink, trumpet-shaped flowers.

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Continued from page 38

with the introduction of color. By emphasizing these diverse lines with a signature color, you mask their differences and plant your style flag year-round. When particular garden lines appear only at times, seasonal color adds another dimension as an accent or focal point. The angular stems and twigs of osier dogwood emerging from a snowbank is exhilarating because its lines are red. In another season, a cloud of muhlygrass plumes is breathtaking because every line that draws them is cotton candy pink. A clumping groundcover like lily turf edges paths and fills low-profile beds until its purple bloom spikes draw you in with lines that feel like spring’s birthday candles. That’s when you really notice these plants and can choose to continue the strong lines and bold color choice elsewhere in the garden with tall, purple perennial salvias that maintain the same optimistic lines from summer to fall. The result is a seasonal accent followed by a seasonal focal point in one line/ color combination. From top to bottom, a garden’s lines define its limits and color helps you push them.

Form Three-dimensional and dynamic, the garden design element called form refers to the shapes created in the landscape by nature and/or you. Each form—a slender column, fat orb, cascading fountain, or one of many others—carries its own message. The way they are used sets a mood and often evokes strong emotions. If you immediately like a designed space, it is most likely its forms and their colors that are pleasing to you, whether you realize it consciously or not. For example, an allée of trees with spring-flowering deciduous canopies feels light-hearted and carefree compared to the same design planted with muscular, evergreen pyramidal forms. Repetition of pyramid shapes is inspiring and perhaps humbling, whether executed in cedar trees or ancient stones, but its vibe is seldom described as friendly. Accompany that same pyramid form with complementary upright oval and vase shapes of similar height, and the same allée takes on a different mood entirely. To establish form is to set the essential cachet of the garden,

Form draws three-dimensional shapes that define the landscape.

to ground the design with visual elements that retain

Color makes them permanent and imposing, like this chunky

their essential silhouette over the seasons.

boulder and peaked gazebo, but form can also be seasonal. From

Form can be the most versatile of design elements, subject as it is to natural variety in organic forms as


the rounded purple-leaf plum tree and leafy green trellis to spiky purple butterfly bush and russian sage, summer forms speak.

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well as human intervention in them. A rugged stone

explosive, joyful colors can be found in trees and shrubs

wall seems permanent, a hardscape element that will

with similar natural forms for the home landscape.

be in the garden forever. True and true, but which effect

Thickets and large, upright profiles will set a bittersweet

it will have depends on the wall’s materials, form, and

autumn mood and enlarge the garden’s footprint by

color. Carefully carved, ash gray granite blocks bear

echoing the world around it.

little resemblance to stacked yellow sandstone. They

Form establishes silhouettes and profiles, and color

are equally beautiful, but the first has an air of formal

maximizes their effect. That’s why it is important to

elegance because its form has been evened and shaped

recognize which forms in a planting will show off their

by a person and its color is cool. The second wall will

colors simultaneously to avoid a visual train wreck where

feel more casual since it remains in a more natural state

neither form nor color can be appreciated. Even a “crazy

with warmer colors.

quilt” pattern positions each square carefully to show its

By the same token, a big evergreen shrub may grow

best advantage, and so it should be in garden designs

into a naturally rounded form and serve as an anchor

meant to be viewed at close range. For example, a collec-

plant to break up the rigid lines of a wooden fence. It

tion of small shrubs might line your well-traveled front

is prized for its imposing presence and shiny leaves in

walk. If they are exuberant vase shapes, their grace may

wine bottle green. But in the hands of a skilled and

be obscured in a monochrome color palette. Give the

loving topiary gardener, that same plant can become

form its due with color, and let chartreuse sit next to pea

a surprisingly whimsical focal point form. Some would

green followed by variegated leaves of cream and dark

dismiss that notion as perverse, and the overall debate

green. Equally effective is an arrangement that allows

about the beauty of natural plant form versus the pos-

pink, yellow, and red flowers to bloom at the same time

sible manipulations rages on as garden styles shift over

on quite different forms. You might include ovals with

time. There is a world of plants, materials, and color

some that cascade out of the bed in places, and because

choices in between carefully manicured landscapes and

their colors harmonize, each silhouette becomes a fea-

completely naturalistic designs—find your style and use

tured player in the arrangement.

form to make it so. The forms of plants, structures, hardscapes, and


ornaments are essential to expressing mood in garden

While lines are easy to see and forms demand attention,

design, and color amplifies that effect. For example,

texture is a more ethereal landscape design element. A

form uses color to create or obscure views. An evergreen

line may be straightforward or complex, and forms can

hedgerow can define an intimate mood with tall round,

be monumental or delicately small, but both are clearly

rectangular, or even boxy forms. It can be a sturdy,

just what they seem to be. Texture, though, is perceived as

comforting backdrop to the summer border or serve

much as it is seen, and your comprehension of it depends

as a baffle between the patio and the neighbors that

on the relativity of one kind to the others. To understand

increases your comfort zone. If the hedge also produces

texture can be a real mind-bender as it requires you to

scads of carmine red berries, its friendly form becomes

see what you feel. If you find the touch of silk to be soft,

the winter view, too. In the same way, a small deciduous

lustrous, and oddly delicate, you can imagine that a

tree may have a spreading, weeping, or wildly loose sil-

fine-textured plant would feel the same way if it actu-

houette and make you feel decidedly optimistic. But that

ally felt like it looks. Its tactile reality may be quite dif-

form will bring more drama if shocking pink flowers

ferent: perhaps fine, threadlike leaves are actually sharp

appear early and its gray trunks form a neatly pruned

to the touch. You can think of texture in any medium.

centerpiece in a parterre or other quadrant design.

Consider curly hair—some people have long locks with

Form uses color to reinforce themes and plant the

shiny ringlets the size of your thumb, others have tightly

garden firmly in its environment. When the woods

wound, little wiry springs close to the scalp. It matters not

behind your house erupt with rich shades of golds,

whether the hair is actually soft or crisp with styling gel;

reds, oranges, and purples in fall, even errant limbs

different kinds of curls are defined by their visual rela-

and lumpy shapes can be heartwarming. The same

tionships to one another. The ringlets look distinct, with


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Combining elements of differing materials creates textural diversity. Its colors draw interest and set the tone where desired,

scales—these are the classic vehicles of fine texture. They

as with this formal entrance. The stark contrast of the black gate

occur in every color imaginable but are most associated

to the gray wall would be utilitarian at best, but for the softer

with lighter shades, including pastels, because they stir

texture of the evergreen vine that bids you welcome.

similar feelings of quiet confidence. Fine texture can be obvious, like a frilly fern, or less so when it occurs seasonally in a cloud of tiny flowers. Once you recognize

clarity and visual weight, when compared to tight curls

and feel its appeal, you will see it everywhere in sharp

that meld together into one shape and so appear finer

contrast to the textures nearby.

in texture. Look at fabrics, furniture, or architecture for

Coarse texture is the visual opposite of fine texture.

your own metaphor, but know that if the coarser texture

Sometimes this quality comes from gargantuan leaves,

is also darker in color, the difference becomes clearer.

massive trunks, and flowers with big petals that often

Fine texture in plants derives primarily from leaf

overlap. In other designs, the coarsest quality will be

size, shape, and arrangement, sometimes assisted by

found in the bulky silhouettes of boulders and plant

the form that delivers them into view. Deeply cut and

groups that look heavy even if the individuals are not.

papery leaves that flutter easily, small leaves so thin

But here the devil is in the color details since the same

you can see through them, cascades of diminutive com-

leaf will deliver coarser texture in richer shades and

pound leaflets, willowy leaves and those covered in tiny

Continued on page 48

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Nonstop color illustrated WhAT A WONDERFUL WAY to dress up a seating area or patio! The colors lead from season to season in a seamless parade. The proportions are so good that even the smallest purple flower gets noticed as much as the purple wall above it. The area between these buildings could easily be visually dead, an overcrowded mess, or a lot of little plants with no relationship to their surroundings—but this fluid, colorful, eye-catching view is in perfect proportion to its space.

SPring colors are pinks, from pale and ethereal to brightly raucous, and several shades of purple. These colors are achieved primarily with earlySPrInG blooming annuals such as foxgloves, snapdragons, pansies, and petunias. Indian indian hawthorn offers bouquets of pink flowers tinged in white and durable evergreen holly shrubs put on tiny white flowers. The crisp white flowers of doublefile viburnum (V. plicatum) really stand out; their blooms are but one element of this signature shrub’s three seasons of color.


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Summer builds on the pinks and purples of spring with the addition of red. roses maintain a strong pink theme, while holly and camellia leaves SUmmer are shiny dark green. The viburnums put on striking red berries as bright as the roses. The spring annuals at the lowest height have been replaced by similar color mounds of purple fan flower, red geranium, and sweet alyssum in lavender and white. Taller plants include blue salvias alongside scarlet red and shocking-pink zinnias and cleomes. Tree roses add a snap of white flowers.

WinTer moves into greens and red-purples. evergreen Indian indian hawthorns add dark green foliage with slight red tinges in winter. The dark green WInTer hollies past the trees, before the rose trellis and bench, sport winter red berries. The camellias between the benches show off their red flowers it’s fine to add color using “outside” elements, such as bows, wreaths, ornaments, and lights. The (though camellias are available in many colors). It’s homeowner brings in brilliant color and seasonal excitement by surrounding the seating area with white Christmas lights. Although the rose is now leafless, its red hips add color. The doublefile viburnum, also leafless in most climates, will have purple-black berries and, in the Deep South, burnished red leaves.

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wide variegated patterns. For example, the broad swordshaped leaves and dense clumps of a perennial such as a hosta display coarse texture in solid green hues. however, hosta varieties with fat stripes or what look like globs of white paint decorating the leaves will be in-your-face-coarse next to the others. In the same way, surfaces that are sharply drawn, netted, and waffled with distinct veins can further heighten a leaf’s coarseness when they also employ strong colors. Perhaps the least understood and poorly defined texture is the medium range. It is easy to say that medium texture is anything not fine or coarse, and many plant descriptions certainly do so. The mid-range is distinct and, while not necessarily inherently showy, can sometimes be transformed by color. You may enjoy the vibrant red and purple of new growth on a shrub with smallish leaves, such as loropetalum. The leaves do not change their texture whether they stay purple or turn green, but when combined with different colors of leaves or flowers, they can be bullies or friends. Medium-textured green leaves set the stage and keep it fresh, no matter what else goes on in the planting—that’s why they are so frequently employed. The same plant colored purple will stand out, perhaps too much, and compete or overwhelm the others. Medium texture also has a different impact depending on its gloss, much like wall paint and lipstick do. Texture as a design element plays right into color’s wheelhouse and goes hand in hand with it to accomplish desired effects. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in designs that feature particular plant groups, such as drought-tolerant or tropical plants. No matter how much you love these plants, without differences in texture provided by color, these gardens can look painfully monotonous. Cover the walkway with pavers or mulch in deep redbrown shades to add color texture that winds its way through desert plants. And use the evergreen of tall cacti

even though this design features green, green, and more green, the rich variety of textures sets each plant apart from the next and the result is far from boring. The bright wood and pavers provide additional breaks in the color and texture.


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with maroon manzanita trunks to keep color there in

The idea of scale most often applies to the property as

the off-season. In the tropical garden, beds full of cannas

a whole, the macro view, while proportion refers to what

bring bold texture with dense sword-shaped leaves, but

lies within one view in the garden, the micro scene. This

they take on a life of their own when variegated leaves

may seem like a distinction without a difference, but it’s

mix with the solid greens to highlight their texture and

a practical way of looking at and planning for a pleas-

emphasize each plant’s silhouette, creating a deeper,

ing landscape. The things you can see from a bird’s-eye

more interesting view.

view affect scale: structures, hardscapes, relationships between cultivated beds and lawn to utility areas, path

Scale and Proportion

and porch dimensions, mature tree heights across the

A classic adage reminds us that beauty is in the eye of

property, and similar concerns. Proportion focuses on

the beholder. Or, to paraphrase what a Supreme Court

the plants and features within the design, especially as

justice once said about pornography, “You know it when

they relate to one another within the same view.

you see it.” So it is with the landscape design concept

Unless you start with a blank slate, you usually

of scale and proportion. The reality is that a landscape

cannot entirely control scale, but you can control the

design professional spends weeks ensuring that every

proportions within the garden. To do so means select-

part of a landscape is designed to suit the scale of the

ing what you plant and how you maintain it with the

site and that each part of a garden is in healthy propor-

other plants in mind, whether you planted them or not.

tion to the rest. When it works, you may not be aware of

Should you remove a big tree to let in more sunlight, or

scale and proportion at all—the garden just makes you

will that throw the entire back half of the garden out of

feel welcome.

proportion? Installations big and small count here, too,

What you notice most often is what doesn’t work—

from retaining walls to bird feeders—a swimming pool

when something in the design seems out of whack.

would be nice, but is there room for it both physically

Sometimes the error is obvious, such as a brightly painted

and visually? Proportions also change with time and,

wall that looms over everything else or a fountain that

much like you can let the hem out of most skirts, you

is clearly too small for the huge water feature around it.

can usually adapt.

A neutral shade of paint can make that wall disappear,

Some changes can be foreseen, like how much plants

but a new fountain installation may need a new budget

will grow or when it might be time to dispense with the

to correct the design problem. But other mistakes in scale

sandbox and swing set in favor of a perennial border. A

and proportion seem intangible as when parts of the

well-proportioned garden bed design considers the rela-

garden blur together without distinction or a tree stands

tive heights and shapes of plants as well as their color

out oddly, like Gulliver among the Lilliputians. For ele-

impact. Its overall size should not dwarf whatever is

ments in the landscape to work together, each must be

nearby nor be too small, like an afterthought. Geometry

in proportion to the others; to get that agreement is a

and arithmetic can set exact proportions, and color

mathematical exercise furthered by the wise use of color.

makes it work by adding emphasis here and reducing it

By definition, scale and proportion are the same

there to maintain them. For example, if three-quarters

concept: they describe the relationship of elements to

of the spring flowers in a bed are the same shade, the

one another. But in gardeners’ terms, they are often

view will be a monochrome blur. No amount of atten-

separated for ease of understanding and application.

tion to their heights and flower shapes will matter if different shades and colors are left out; proportion can be established with color diversity. When you put in a new

Unity gives a sense of coherence to every garden design, and the

bed designed to be primarily trees and shrubs, and take

color palette of even the smallest space can deliver the concept

into consideration their mature sizes, the immediate

wholeheartedly. the variegated hosta stands out here, yet it

results can be jarring to your sense of proportion. The

unifies the scene by repeating both the white of the pickets and

bare areas between new plants loom large and blank,

the yellow-green of the groundcover. The ornament reflects their

even with ample mulch. To start with larger plants is

colors, further uniting them.

not always a wise option, but planning ahead can be.

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Consider the scenario for a possible perennial border: you can overplant the new bed, knowing you will transplant half in a few years. The proportions in the new bed can be established with faster-growing perennials and woody plants that can possibly form the basis of another new bed in the future. Perhaps the most glaring example of proportion failure seen every day is a big tree with shrubs and perennials planted too close to its base. No doubt it looked right at the time, but today the tree has a fat ring of green and flowers around its base that makes it look oddly unstable, as if it might choke on them. The plants that were supposed to embellish the tree’s beauty instead create a loss of proportion. Fortunately, by moving or enlarging the bed, this problem is readily solved. And if you take the opportunity to echo the tree’s flower or fruit colors in the bed below, so much the better for a focused view.

Unity Like being comfortable in your own skin, unity offers an intrinsic peace to the landscape without ego. That is, a unified garden carries one message without ever being heavy-handed or overdesigned. You create unity when you make the fundamental decisions about your garden’s overarching style and carry that imprimatur throughout the property all year. Perhaps your unifying scheme will be formal paths and plantings or a loose collection of beds and seating areas. A formal style with brick paths and planters by the front door deserves tree mirrors—the dramatic trunks, bark, and fall colors of the centerpiece front yard tree are reflected in those chosen for the back and side yards. An informal style may snake its paths around the property from the front door to the back fence, encompassing sun and shade, flat and sloping spaces. Yet you can establish unity in the shapes of the paths as well as mulching materials and flower colors in every plant group. Unity is the thread that sews an entire garden together into one tapestry. You set its pattern with plans for cottage garden plants or a formal parterre, a naturalized A large and imposing garden structure makes a brilliant focal

landscape or privacy hedges with plenty of fall berries.

point but can appear to float in space if it’s not grounded by

For example, your cottage garden might focus on pink,

plants. Together with thematic color choices, they can achieve a

yellow, and white flowers, whimsical yard art, and picket

harmonious balance, as when the tranquility of this shady seating

fencing. It is easy to see how using the flower colors in

area is ensured in shades of green.

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Nonstop color illustrated The Three-SeASON PALeTTe for this lovely view uses purples, reds, bronzes, golds, and greens. here, color unites a home landscape with an intrinsic feeling of peace and calm. A unified garden carries one message, and it’s the thread that knits an entire garden together. Formal paths and plantings maintain and repeat key design elements, such as straight lines, curves, and forms to establish unity; the colors establish mood. essential, too, is the addition of color in container plantings; even shrubs and trees can be grown in large, colorful pots.

Summer colors set the tone for the other three seasons. The groundcover bugle flower (Ajuga) lines the walk with deep purples with some sUmmer green and brown variegation in small, leafy rosettes. To the right, another groundcover like coral bells (Heuchera × ‘Golden Zebra’) displays multicolored round leaves in yellows, golds, apricots, and bronzy reds. A dogwood tree (Cornus) on the left provides a major focal point, sporting light green leaves in contrast to darker shades at the rear and red maples (Acer rubrum) to the right of the house. Fine-textured ornamental grasses (Miscanthus) and sturdy purple-leaf loropetalum echo the tree colors. Dwarf spirea shrubs bring accent colors to eye level in containers.


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FAll deepens the red tones in the groundcover bed, colorful red berries appear at the branch tips on the dogwood, and the loropetalum maintains Fall some red fringe flowers. In bold contrast, white plumes on fountain grass Miscanthus are eye-catching, and, in the pots, spireas display golden yellow fall foliage.

SprInG shows off the lighter colors of new growth, brightening the mood. Bugle flower blooms with pale blue spiky flowers, and the new growth spring of coral bells is a subtle combination of green, yellow, and apricot. The dogwood tree blooms bright white, matched by the rhododendron’s red maple leaves are crimson red, the ornamental grasses are spring green, loropetalum shrubs bloom with fresh red flowers, and trumpet flowers. Red pots of spirea burst with new celery-green leaves.

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are a big part of this aspect of unity because they carry

the hardscape and ornament will unify the setting. Or

design statements and color across the seasons with their

the deep evergreens of a huge hedgerow down the side

constant presence. The scale of the structure to its sur-

of your house might be repeated by small hedges beside

roundings aids unity, as does its most dominant lines.

the front door and around the patio out back.

The front garden is the establishing view for the entire

A garden’s mood is tied directly to unity and is

property and most often the place where unity is found

expressed by your personal take on the garden’s best uses.

or lost. A ranch style house is essentially a rectangle with

A design that starts with your desire to entertain outdoors

matching windows; it would look out of sync with ornate

year round will be unified by different elements and

columns framing the front door. equally jarring might

colors than a design meant to create a family’s retreat

be a rank of pyramidal shrubs taller than the windows.

from the world. Both settings will need outdoor living/

A more conventional foundation planting could better

cooking areas but call for very different materials to suit

unify the scene. A house that is multistoried will have

the mood. An outdoor kitchen and seating for 12 can set

more upright lines than the ranch style and can visu-

a formal mood in wrought iron or carry a more casual

ally support a larger front garden. Without that larger

message with wooden benches and tables. The serenity of

apron, the house looms and sticks out like the prover-

your personal oasis may speak out from slick, clean sur-

bial sore thumb. With it, the upright lines and colors

faces, cool colors in the blue-gray range, and repetition of

of the house can be repeated and interpreted in plants

upright plant forms. Using similar colors and basic forms

and hardscape. It is a conscious unifying decision to see

contributes to unity while a random collection will feel painfully chaotic regardless of the gardener’s intentions. The repetition of key design elements—straight lines,

This brilliantly colorful container planting shows essential

exaggerated forms, and bright color contrasts, to name

design elements in an elegant capsule. Each color on the pot is

a few examples—can establish unity and sing your

echoed by the plants in it but drawn with lines and forms in ideal

mood year-round. The house and garden structures

contrast. The result is a unified focal point that fits perfectly in its setting.


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The serenity of this patio comes from the use of balance to create a peaceful mood with a mixture of textures. From fluffy, rounded

unity because you use them together to tell your story.

hostas and lush vines to sharply drawn iris leaves and pavers, the

These strategies and thought processes also apply to

view engages and calms its visitors.

other structures in the garden such as a gazebo or potting shed, just on a more intimate scale.

windowpane shapes reflected in walkways and steps, to

Balance and Focal Point

echo the colors of shutters and chimneys in stone plant-


ers and retaining walls.

Just as a good story has a beginning, a middle, and often

In this last example, it is equally vital to unity for

many plot twists before the end, but only one plot, so

colors to be established that set your mood. If a deep

your unified garden will tell your tale from front to back.

green lawn carpet is your pleasure for the front garden,

While unity considers the entire picture created by your

finding places for lighter and contrasting shades in

design, balance and focal point draw a finer point on

accent plants will create an elegant, thoughtful mood.

landscape relationships. Both depend on comparing—

If you like a lawn but also want a tropical tone, your

balance measures the differences between elements while

plant choices and colors will be bolder yet still bring

focal point calculates the impact of one over the others.

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The question of balance in a landscape design goes

create a hidden view or choreograph a rainbow of

to the sense of place, the ethereal yet essential quality

blooms that progress through the garden, and balance

that makes a garden truly distinctive. You see it in the

allows those scenes to be seen. Balance works because

visual weight of objects and plants, and often in the rela-

it allows visitors to compare and contrast plants and

tionships between their colors. The sense of place sepa-

garden features. Without it, the affect is flat and noth-

rates your garden and your color choices from all others.

ing stands out, regardless of your attention to color. The

Balance can be found within a pot, a garden bed, or

lack of balance is off-putting and may explain why visi-

entire landscapes; it imparts reassurance and certainty.

tors do not return—the experience makes them feel out

It brings a sense of internal harmony, a confidence that

of kilter because the math is wrong.

there is a steady hand guiding the garden in a specific,

But complete numeric balance seldom satisfies the

colorful direction. That is the essence of why generations

eye or the soul. When you walk into a garden that is

of humans have found peace in the garden, and why we

too perfect and symmetrical, you may feel your spine

still aspire to it.

stiffen, and you probably will not linger. If the point is

Like all elements in design, this one derives from a

to hurry you along, as through a commercial complex,

combination of geometry and emotion. Mathematically,

overbalance wields power. Neither extreme contributes

there are formulas to determine how much plant material will fit in a given space. Following those calculations, roughly equal materials on each side of an axis

This focal-point seating area uses color from the top down to

will achieve physical balance. The delightful wild card

be certain no one misses this destination. Using a blue-purple

in this equation is how design uses balance to create

palette, the design creates a rustic trellis with purple color

surprises, to leave room for the unexpected. You might

pops that lead the eye and the body to the comfortable chairs and chaise.


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to a warm sense of place. embracing both the concept and reality of balance enables your imagination for plants, ornaments, and color to soar without chaotic results. Balance maintains perspective and allows for its manipulation, as when you want to make a space seem larger than it is or feel more intimate. With it, a garden feels confident and inhabited; it resonates with your taste and color palette. Without it, a garden lacks focus at best and, at worst, is downright disconcerting.

Focal point Focal point success depends on the overall balance and unity in a design achieved through the wise use of the other elements. Two of the most important lines in the landscape are those that define its axis, the point around which all else in the design revolves. This intersection is the first focal point in the design, the place your eye will naturally go in a cohesive design. The axis lines are drawn in the air, so to speak, in that they are clear, but not usually interpreted literally. One may run from the big tree in the front yard through the house and terminate at the back gate. The other might skew from the garage to the farthest back corner. Where they meet may be in the center of the space, or it might not, but that spot is sweet and can focus all your other efforts. When you see a design on paper, the axis should be clearly delineated. If your garden is already planted and the axis lines are not obvious, it will behoove you to find or

A well-balanced seasonal design offers attractive color

establish these lifelines to design harmony. Focal point

combinations at every level in the scene. A spring-green lawn

and color go hand-in-hand, since the focal point can go

gives way to blue-green daffodil clumps topped by their white

dull without color to make it sing.

and yellow flower hues. They cozy up to the exhilarating sight of

There are at least two sorts of focal points you can

pink-and-white-blooming saucer magnolia.

employ in a color-focused garden. In practical terms, one can be called sustainable and the other seasonal. The first is a focal point you will see every day and build a

or a tree. This is also the place to establish your signature

view around. To find it, make your own mini-axis: stand

color. Seasonal focal points are dramatic—a spectacular

at your back door (or window), look into the space, and

flowering tree, a shrub with unmatched fall color, and

take a photo. Then go into the space, find a place you

winter features that call you out to see them. They are

can or would like to sit—this can be anywhere so long as

singularly unmatched for impact in their season and

you can see that same point. Take another photo from

always depend on color for their power.

there, compare the two to see where they come together,

You are the color conductor of a very personal orches-

and that’s the focal point you will be able to sustain over

tra that can respond with gorgeous, nonstop impact in

your life in the garden. This is the place to plant your

your garden year-round. each design element is a tool

flag—to make your garden style statement with some-

in your kit; all will be profoundly affected by the colors

thing you want to see daily. A sustainable focal point

you choose for them because hues transform impacts of

might be a seating area, a statue, a bird-feeding station,

plants, ornament, and hardscape.

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Understanding color concepts

The WAY COLOr CAN TrANSFOrM a design depends

the human senses transform in individual and some-

as much on math as on building trust in your own per-

times quirky ways. Black and white are also a matter of

ceptions. As it is with the basic elements of design, so it

physics in that black is the absence of light and there-

is with color in the landscape—part art and part science.

fore color; white is the presence of all colors at once.

We can measure its hue and depth relative to other colors,

As early as 1666, Sir Isaac Newton organized the

but we have not yet created a gauge to calculate emo-

colors into a circle known as the color wheel, which

tional responses. That is why although bright red is the

has been used ever since in every field of art because

attention-grabbing color of traffic signals, it is also the

of its simple clarity. Many iterations have been drawn,

country’s favorite color in flowers—red roses, geraniums,

from simple pie shapes to shaded panels displaying

and poinsettias far outsell all the other colors available

hues in order of their intensity to intricate overlap-

combined. We react to that color in different ways, but

ping shade colorations. All color wheels are based on

with red the reaction is always strong and quick whether

the primary colors—red, blue, and yellow—represented

it’s your foot on the brake pedal or a heart-felt smooch.

in three equal segments to underline their equivalent

It is also why much plant breeding is done for color, such

status. These are the three pigments that cannot be cre-

as deeper shades in fall leaves, more and brighter colors

ated by mixing others and, conversely, all other colors

for summer annuals, and barks with richer tones that

can be made from some combination of the primaries.

are revealed in natural peeling. The principles of color

The power of red, blue, and yellow is their clarity and

and the concepts they bring with them to the garden are

bold simplicity. In their purest form, primary colors are

simultaneously universal and very personal. The same

impossible to ignore.

is true of the ways we can translate them into color from the top down and year-round.

The color wheel can show secondary colors by cutting the classic pie into six slices. These are the colors that arise from combining the primary colors directly

Color Principles

with the one that lies next door on the wheel. red mixes

Color is both a physical matter and an ethereal concept

with blue to form purple, so it is depicted between them.

because what you see and how it makes you feel are

Blue and yellow turn into green; therefore, green follows

both brain-based. Light is composed of electromagnetic

blue and precedes yellow on the color wheel. Yellow com-

radiation organized into wavelengths. When your eye

bined with red creates orange, which sits between them

perceives color, it physically captures light and trans-

to fill the sixth piece of the pie. By bisecting the color

lates it into the colors you see, the visible spectrum

wheel yet again, the hues known as tertiary colors can

of rOYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo,

fit nicely between the colors that give rise to them. Their

violet). These seven colors correspond to the seven notes

names explain their parentage and are usually hyphen-

in a musical scale in that they relate to one another in

ated: red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, yellow-green,

incremental steps. Within each color, as within musical

yellow-orange, and red-orange. These names are purely

scale notes, there are well-defined tones and hues that

descriptive and have other, more subjective monikers,


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cool brick and shutter colors warm up quickly when accompanied by plants in deeper hues of lime and purple. Turn up the visual

emotions in people of widely diverse experience. Anyone,

temperature and warm the welcome even more by adding eye-

anywhere has only to read of Wordsworth’s daffodils to

catching red and orange tones.

ache for their yellow glory. Thousands have travelled from other continents to where Wordsworth lived in the Lake District for the experience that puts color and emo-

such as violet for red-purple and indigo for blue-purple.

tion together so dramatically.

The wheel lays out in graphic fashion both the colors

These universally felt reactions to particular colors

and their relationships to provide a reference point and

are well understood, and while there are cultural vari-

a launch pad for using them.

ances, the nonverbal messages are the same. • Red and its partner pink stir the passions of love

Color and Emotion

and war. While red is extreme and can be violent,

emotions are triggered by color because the brain stores

pink is unconditional and devoted; they are two

previous reactions to it, mostly individual but also in

sides of the same coin.

pathways that are universal. For example, you may

• Orange brings out both optimistic and engaging

have seen a red rose and reacted positively to its bold,

emotions and sends messages related to its shade.

bright color long before anyone ever sent you a dozen

Darker oranges, such as terra cotta and pumpkin,

to woo you with their charms. even without a personal

have earthy associations, unlike pure orange and

connection, color has the power to evoke oddly similar

lighter hues that give you more serene feelings.

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When the primary color in a design is green, its diverse shades • Yellow can be mellow gold or bright as a canary’s feathers and makes you feel certain and confident.

and hues bring that scene to life and raise its emotional impact. The result is a comfortable, harmonious unity.

Yellow is associated with creative ideas and cool intellect, but can also make you feel impatient, as when others’ ideas are not in sync with yours. • Green feels balanced, which may be why we

at times. They inspire feelings of intuitive intimacy and personal self-confidence. • White, the presence of all colors of light at once,

garden—to gain that balance. • Blue is the only color with a mood named for it,

brings feelings of formality, expansiveness, and

an existential sadness oddly coupled with resilience

peace; cream evokes a more naturalistic feeling

and even hope. Perhaps that is why it evokes

and may be cool or warm, depending on its hue.

loyalty in people, too, and has names like navy and royal blue.

• Black is the symbolic and practical opposite of white. It works as a startling contrast as brown does

• Indigo and violet are the two faces of purple; the

for cream.

former is closer to blue and the latter borders on red


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Color relationships Color and Garden Harmony

there is no shade that will satisfy you like the turquoise

The color wheel is like a map in that, while you are

sky in a Georgia O’Keefe painting. Or you might prefer

not obligated to take all the roads at once, it is wise to

the neon aquamarine of an antique beer sign, a similar

know the options available. But it is also like a musical

but very different color in fact and in emotion. Set aside

score—the colors, like notes, must harmonize to be pleas-

the rules and seize the shade that lights you up and let it

ing, much less memorable. Whether duet or symphony,

ignite the color fire in your garden.

in music and color harmony comes from the symbiotic arrangement of the parts, when the combination is more

Color Vignettes

than the sum of its parts. At first glance and upon deeper

The successful harmonious melding of design strength

examination, harmony communicates a feeling of inher-

with color elevates both. To take harmony from a great

ent calm and order. Lack of harmony feels too bland

concept to beautiful reality means coloring the basic

because nothing is eye-catching and you find it unneces-

design elements cohesively. Nonstop garden color cre-

sary to get involved. On the flip side, disharmony evokes

ates an inspiring view when basic design elements com-

chaos, and you do not want to engage the scene. either

pose a scene with a physical balance of repetition and

way, the result is that you hurry past, vowing to achieve

contrast. The repetition brings the comfort of familiarity,

more balance and harmony in your own garden.

but can also lull one into a stupor. Contrast can be jolt-

There are several ways to achieve garden harmony

ing, for good or ill, but a good balance of repetition and

based on color wheel relationship. Any three colors are

contrast inspires unity and holds your interest. Their

said to be analogous when they occupy adjoining space

harmony is an overarching concern, beyond one choice

on the 12-part wheel, such as red-orange, red, and red-

or another, and explains why you want color in your

purple. Most of the time, one color dominates and its

garden at every level in every season, from groundcov-

hues and shades are used more extensively than those

ers to the tallest trees.

of the other establishing colors. Complementary colors

Design elements are the arrows in your quiver, ready

stand exactly opposite each other on the color wheel.

to be deployed. To organize your thoughts, think of the

They can be counted on for stable, bold contrast, an

potential views as color vignettes and select plants that

important element in color harmony. Both hold equal

work together to fulfill the elements. Color across the

presence in the garden; shades and hues of each one are

seasons comes from vignettes planted for sequential

employed to extend the complementary palette.

color. Any size space can contain a four-season bed or

Because a garden changes every day, it’s wise to

border, and smaller properties gain focus from their use.

take the long view of color harmony. This concept is

Vignettes are essentially garden views of intimate or

dynamic, ever changing over weeks, seasons, and years,

grand scale, and while you do not want to see the same

yet your interpretation of it is timeless. equally timeless

sight everywhere, shared components promote har-

and incredibly personal are the tweaks of obsession, the

mony. The vignette should be built around a template

color details with deep meanings, if only to you. Perhaps

that can be repeated for unity yet allows room for plenty

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of variation. Some are three-part designs, essentially tri-

of the color derives from plants. Green, gray, and cream

angles of complementary colors or taken from the three

are often anchor colors that appear in every vignette and

elements of classic floral arrangements—straight, soar-

pair well with most other colors; when repeated, these

ing lines of inspiration, others bent to brush the earth,

colors become unifying elements. here are possible com-

and filler shapes that tie them together. Formal style

binations for sequencing plants and emphasizing color

vignettes rely on color and geometry to establish scale

groups. each plant in these top-down color vignettes is

and proportion, while more abstract templates are less

included in this book and you will expand on them.

constrained and may use subtler shades to maintain perspective. hardscapes and ornaments within such a

• A heartwarming, passionate color ensemble begins

four-season bed or border can and should play featured

with red and includes pink, coral, and salmon as

roles, but the gardener’s heart will beat faster when most

primary color players. Imagine a tall tree canopy on fire in spring with native red maple (Acer) and in fall when blackgum (Nyssa) goes red. Joining them

left: Blue, green, and gray conspire to calm even the wildest mood

in later spring can be buckeye (Aesculus) and from

in this sheltered spot. slate-colored shades in the wash of the

spring to fall, Japanese maple (Acer) hoists the red

planter boxes give way to lighter tones in the ornament and hosta,

flag for months. Step down with long-blooming,

and then even to the well-ordered aggregate and stones below.

pink-flowering spireas (Spiraea) that also provide yellow fall color. Use more yellow for contrast in

Below: A riot of color brightens any space—as well as your

witch hazel (Hamamelis) followed by kerria (Kerria)

disposition. Buttery yellow and citrus orange establish a

shrubs; mix them with red-leaf barberries (Berberis)

sunny mood, accentuated by the use of their color opposite,

and evergreen shrubs such as hollies with red winter

royal purple.

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Diverse but equally rich, the combination of color shapes in berries (Ilex). Fill in at ground level with bearberry

flowers make this crowded scene harmonious and inspiring.

(Arctostaphylos) and punch up spring with cottage

This offbeat, highly personal cottage style design imparts casual

pinks (Dianthus) and summer astilbes (Astilbe). You

confidence and the balance of pink, purple, and green carries that

might use this vignette over and again with varia-

message well.

tions along the back fence or in pairs to establish a front yard garden. with metallic purple berry clusters in fall. Bolster • Purple joins blue, violet, and lilac to set a cool,


summer color with chaste tree (Vitex) and rose of

serene mood. Their sophistication increases with

Sharon (Hibiscus) in blue and purple hues, but

deepening hues. Put the focus on shrubs with the

find space for white varieties of both for pleasing

pure purple of Oregon grape holly berries (Mahonia)

contrast. Accent the vignette with clumps of

and winter color. It will provide tall yellow flower

perennial Salvia to add every color in this group

spikes in spring and bold texture all year. Add

and punctuate this level with variegated leaves

classic color with Meyer’s lilac (Syringa) and light

or other perennials of equal color weight such

blue, effusive Ceanothus for spring and summer

as daisies (Leucanthemum) or great globe thistle

blooms. Make room for strong lines in here with

(Echinops). Lay in carpet bugle (Ajuga) for light blue

beautyberry’s (Callicarpa) arching branches dotted

spring flowers and purple leaves all year.

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• The earth tones—yellow, orange, terra cotta, and

pinky-white trumpets for months, and then those leaves

ginger—feel whimsical as a group, appealing as

deepen their red hues in fall. Such plants retain interest

they do to your sunny side. They can dominate

in winter with graceful clumps of gray stems. Add a small

a perennial bed or border with a complementary

flowering tree such as star magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

set as contrast. Start at ground level with the

or harlequin glorybower (Clerodendrum) to raise white or

patterned orange leaves of coral bells (Heuchera)

pink to the next level, and/or surround the shrubs with

and the yellow-green of moneywort (Lysimachia) to

low-growers like lamb’s ears (Stachys) or perennial

run the table with these colors for months. Accents

Sedum. This vignette is built around one plant with four-

of variegated lily turf (Liriope) and Pachysandra can

season interest with other plants that echo your color at

contribute very different greens to add interest at

different visual levels.

the groundcover level. Pick a variety of heights and

But other plants above it or beyond it in the design

shapes of perennials, such as black-eyed Susans,

can also be incorporated and reinforce scale, too. A

daylilies, and tickseeds (Rudbeckia, Hemerocallis,

huge spreading tree at the center of the view, such as

Coreopsis, respectively), but repeat two or three

Catalpa or golden raintree (Koelreuteria) makes a power-

across the planting for continuity. Interplant them

ful focal point. Use those colors again, but not in a bed

with compatible species that expand the months of

beneath the tree—put that creamy white or yellow and

color provided by the primary plants. For accents

salmon in a circular bed along the axis between your

in the blue-purple complement, select speedwell

house and the tree or in a bed off the deck in view of

(Veronica) and irises for spring, and gayfeather

the tree. You might use knotweed (Persicaria) and orna-

(Liatris) and Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium) for late

mental grasses with a Catalpa to take its creamy white

summer and fall. Vary the height with shrubs like

colors into summer, fall, and winter. Or plant blanket

fragrant sumac (Rhus) for burnt orange in summer,

flower (Gallardia) and cinquefoil (Potentilla) to comple-

repeated in the fall color of ‘Mt. Airy’ Fothergilla

ment the raintree. Color becomes form and line as you

and carried into spring by pink mountain laurel

use it this way to establish a color profile and sightlines

(Kalmia) plus red- or salmon-flowering quince

in the garden. The idea of creating a garden scene using fewer


plant groups can be especially useful in shady spaces. Color in place means using every plant part and growth

For multiseason good looks, you might cast actors such

stage to best advantage in one view. To create this kind

as texture, contrasting greens, and variegation. hardy

of vignette, you can expand the idea of bedding out. The

ferns, wake robin (Trillium), and hosta set the perennial

updated view adds other plant groups that take on the

stage beneath whatever is shading the area. You can add

same color focus through the year. For example, a shrub

shades from a huge viburnum hedge (white flowers or

bed of edward Goucher Abelias brings enchanting vase-

purple fruits) or sassafras thicket (orange fall color) to

shaped thickets. The spring growth is coppery red and in

the vignette in summer annuals and bulbs. remember

summer turns bright green with coppery overtones, some

the mantra of repeating vignettes for top-down color all

very pronounced. The shrubs are topped with clusters of

year: repetition for unity and contrast for interest.

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Nonstop color illustrated BALANCe GOeS TO A SeNSe OF PLACe, of internal harmony, and inspires confidence that there is a steady hand guiding the garden in a specific, colorful direction. In this three-season garden, there is balance on each axis in the tall lime-green pot that serves as a focal point. This wild and crazy collection of plants does not look calculated, yet it feels serene because of balance. The lawn serves as an accent in all seasons.

Summer sets the stage with a deep orange pot holding a mixed planting of diverse colors, as well as textures and heights such as bamboo, red sUmmer canna lily, peach begonia, and a yellow-green sweet potato vine. More contrast balances the scene—among furniture, pots, and their plants as well as between the bright colors of the patio and more subtle hues at the rear of the garden. A deep lime-green pot holds ornamental grass with brick-red-tinged leaves and bottlebrush-shaped plumes (Pennisetum ‘Burgundy Bunny’). A rich blue pot shouts with orange while a lighter lime pot contains ‘Black Magic’ elephant ear, deep purple leaves with lime-green veins. The columnar holly draws attention across the garden with boldly variegated leaves.


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FAll highlights seasonal colors in a big way and anticipates the holiday season well. Pumpkins Fall pumpkins set the theme; both pots and hardscape hold shades of orange in flowers, gourds, and decorative lights. Ready ready to be noticed, witch hazel (Hamamelis) puts on brilliant fall color in apricot-gold-redbronze. Ornamental grass plumes are plentiful, the holly has bright red berries, and the fire pit gets plenty of use.

SprInG colors keep the warm tones in this design feature, adding purple and white in bright, crisp pops to equal the brilliant colors of the spring containers. Bulbs are everywhere and balance the impact of the patio and the emerging new growth of trees and shrubs. Daffodils, crocus, and tulips echo the colors in witch hazel’s golden-yellow blooms and the red osier dogwood’s prominent red stems.

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Color for maximum garden impact Emotion, Value, and Intensity of Color

color chips to the garden center—each shade has a story.

The way you use hues and shades together lets color set

Value tells you how light or dark a color is and sometimes

a harmonious tone in your garden. It is this interplay

reflects its emotional impact in the garden. Darker shades

that shows the shades of your emotion as surely as it

of the same color are considered to be of lower value than

features the shades of color. highly personal emotions

lighter shades. For example, burgundy red has lower

are imprinted along with words and deeds into the color

value than cardinal red and evokes more thoughtful,

psyche of every gardener, and that is why certain colors

resolute emotions. Sky blue is higher in value than cobalt

satisfy us more when we translate them into the gar-

blue. It is also regarded as more optimistic and lightens

den’s plants and accessories. For example, Girl Scout

your mood, while low-value cobalt feels mysterious.

green is very different from avocado green, and if one

In the garden, value becomes a practical matter.

pleases you, the other probably does not. The first shade

Low-value colors fade from view sooner at twilight and

may make you recall your childhood or your favorite

appear after those of high value at dawn. At other times

Irish bar, and if those are pleasant memories, you are

of day, visibility may depend on the distance between

not likely to be satisfied by a lawn that is less than pure

you and the planting, but is still related to value. Size

grass green. But if you are a fan of the yellow-greens,

matters here, too, since tiny pale pink flowers (high

it might stem from a love for Army jeeps, retro appli-

value) will be less visible at the same distance than tiny

ances, or the guacamole you hope to make when your

red ones (low value). This knowledge can inform your

tree produces. In the garden, you would likely embrace

choice of which flowering plants to combine in order to

walkable groundcovers and pea gravel mulches without

express emotion effectively. It also explains why you will

ever missing the traditional lawn.

be wise to match one high-value plant with three of low

This attitude of conscious engagement in choosing

value in a bed that is viewed early or late in the day.

colors can impel you to look differently at plants and

Conversely, in a full-sun-at-high-noon planting, the

take no space for granted if placing color there can

ratio is reversed, especially if the individual flowers in

touch your emotions. It’s important to remember that

question are small.

when a color causes you to react, your body responds as

Intensity measures the brightness of a color (as it

surely as your heart. Whether it’s a stop sign or buckeye

does of light) and is highest when any one hue stands

tree (Aesculus) in bloom, red warms just as the cool blues

alone. This factor enables a long row of bald cypress

of a swimming pool flanked by butterfly bushes drops your temperature before you ever dive in. These emotional responses to color translate to the

Any group of plants can fill a space, but colorful choices make the

garden in terms of value and intensity. These factors give

most of its potential to create a view. This color palette of blue,

you control over the nuances in the way color is perceived

red, and purple stands up under scrutiny against the earth-toned

and so over the emotions you stir in the garden. They

background. let deep blue dominate, balanced by white and

are also why gardeners and designers carry a fistful of

silver stems and flowers in fewer numbers.


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trees (Taxodium) to be a dark green, eerie presence yet allows you to see the same design planted in a different, single color in an equal but opposite way. For instance, a long row of avocado-green and then golden Ginkgo trees feels warmly welcoming but no less intense. You can very successfully use single colors for standalone, high-intensity focal points, such as a gazebo painted purple or, for a strong seasonal contrast, a hedge that has red berries in fall. Intensity and its emotional message are tempered rather dramatically by using the color’s shades, complements, and/or gray, white, or black. For example, if pink and white dwarf sasanquas (Camellia) join the red berries on a holly (Ilex) hedge, the scene seems friendlier and softer, even though all the leaves are stiff shiny evergreens. But imagine the hedge with its complement colors instead—perhaps found in redleaf loropetalum and bunchberry, a groundcover dogwood (Cornus). Now the message is steadfast, and you feel sure-footed just seeing red and reinforcing purple-reds. After all, most emotions are gradations of three essential human feelings—love, hate, and indifference. In much the same way, most colors are gradations of hues that fall between the three primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. Gardeners employ shades of varying intensities and values to successfully interpret design elements into a diversity of emotions. You can begin with

none but the hardest heart will be untouched by the hot jewels

any color, but to ignore these important factors sends a

of summer color in the peach, pink, and red flowers in this

flat message and inspires only ennui.

grouping. The dark fence makes a perfect backdrop for flowers as diverse as round yarrows and zinnia, flighty white guara, and peachy hot pokers.


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Top-down color

TO COLOr YOUr GArDeN from the top down to the

dazzling fall color, the garden’s sense of place naturally

ground all year can seem daunting without a plan. With

puts colors into your palette. Note the red or gold shades

pad in hand, paper or virtual, survey the colors you have

that you want to repeat in the fall below the tree canopy

and the ones you want.

and/or in other seasons to reinforce them. Conversely,

every property has immutable colors to consider

if the trees are evergreen or promptly deciduous, your

first, the plants, structures, and natural features whose colors you do not control. You must decide how to deal with them, to incorporate them into your palette or to

A call-and-response color pairing resounds from rooftop to

consciously mask them. For example, if you chose the

driveway and beyond. A roof with red tiles, white walls, and a

site because the garden backs up to a native woods with

red-and-white awning holds forth, softened just enough by fence and flowers in more muted shades of the same palette.

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full palette comes into play. Begin with spring-flowering

door, perhaps planted with red geraniums. That might

and colorful fall trees slightly smaller than the back-

lead to adding a redleaf loropetalum (Loropetalum)

ground and then plan each lower level to emphasize

shrub hedge, a holly tree (Ilex) for red berries, and the

one or more of your colors in each season. For example,

red twigs of red osier dogwood (Cornus). In this simple

the yellow flowers and autumn leaves of tulip poplar

scenario you have used your signature color and its

tree (Liriodendron) can be reinforced by Forsythia in

related hues through the garden all year. At this point,

spring and carried into summer with St. John’s wort

you can expand your palette to add in more colors, to

(Hypericum) shrubs.

enhance but not blunt your impact.

When you inherit an existing garden, its colors also

You may have a favorite color, as well as one you

affect your palette. If it is rife with sunny yellow and

detest. That knowledge should be a guidepost in your

shocking pink flowering plants, keep in mind that sub-

color palette and inform plant choices for nonstop color.

tler shades of the same color will tone it down. If nuance

A word of caution, however, against the cavalier rejection

is not in your emotional wheelhouse, choose equally

of an entire color suite: White dogwood (Cornus) blos-

strong but different colors such as purple and orange

soms stand out against their own leaves but can shine

to diversify the color scene. When the garden is fully

even more when yellows and pinks or corals set them

planted at one level—say there are plenty of shrubs—

off. The supporting players from your color ensemble

your colors can contrast from the perennial bed, where

in this spring scene might include daffodils (Narcissus)

colors are usually longer lasting, and from small trees

below, and saucer magnolia (M. soulangeana) and pink

with dramatic form. In this way, the plants and their

Japanese snowbell (Styrax) alongside. But if you hate

placement will bolster what’s already there and stand

pink, you’ll find coral-flowering quince (Chaenomeles),

out on their own. Thematic white gardens, for example,

‘einstein’ daffodils with their coral cups, and the hardi-

may not be your cup of tea, but if you’ve inherited one,

est, coppery coral bells (Heuchera) will also work.

you can shift the emphasis using your chosen colors. If a

Your palette only works when you choose plants that

border features plants like white candytuft, add a com-

will grow, of course. There are subtleties within zones,

panion such as blue Stokes’ asters to liven up spring.

and local microclimates vary, but you will be well served

Then take your blue palette into summer, perhaps with

to start with USDA hardiness zones and consult other

a collection of blue pots filled with annual flowers to

resources. Those might include your state’s Cooperative

keep your color front and center. Or if a bank of white

extension Service for weather and soil profiles and maps

hydrangeas dominates in June, add reblooming blue

such as those drawn for heat zones and for specific geog-

hydrangeas for summer color in a similar form.

raphies in Florida and the West Coast. They will help you

Many homes have only a lawn, a few trees, and some

further define conditions and thus find suitable plants,

shrubs when you begin to inject your palette into them

but perhaps the best local resource is you. Keep your

year-round. These may be the easiest to assess for color

camera handy to record what you like in local gardens;

and offer the most opportunities to introduce your per-

shoot vertically to focus your attention on top-down

sonal palette. In such an ideal situation, if your home

color. Find a friendly horticulturist at the local garden

is gray with cherry red shutters, you might begin with

center, attend garden expos, locate plant societies and

planters painted a darker burgundy flanking the front

Master Gardener groups in your region. They know what grows where you live. With design elements and their impacts in mind,

Planning for top-down color makes beautiful, practical sense in

you can use your color palette to create new vignettes

a design that shades the porch from summer to fall in burgundy

or refashion existing plantings. At times, however, your

red maple leaves and that features terraces to frame the stairs.

knowledge of color can do much more to meet the chal-

Seasonal echoes in the same color palette are found in the

lenges of creating a top down, year round garden. Color

hydrangea and a variety of colors from caladium bulbs.

can solve problems, as you will see in the next chapter.

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sh ad y xe stra ris t ca egi w pe es in te solu r an int tion nu ere s a st sm l flo w al l-s er pa po ce we r ch al le ng es


Problem-solving with color ON A GOOD DAY, a garden inspires feelings of peace

work together or you discover that the setting itself is the

and excitement simultaneously. There is harmony in the

issue. When plants do not physically grow as expected,

display, sometimes humor, but never boredom. When it’s

review their needs and your care regimes. Timely prun-

not right, you can feel it, but its shortcomings can also

ing, fertilizer, and watering practices may get them back

be measured and solved. Sometimes you see the problem

on track and return the colors you planned. The colors

in a garden design right away. Maybe there’s too much

in your palette can offer strategies for shady and xeri-

of one color at one time or there’s nothing to look at for

scape settings, add winter interest from the top down,

weeks or months. A simple analysis, such as a weekly

provide seasonal color, and keep small spaces inter-

photo diary, will reveal colors and/or their lack and

esting. Whether it’s a tweak or a complete redo of the

often offer clues to workable solutions. Other times, the

colors in a garden space, these options will assist in your

plan and its plants surprise you when they simply do not


color solves the dilemma of transitioning from pond bank to garden by featuring woody plants with multiseason interest. Deep wine foliage near the pond and a frame of starkly contrasting green and yellow set off the focal point of scarlet red and draw your interest across the path.

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Shady strategies

ShADe OFFerS WeLCOMING reSPITe with a delicious air of mystery when done right. That shade may be inherited but when the trees you plant do grow and shade encroaches, your colors need not fade away. Interesting shade is all about contrast between colors, values, and intensities, but also between shapes and materials. As beautiful as a grassy green carpet can be, and despite the fact that it is often a unifying reflection of the colors around it, shade is not the place for turf grass. Where less than half a day of full sun shines, give in to the colors and contrasting forms of groundcovers to carry your color palette through the year. Few other spaces can feature the green color suite as magnificently as shade does when it relieves a monochrome scene. even a group of plants with essentially the same leaf shape can create a memorable view when their colors vary within this classic hue. Think of the sword shapes of perennial hosta, cast iron plant (Aspidistra), and canna lily (Canna) painted in bluegreen, forest green, and bright spring green. When the tree canopy is low and dark green, consider the yellowish green leaves in shrubs around the edge. A row of ‘Chardonnay Pearls’ (Deutzia) or a small spirea shrub (Spiraea) will clearly define the area with color best seen in a mass of the same leaf shapes. evergreen understory trees and shrubs can also maintain strong green all year. If they are missing from shade, add them but choose carefully for diversity of color and form. Where more than indirect light is available, colorful variegation and flowers can jazz up the shade year round or seasonally. Shrubs and perennials that have

Dappled sun provides enough light to sustain lawn grass but

painted leaves bring their own clarity; many favorite

leaves cooling shade that can be enhanced by pastel plant colors,

plants in genera like Hydrangea and Iris have variegated

light stone hues, and fine-textured, medium-green leaves.

forms. Where there is not enough sunlight for them to


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Above: Designing to incorporate various elements in a shady setting can be a challenge. The judicious use of ornaments for focus and detail works well with a diversity of green colors and plant textures to lead the eye deep into this very personal retreat. left: A shaded entryway can be overlooked by visitors or have little pleasing visual impact beyond its architecture. Using color such as that found in these hydrangea shrubs can solve this problem in one plant with multiseason interest.

bloom, their forms and colors carry the day. Or you might choose hues from the tree canopy’s fall colors to carry color into the shade in other seasons. Where red leaves dominate autumn above, echo it in shrubs like burning bush (Euonymus) that have or will develop similar leaf colors, plus red violas, red kale, and ornamental cabbages. Keep the accents red with tulips for spring and red spider lilies in late summer. Add a garden gnome with a tall red hat for more emphasis. even one stunning plant chosen for texture and color can change the dull shade below tall walls or endless evergreen hedges. Imagine a dwarf Japanese maple tree

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The definitive line of a long garden border can be maintained in shade if a major edging plant makes the transition and displays a brighter green than the plants around it. Thick, hardy clumps of bright green fern fronds lead the way even as leafy trees above deepen the shade.

and a large gray rock surrounded by painted ferns and coral bells (Heuchera) punctuating the shade with color for much of the year. In winter the branches and twigs of the maple will glow gray, its fine-textured silhouette in harmony with that big stone accent. Adding texture and palette colors to shade through hardscape or ornament can be your best friend. Consider

This cheerful, welcoming design uses the same variegated hosta

a path to break up the shade and add color; use slate in

plants in shade and part sun, where they bloom joyously and

a blue palette or concrete pavers painted white to catch

attract bees. Under the leafy tree canopy, leaf variegation is their

more light. Focus on a place to sit—a table and chairs

best feature.

or a bench—with texture that stands out. Sleek metal surfaces set a contemporary mood yet sit well with gray tree trunks and contrast naturally with greens and other

Where water runs through shady places, you have

colors. That same shady retreat done with wooden fur-

the grand opportunity to color the swale with rocks of

nishings will feel more timeless, especially if the path is

different sizes and shapes. Use the smallest sizes that will

covered in cocoa-brown mulch.

not float away in the lowest level and step up to sizeable


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Staggered gray pavers form the perfect floor for this shady short path and the design makes clever use of an otherwise lost space. The primarily green scene is enhanced by pastel flower colors and variegation.

flat rocks (perfect for butterflies to sun on) and boulders where there is room. Their profiles create height and form plus flat surfaces and crevices where light plays in wet and dry times. The rocks act as colorful mulch, too, and prevent erosion. Where no slope or natural flow exists, think about installing a water garden to transform the shade environment. Bubbling water appeals to the eyes and ears equally and creates a sense of tranquility that can be

Even an edible landscape design needs shade—to sit in, if not

therapeutic in a noisy world. The shade garden may

to grow in. A beamed pergola provides sturdy support for grape

be set apart from the rest of the property and is often

vines and a restful space beneath, where darker greens dominate

in the backyard. That makes it the perfect space to

and soothe. The ingenious path of continuous pavers through

express your most whimsical ideas, to surprise visitors

lawn and gravel expresses a colorful style and points the traveler’s

and sometimes yourself. Where plant heights are too

way through.

consistent, all tall trees and low-growing perennials, and where shade is dark and dense, add architectural elements: columns, posts, or poles painted in your signature shade. Use them as plant stands or trellises with strings of clothesline wire between them for vines to grow on. When the vines are leafless, hang twinkling lights or chains of prayer flags from one to another. If you want to hang a giant wind chime or build a tree house, shade can be the place—just keep your color palette handy.

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Xeriscape solutions


situation may seem dire, but it presents an opportunity

tively simple: to select and grow plants that thrive with

for smart new installations or redesigns that incorporate

no additional water beyond what is available from

color in different ways.

rainfall and runoff. It is often depicted in desert climate designs but it is actually a method and style of garden-

Natives to the Rescue

ing that can be used everywhere. Although the approach

A staple of xeriscape is the increased incorporation of

is minimalist at times, water-wise design is no reason to

native plants into designs; its grand benefit is color with

forsake color.

a sense of place. A stately oak or elegant birch (Quercus,

xeriscape is a radical idea, yet one that makes

Betula) sends a message of homegrown beauty. Similarly,

superb sense. To rely primarily on rainfall can be strat-

a stand of bright yellow tickseed or the pink daisy shapes

egy that adjusts to changing environmental conditions.

of purple coneflower (Coreopsis, Echinacea) looks and

Some areas of the nation have experienced a decrease in

feels natural even though it was planted intentionally.

annual rainfall as average annual temperatures have

When a nonnative tree or big shrub dies, grind out the

steadily warmed in recent years. There and elsewhere,

roots and reuse the remaining hole by filling it with soil

gardeners are irrigating less to conserve water and lower

from elsewhere in the garden, mixed with other organic

utility bills. Plants that cannot adapt can stop blooming

matters commonly used in your area. Then add a native

or succumb altogether to the changing conditions. The

that fits your palette plan. As with any new planting, it takes time for natives to put down roots and develop their superior innate tolerances for local conditions. Sometimes that means providing water in reservoir bags or with low-pressure drip irrigation systems. Some soil amendment in previously occupied soils and regular use

left: The play of sun and shade shifts the subtle colors of boulders in this xeriscape. Accents of fine texture and upright lines in shades of green and darker brown give over the focal point to the tan-and-gray palette. Right: The use of color to define space and highlight its use can be especially important in low-water landscapes to keep the message clear. here, gray stonework and a timber pergola combine with the rich greens of living mulch in a minimalist plant design that makes this corner shine.


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of a light organic mulch improves transplant conditions

Fortunately, native species plus their selections

here as everywhere. Such investments pay off in the long

and cultivars are more available every year thanks to

run with faster growth, and more and stronger colors.

increasing appreciation of their rugged qualities. You

To choose a native replacement in an existing planting,

may have seen native yellow witch hazel (Hamamelis) or

consider the color palette you have created and which to

creamy oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea) on a hike and

emphasize going forward. If blue and purple colors have

marveled at their flowers. But if the species is too large

been prominent, there are native berried shrubs aplenty

for your garden, there are now smaller cultivars with

from the pinky-purple to dark blue-black—and that’s

neater habits and the same, if not better, colors.

only the viburnums. While native species have always had a place in the

Designing with Natives and Nonnatives

modern American landscape, in many cases they have

Designing with native and well-adapted nonnative

been superseded by exotic (or nonnative) plants. Well-

plants together is a grand way to harness their color and

adapted exotics are chosen for outstanding features

energy in keeping with xeriscape sensibility. You have no

including brilliant colors or just because their “foreign-

doubt heard the phrase “right plant, right place,” and

ness” appeals; their numbers increase each year. You can count on them to perform as well as any native in their zones. For example, it is hard to imagine gardens

color diversity in plant leaves transforms what might be lost

without the Asian natives Korean stewartia (Stewartia)

space in a dry-side garden into a ground-floor organic mosaic.

and crape myrtle trees (Lagerstroemia).

Steely blue-gray and claret red stand out as focal points amid ground-hugging greens.


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Round and spiky shapes distinguish the cacti in this xeriscape design, which uses blue and gray pebble mulch to maintain, add color to, and visually cool this sunny, dry site.

this strategy demands it. Find out how much rainfall your area has and note differences in your own microclimate that might be due to runoff. Then select plants to suit the conditions. This may be as simple as noting the best performers already in your garden—or perhaps the neighbor’s garden. Investigate the origins of nonnative plants that are new to you, and if they hail from an area similar to yours, put them on your list. Your garden can boast nonstop color without draining the lake or your pocketbook for excessive irrigation. A good place to start is to reconsider thirsty turf grass lawns. replacing all or part of yours with hardy groundcovers creates a sustainable and often more colorful alternative. Where it is impractical to add plants to a changing situation, hardscape can reduce water needs and reinforce your colors. If you want a patio, deck, or outdoor kitchen, this is the place for it. hard surfaces are a blank canvas, so use them to reinforce passionate rose-red or stunning

colorful plant materials can flow like a living stream through

Caribbean blue from your palette. Color pavers and walls

landscape designs for dry gardens. mixing colors, textures, and

in your primary shade, and then add ornaments and

plant forms from round to crawling and trailing defines this

furnishings for contrasting values and companion colors

succulent planting.

too. Where plants are established but color and space are lacking, let hardscape carry the day—and your colors— into a harmonious combined design.

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Winter interest

GArDeN COLOr NeeD NOT take a holiday when the

early on that only improve with age. If you want to add

days go from brisk to bracing to frozen. In fact, a unified

bold winter color and strong silhouettes to be seen at

and balanced design must embrace winter interest fea-

a distance, choose one large evergreen and one large

tures or be unsatisfying. This dilemma is readily avoided

deciduous tree.

with smart plant choices and combinations that carry your message through the dark months.

evergreen trees offer strong form, brilliant color, and captivating barks easily recognized from an acre away.

There are three prime winter views in a property of

The dark red-brown shaggy barks of red cedar (Juniperus),

average size. First should be a colorful sight that wel-

dawn redwood (Metasequoia), and bald cypress (Taxodium)

comes you home. Second is one visible at close range

establish a muscular profile. Their presence implies stabil-

from your favorite window. Third is a view you have to

ity, defines the space, and softens the harsh winter mood.

look out into the garden to see, usually near the far point

Lots of winter color in every part of the garden comes

of the landscape. While the first and second views might

from the barks of deciduous trees because they peel,

be trees or shrubs accented with bulbs and ornament,

strip, and ravel to reveal glowing inner shades. Included

the third view is the province of evergreen and deciduous

in this group are Japanese zelkova and crape myrtle

trees as big as scale allows. The big trees you plant are

(Lagerstroemia); between them lies every shade of toasty

a legacy, ultimately an investment in a garden’s future.

tan and cinnamon brown. Some trees create patchwork

Luckily, many trunks develop colors, patterns, and habits

patterns as pieces fall away, as on lacebark elm (Ulnus) and sycamore (Platanus). Other trees, including river birch (Betula), hold their peeled layers in curly ribbons while a few, such as smoketree (Cotinus), discard bark in thin flakes. In planting this important third view, consider how well the color and geometry of ridges and furrows work at a distance. For example, the lightly ridged gray bark of oak trees (Quercus) displays subtle texture up close but looks solid gray-brown at a distance. Austrian white pine (Pinus) combines that same gray with white into bark that looks distinctly like puzzle pieces even across the yard. Sweetgum (Liquidambar) has dark brown ridges with surprising symmetry, but for a gnarly and

Red berries are a classic source of bright, cheerful color during the winter months.


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unforgettable look from farther away, look at the deep cocoa of golden raintree (Koelreuteria).

Color Pops: Berries and More Winter color and often wildlife amusement come in colorful berries and drupes that persist well past the solstice. If you have not had the pleasure of watching birds devour them on an icy morning, it’s not just the berry colors you are missing in that view from your favorite window. Viburnums offer the widest range of berry colors in diverse shades of dark, bright, and pinky reds, as well as blue-purples and almost ebony. They are often seen against burnished red and purple leaves that are among the last to fall. Blackhaw viburnum holds its fruits well for an especially long time, deep purple in tiny grapelike clusters. evergreen Japanese ligustrum has fat clusters of purple berries, too, that can look brushed with white powder. The holly (Ilex) family is perhaps the most reliable for glossy red berries in sizes from knee-high to 30 feet and more tall. holly forms range from squared off hedges to single trees that serve as focal points; evergreen and deciduous, alone or with company, there’s a holly to fit every view. Dogwoods (Cornus) bear beautiful scarlet red drupes in clusters. These seed packages may be small and oval-shaped or large, round, and dramatic as with the Kousa dogwood. equally beautiful red orbs can be found on strawberry tree (Arbutus), decorating stunning mahogany limbs. The most celebrated shrub for winter garden color must be red osier dogwood. Its bare stems are as shiny red and alluring as a vamp’s nail polish. Where summers are not too hot, grow it. Plan for bulbs to surround a focal point statue, line a path, or surround the patio to plant color where you want it for winter. As autumn leaves turn, coral-red spider lilies (Lycoris) and golden autumn crocus (Colchicum)

Designing a garden that grabs the eye in winter puts the colors

echo the transition color palette at ground level. Plant

of the season at wonderful odds with one another. Blue sky and

them alongside the late winter bulbs, which can begin to

white snow blanket a prairie garden on a blustery day, made even

bloom in January or just weeks later. The canary yellow

more beautiful by clusters of mahogany-colored seedheads on

of winter aconite (Eranthis) and crisp white snowdrops

leafless stalks and huge sheaves of tall grasses gone tan.

(Galanthus or Leucojum) lead the parade, followed by purple and white snow crocus (Crocus) and early yellow daffodils (Narcissus). Grape hyacinth (Muscari) delivers navy blue flowers while wood squill (Scilla siberica) glistens in Wedgewood blue. Their optimism is just the cure for late winter blahs, and they start the year’s color show from the ground up.

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Annual flower power

The FIrST FLOWerS that many people tend are often

the wise gardener approaches both with a plan already

annuals because they are easy to grow and can reward

in mind.

with unparalleled colors quickly. Two seed packets and a

Annuals seldom need an audition to play diverse

patch of sunny soil soon becomes a row of bright yellow

roles in the nonstop color garden. They can carry your

marigolds in front of a tall patch of rainbow zinnias.

colors through the garden from wherever they are estab-

Seasoned gardeners may think annual flowers are too

lished into closer view. Where forsythias and tulip poplar

easy, a distraction from other, more majestic plants.

(Liriodendron) set a yellow and gold theme, annuals like

They might seem like unnecessary fluff because each is

pot marigold (Calendula) and snapdragon (Antirrhinum)

so short lived when compared to other plant groups. But

can fill beds while black-eyed Susan vine climbs a lamp

annual flowers are there every year to deliver cheery,

post. Their yellow shades will unify the garden scene,

reliable, relentless color. Their unequalled range of hues

and you can add to their appeal with similar shaped

enables you to put color where you want it, at almost

flowers in different colors: round pink gerbera daisies

any level of the garden—even in baskets hanging from

(Gerbera) and blue china asters (Callistephus), pink stock

ropes thrown over tree limbs. There’s little or no waiting

(Matthiola) and purple annual salvias.

for annual color, and with just minimal maintenance,

This plant group can be the bridge that takes spring

such instant gratification can be yours for months. Seed

colors through summer or they can anticipate the fall

catalogs and garden center racks can be intoxicating, so

shades to come. If your fall focal point is the stunning reds and burgundy of black gum tree (Nyssa) and viburnum shrubs, be sure annuals like deep red-purple amaranths (Amaranthus) are included for summer. Some have upright flower spikes, but the long chains of

left: A difficult site, such as this one defined by chubby, light gray boulders in a mix of sun and shade, can be tackled by using annual flowers for pops of color. here, their presence personalizes the space, their roots do not compete with the tree, and their colors are a pleasant surprise. Right: hardscapes and evergreen plants define this mixed border of annual and perennial flowers. While gray pavers, dense green tree canopies, and perennial clumps such as iris and gayfeather do not change year to year, annuals can and will change, as you desire, leaving you with a possibly changing color palette.


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love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus) are plush and dramatic.

equally precious petals of saucer magnolias, annuals

Combine them with the bold green and burgundy pat-

pick up the thread with intensity: the bubble-gum pink

terns of coleus (Solenostemon) and pink cosmos.

of verbena, hot pink phlox, fuchsia petunia, and rose

Annuals can be more than an echo of your color

mallow (Lavatera). These darker shades of deeper value

palette; these flowers can shout it. In films, the “estab-

can stand up to the summer sun and glow against the

lishing shot” sets the mood for the entire production.

solid greens. Combine the deep pinks with light green

So it can be in your annual plantings when you use

Canterbury bells (Campanula) and gold California pop-

them to cue visitors for what will come in other seasons

pies (Eschscholzia), and punctuate the scene with strik-

with similar forms as well as colors. Perhaps you wait

ing white daisies (Osterospermum or Bellis).

all year for the distinct petals of white dogwood (Cornus) and cascades of white spirea (Spiraea) flowers that cover

Texture Changes Mood

the round shrubs each spring. You can highlight their

You can use bold-textured annuals to embellish the color

importance with the pinwheels of flowering tobacco

palette and change the garden mood entirely to suit the

(Nicotiana) and Madagascar periwinkle (Vinca) along

season. For example, the rich orange of paddle-shaped

with thick white stands of sweet alyssum (Lobularia) and

petals of hibiscus pair well with the huge upright red

tall annual delphiniums. In a garden otherwise devoted to pastels and evergreens, annuals can be a wild contrast yet stay within

The addition of annual flowers to a formal walled planting design

the color range you have established. They can continue

lightens its mood immediately and allows for almost-instant color

the heart and soul of those colors in brighter, bolder

in any season. Their colors will seamlessly enrich and reinforce

hues. When light pink spring roses greet spring with the

any theme established in perennials and shrubbery. Bright orange gives this scene an extra pop.


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A memorable, pollinator-rich design puts annual flowers along the edges of beds containing roses and other flowering shrubs.

(Salpiglossis). Their colors can paint a rainbow that is no

This “yellow brick road” of nectar-rich flowers leads visitors to the

more than knee high and amazingly diverse.

gazebo, but not in a way that makes them hurry.

Annual flowers planted en masse move people. Bright red salvias can lead the way down the path to a shady grotto or surround your front door and reinforce

Abyssinian banana (Ensete) and the refreshing green

its colors. A bed of tall pink and white or rose Cleome

hearts of elephant ears (Alocasia, Colocasia). Together

waves hello and lures visitors from across the garden.

they instantly transform the corner of your deck into an

They can fill a bed in heights from 6 inches to 6 feet with

oasis of tropical color and texture. Or you might choose

easy-to-grow textures that repeat and extend your color

fine-textured annuals to draw the eye into beds around

palette. There is no cause for plant snobbery here—no

trees with brilliant contrast. Such a group might include

other group offers a greater variety of flower shapes and

pouty diascias, softly lobed monkey flower (Mimulus),

colors in plants that can grow close to provide endless

prim columbine (Aquilegia), and velvety painted tongue

enjoyment for months.

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Small-space challenges

reGArDLeSS OF The OVerALL SIze of the garden, there

and style. More and more, however, every inch counts

are small spaces to challenge your sense of proportion

for color in today’s often smaller properties.

and use of color. Garden rooms are staples of landscape

entryways are universal, offer colorful opportuni-

design and are especially effective for creating intimacy

ties to express yourself, and establish connections to the

in large properties. They can be quite practical, too, like

larger garden in mood and color. While every doorway

outdoor kitchens with herbs and vegetables in planters

is different, there are two major types of entries: public

to mark their “walls.” Some garden rooms cannot be considered small spaces, but others can be and there are twenty-first century trends that use the same ideas. Both

Designing in a long, narrow space can mean vertical gardening

rely on focal point, color harmony, and the succinct use

and adding upright elements to extend the space’s limits visually.

of hardscape and plant materials to suit your site’s scale

This is an ideal location for this wondrous birdhouse collection and colorful container plants that pick up on their colors.


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and private. Typically, but not always, the public entry is found at the front door while a private entry will open into a back or side door. The area around your front door can be a friendly, fast glance at your color palette. If you have a porch or stoop, this is the place to start, but even if the doorway is not sheltered, its colors should connect to yours. In a patio home design, the entire postage stamp of a front yard can be considered the entryway. In each case, this small area will speak loudest with your dominant color and its color wheel opposite, such as purple with yellow or red with green. If you do not want the doorway to call out, use several shades of your signature color paired with cream or white. The front entry can be the lynchpin of symmetry between the garden and the house when you establish perspective using plants and color. If low shrubs line the path to the front door, consider a small flowering tree whose canopy reaches the eaves—cherry or apricot (Prunus) for spring, or summer’s blue-purple chaste tree (Vitex). eyes will follow the shrub line up the trees to the shelter of your front door. When the way is not clearly delineated, use the planting on each side of the door to its best perspective advantage. Symmetry is called for, but intentional mirror images can be disappointing. equality in forms can come from diverse plants across your personal color spectrum; their scale can marry the entry to the garden beyond. Vary their heights with more intense colors framing the door

Design success in a small space depends on good use of scale to

or let their heights and colors step down. In this sce-

foster harmony and a mood of pleasant good cheer. In this case,

nario, you repeat the door color at the opposite end of

the stones, ornament, and consistent color palette of green-,

the space and let its shades lead your eye from that color

white-, and yellow-leaved plants provide a careful blend of sizes,

to its mate, the front door.

shapes, and textures in sync with this peaceful water feature.

rear entrances are often the kitchen door with sidewalks and garage walls that need plants to soften their harsh lines. Consider the available space and sunlight

More popular than ever now is the idea to make the

here; paint and ornament may be the only options.

most of pocket rooms, small spaces created by the inter-

establishing shades of your dominant color here can

section of structures and plants. At least one side is a wall

mean careful choices but not much labor to install or

or tall hardscape such as you find in between houses on

maintain. There may be another exit, such as French

zero lot line properties. Of course, these walls and others,

doors onto a patio or deck, that demands a seamless

like the common wall of your patio and house, consti-

transition to the back garden. This can be a seductive

tute a small space with tremendous vertical gardening

place: an arbor over the door covered in an evergreen

potential. Be certain of its load-bearing ability, and your

vine, a huge rose (Rosa) trellis beside it, columns of

style to set up staging. Glass or painted shelves, rustic

Clematis, or a sequence of fragrant plants. This limited

wood planters, stainless steel racks, or a row of pocket

space need not be crowded physically when color makes

pots with a flat side—any of these can put garden colors

the transition easily in either direction.

into a small space with texture that suits your style.

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left: By placing pavers with planting space in mind, a quirky

Above: The addition of a water feature to small-space gardens

combination of plants with individual appeal becomes possible

expands their impact and your comfort zone right away. The

in a stylish setting. The intentionality of the design sets a round

gentle sound of flowing water, the play of light on the stones

barrel cactus near colorful leafy edibles to charming effect in a

below, and ample and colorful plants ensure the chairs will be

small space.

well used in this welcoming space.

Many gardeners harbor the desire for a surprise

Another colorful solution in small spaces that need

destination, a hidden view to be discovered with joy

help quickly: you can pop color in for a week with

in every season. Such spaces have to be sought out on

annual flowers or put colorful containers to work in four

a footpath, maybe behind the hedge or under a drap-

seasons if they are planted with dwarf shrubs and/or

ing tree canopy. You might adapt a color vignette from

small trees. In season, pots of bulbs or tropical plants

elsewhere in the garden in dwarf versions; a miniature

can bring exciting contrast, offer textures seen (or not

Japanese maple (Acer) can echo the standard-size tree,

seen, but needed) in nearby plantings, and deliver your

for instance. If the hidden garden sits beneath a sweet

colors throughout the garden.

gum tree (Liriodendron), its colors can mimic the red,

every idea that solves a problem depends on your

purple, and gold shades of autumn, extending their sea-

execution to become reality. In the same way, each

sons in the garden. For a bigger surprise, consider a small

design relies on the plants you install to carry it out.

water feature surrounded by rich green ferns (Athyrium,

You’ll find plenty of options in the next chapter.

Polystichum) and the white-wall effect of striped hostas.

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tre es sh ru bs flo we r gr ing ou pe n r US dco enn ia DA ve ls ha rs rd pl in an tin ess gc z ha o ne rt m ap


Plants for nonstop color PEOPLE TAKE DIFFERENT ROUTES to acquire plants,

Four categories of plants are included here to rep-

especially when it comes to the colors they choose. Some

resent the wide range of species, cultivars, and hybrids

fall in love with plants on sight and put them wherever

available. Trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers

seems best to suit their latest idea. Others decide exactly

are divided into groups by color: reds and pinks; blues

what they want and search far and wide until they get

and purples; yellows, oranges, and golds; greens; whites

it. Most of us, though, fall somewhere in between these

and creams; and neutrals, including grays and browns.

extremes and have at least something of a plan in mind.

The plant listings include botanical names for clarity,

We muse over possibilities that might accomplish our

and the index lists them both ways. Common names are

personal color goals and leave room for a few surprises.

in regular type, genera and species are in italics, and

The plants in this chapter are organized to facilitate

cultivars are indicated with single quotation marks.

this process.

The USDA hardiness zones are noted at the end of each entry. Numbers in parentheses indicate that the plant is considered marginally hardy in that zone.

A visually effective front landscape design reflects its gardener’s attitude toward the neighborhood. This great use of color sets

So—have fun choosing your plants for nonstop color from top to bottom!

a mood of attention to detail and warm welcome. The use of bold yellow black-eyed Susans call attention to the entrance with panache.


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Ohio buckeye

Red buckeye

Buckeye (Aesculus spp.) There is a place for the woodsy charm of a buckeye

of a “worry stone,” a talisman carried to absorb stress

tree in every garden and a species for every zone and

and bring good luck.

locality. No other small tree has such huge, colorful impact and fabled history from coast to coast. The

Six native species should be celebrated from north and east to south and west:

wood has long been beloved and put to important use

• Ohio buckeye (A. glabra) can be 40 feet tall in

for its carveable strength; buckeye has been fashioned

the wild but about half that in the garden. Its

into everything from baby cradles to artificial limbs.

flowers are creamy yellow with red splashes, and

The trees vary in shape but are essentially pyramidal with distinctly hand-shaped, palmate leaves. Spring

the buckeyes sport spiny husks. zones 4–7. • Painted buckeye (A. sylvatica) has robust fists of

brings new growth that is light green with yellow and

flowers in clusters that live up to its name. The 20-foot

even pink hues. As they unfold, deeper green shades

tree has especially big leaves, and its blooms range

take over and are soon topped by red or yellow flowers

from rose and pink to golden yellow. zones 5–8.

that look like fat candles made to light up the shade.

• Yellow buckeye (A. octandra) dwarfs the others

Buckeye trees are the stuff of children’s imaginations,

at 60 to 80 feet tall in the wild with blooms that

from red, yellow, or cream flower spikes to the nuts that

demand a second look for their creamy yellow color

split their shucks. They fall to the ground as the trees

with rosy red inside. zones 4–8.

are revving their engines for fall, changing green leaves

• Red buckeye (A. pavia) grows farthest south, a small

to fiery reds. The nuts are brown, from russet to mahog-

tree (8 to 12 feet) that lights up the understory garden

any, each with a lighter spot just made for your thumb.

with coral-red pyramids of flowers. zones 6–9.

For centuries, they have been the American equivalent

• Texas buckeye (A. arguta) brings light yellow flowers in loose candle shape clusters to 20-foot trees, sometimes with a dozen leaflets on each hand.

Birch trunks can stand alone and still draw a crowd. But crowded by brightly colored tulips, they assume grander status, like

zones 5–8. • California buckeye (A. californica) dazzles with

candles on a fancy birthday cake for weeks in spring. The contrast

neat, creamy white flowers in a cylinder-shape

is stunning.

rather like an old-fashioned baby bottle. zones 6–8.

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Magnolia grandiflora

Magnolia soulangeana

Magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana and cultivars) When someone mentions a magnolia, most people

wine’s color with especially shiny buds that glow in sun-

picture the evergreen tree with big, waxy white flowers

light. Deep lavender with red hues in its outer layers,

synonymous with the Deep South. But the most color-

‘Picture’ opens to expose a blush lilac interior framed

ful species, cultivars, and hybrids in this family are the

by the darker tepals. hybrids, cultivars, and selections

deciduous trees that bloom before, with, or shortly after

from the flowering magnolias make for a complicated

the leaves appear in spring. Most have slick gray bark

family tree. Pure white ‘Pristine’ honors its name with

and a spreading canopy or are grown with multiple

a simple white flower on a larger tree well suited to all

stems that increase the number of flowering branches in

zones, as are members of the Little Girl series, ‘Jane’ and

these trees’ jaw-dropping displays. Many are fragrant.

‘Ann’. Bold red buds contrast with bright white centers

The trees are usually 20 to 30 feet tall with a spread half

on ‘Jane’, which is also noted for great fragrance and

as wide, but some are smaller. Leaf cover will be denser

long-lasting blooms on a 15-foot tree. ‘Ann’ blooms

and flowers more plentiful in full sun. The blooms and

early with pinky purple flowers and a spicy aroma.

buds can be pink, yellow, lilac, purple, or red, some-

With great cold tolerance, ‘rose Marie’ reliably blooms

times on the same flower as when darker buds open to

deep rosy pink. In warm winter areas, ‘heaven Scent’

reveal lighter shades inside. When fully open, some are

brings dark pink outer and purple inner petals. Yellow

perfect bowls while others have tall centers; most fall

shades are well represented in ‘Gold Crown’ with warm

somewhere in between in their distinctive shape. each

tones in late flowers, while ‘elizabeth’ offers brighter,

flower is built of whorls, groups of petals stacked around

daffodil yellow flowers. Oddly enchanting, ‘Sunsation’

their center.

buds are striped and open into yellow petals with dra-

The most venerable flowering magnolias are the

matic purple centers.

saucers (M. × soulangeana), which are also known as

tulip trees and Japanese magnolias. They can grow nationwide but some in this group are better suited to areas prone to late freezes than others. ‘Alexandrina’ sets the standard for classic rose-purple color outside and white inner petals. ‘Burgundy’ can match that


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Japanese maple

Red maple

Maple (Acer spp.) North America is known for its Acer species, both native

Broadleaf maple (A. macrophyllum) is native to

and not. We grow a wide range, from towering sugar

the West Coast with leaves a foot wide or larger as it

maples essential for syrup lovers to diminutive thread-

matures to 30 feet or taller. When the huge leaves turn

leaf Japanese maples at the edge of a water garden.

yellow in fall, its gray bark with reddish ridges keeps the

Various family members offer red flowers and new

color going.

growth, dramatic barks, fine focal points, interesting

Red maple (A. rubrum) is a towering tree native to the

textures, and fascinating fruits called samaras. Maple

eastern US with deep red flowers that appear before the

trees have evolved a most elegant means to ensure their

red new growth, which soon turns green. Fall color is red

future. The flying samaras are often a child’s introduc-

or orange, as seen in ‘October Glory’ and ‘Red Sunset’.

tion to the species, and when Mother Nature’s little heli-

Paperbark maple (A. griseum) matures at 15 to 30

copters spin off the tree, even adults can be forgiven

feet with fall color in different shades of green and red. Its

for squeals of delight. The papery winged fruits carry

cinnamon red bark soon peels away for increased inter-

precious cargo, often only one seed, and float as easily

est all year. Some cultivars appear to be more cold hardy

downstream as on the breeze.

than the species, but their bark displays less contrast.

Silver maple (A. saccharinum) is an eastern US native

Japanese maple (A. palmatum) has deeply cut leaves

that matures at 50 feet or taller and provides multiseason

and ranges from 4 to 25 feet tall. ‘Sango-kaku’, the coral

color. Its green leaves backed with silver stir easily to ani-

bark maple, has bark that rivals its leaves for color.

mate spring and summer; fall colors may be red, orange,

‘Bloodgood’ (A. palmatum atropurpureum) delivers reliable

or yellow depending on the tree and cultivar.

deep red leaf color all season. Other notables include:

• ‘Silver Cloud’, red-orange fall color, upright form, extreme cold tolerance

• ‘Beni shichihenge’ stuns with light green leaves and sweet pink edges.

• A. × freemanii ‘Autumn Blaze’, an improved silver maple with bright red fall color in Zones 4 through 8

• ‘Shaina’ has salmon-red leaves. • ‘Waterfall’ is a small tree with fine textured, deeply cut green leaves, and a weeping form.

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Quercus spp.

White oak

Oak (Quercus spp.) Every garden needs an oak tree for a colorful canopy from spring through fall and sometimes beyond. Oak leaves

• White oak (Q. alba) is a broad tree with shades of red fall color.

vary greatly in shape and size, but all can deliver slick

In more northern areas, Zones 4 through 7 (marginal at

spring greens, bold bottle greens in summer, and fall

Zone 8a), three more oaks deliver big color and presence:

colors ranging from russet and orange to gold, yellow, and red. They offer soothing shade in a focal point tree that is equally stunning in winter. Where the trees are evergreen or semi-evergreen, their color holds the scene while most everything else takes a rest. Where they are deciduous, the bark and branches provide the garden design with beauti-

• Chinkapin oak (Q. muehlenbergii) brings orange and russet tones to autumn. • Northern red oak (Q. rubra) delivers rich, dark red fall color. • Pin oak (Q. palustris) has deeply lobed leaves that turn russet-bronzy-red.

ful stability and inspiring eye lines in grays and browns.

Much of the country can enjoy these four oaks (in Zones

The trees grow moderately fast while young and mature

5 through 9):

in sizes ranging from 40 to 80 plus feet tall and sometimes as wide. Oak trees reproduce by acorns that are prized by wildlife as much as growers. Their simple utilitarian

• Shumard oak (Q. shumardii) has broad leaves and red-orange fall color. • Willow oak (Q. phellos) has narrow leaves that turn

purposes hide inside some of nature’s cleverest handi-

brilliant yellow-orange hues and tolerates clay soils.

work. Acorns can be small as a shirt button or big as your

• Sawtooth oak (Q. acutissima) looks like it sounds

thumb, round, oval, wide, or narrow, and some peek out

with serrated leaves that glow golden yellow in fall.

of jaunty caps that seem made for elves. Each is a natu-

• Overcup oak (Q. lyrata) offers wine-red bark and

ral—and national—treasure delivered by native oak trees.

rusty yellow fall color in a lovely rounded tree that

Three oaks represent the trees’ best qualities and can

is drought tolerant.

Magnificent in warmer climes, California white oak

grow in Zones 4 through 9: • Scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) is true scarlet red

(Q. lobata) shows fine drought tolerance and live oak (Q. virginiana) has classic spreading form. Both are essen-

in autumn. • Bur oak (Q. macrocarpa) can grow 20 feet in 20

tially evergreen, pushing off old leaves with new ones.

years and produces the biggest acorns.


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Reds, pinks


Korean Stewartia

(Nyssa sylvatica)

(Stewartia koreana)

An old adage says that blackgum is never fooled, wait-

A great small tree like this one lends quick visual per-

ing to leaf out until all danger of a late spring freeze

spective to garden scenes created in flat, empty spaces.

is past. It might as well be said that this tree is pre-

Stewartia takes on its mature form in a few years with

scient about fall’s arrival, too, since it begins coloring

sophisticated colors and habits that should be seen more

up several weeks sooner than most as if it knows what’s

often. At 20 feet tall and possessing a thick pyramid with

coming. Yellow and orange hues appear quickly in late

showy trunks that peel dramatically, the tree can estab-

summer, then give way to purples and pure reds from

lish scale in a focal point embellished with annual and

scarlet to maroon in this tree, which is also known as

perennial flowers as bigger, slower trees grow nearby.

black tupelo. Broad at the base and tapering to a point

Bright white flowers stand out against arching, wine-

more than 30 feet above the ground, it redefines red fall

bottle-green leaves in early summer. Opening like a

color in native stands and modern landscapes. Lustrous

single camellia, its velvety petals blush with a thick

and bottle green, blackgum’s leaf shape is generally oval

crown of buttery yellow stamens. Fall turns the leaves

with prominent veins that give it a slightly coarse texture

red unlike other autumn hues, more subtle and warm,

that allows sunlight to bounce around in every direc-

closing in on orange at times. Equally beautiful flow-

tion. The flowers are yellow-green, arranged in pedun-

ers and even more prominent bark makes Stewartia

cles, and give rise to small, thick-skinned blue drupes

pseudocamellia a good choice for larger spaces. Its check-

for added fall coloration on female trees. The bark is

erboard bark sloughs off in clever patching patterns; the

nearly black, ridged aggressively in channels that are

tree tolerates moist soils, even clay. Its glossy dark green

even darker in hue and give a muted checkered effect at

leaves turn deep reds in fall with overtones that range

a distance. Cultivars gain more garden favor each year,

from muted oranges to dark purples. Silky stewartia

including a weeping form, ‘Autumn Cascades’, and the

(S. malacodendron) is native to the southeastern US. Its

especially colorful ‘Miss Scarlet’.

glorious fall color glows garnet red to deep purple even

Zones 4–9

in warm winters. Zones 5–8 (marginal at Zones 4 and 9)

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Reds, pinks

Kwanzan Cherry


(Prunus serrulata)

(Cotinus spp.)

Just as winter gives way to spring, troops of dancing

You face a delightful dilemma when selecting a smoke-

flowers deliver Kwanzan cherry tree’s surprising, strong

tree to light the garden in pinks and reds from summer

pink-rose shades. Each bloom is doubled in form like

through fall. Two species await consideration, one native

tiny, eye-catching roses or camellias packed along the

to alkaline soils in the US (C. obovatus, also known as

branches so tight it seems there’s no room for leaves

C. americanus) and the other from Europe (C. coggygria).

at all. The sight is a sure cure for the winter blues, and

Both may be seen as sprawling shrubs but deliver more

Kwanzan cherry continues to please as the flowers hold

drama in garden culture as small, colorful trees. The

on while the pinky-bronze leaves emerge. Four- to 5-inch

green-blue leaves let smoketree stand out among other

long, narrow, and slightly serrated leaves are also thick

trees in the early spring garden, but come May and June,

with a charming, slightly drooping habit; fall turns them

it’s all about the flowers. Spectacular, otherworldly, ethe-

several shades of red highlighted with bronze metallic

real—these words are overused in most plant descrip-

tones. Beneath this colorful canopy, Kwanzan stands

tions yet entirely apt for smoketree blooms. Up close,

on attractive, striated bark in brown and gray hues that

each flower is greenish yellow, exploding with countless

forms a rounded, vase-shaped tree. This tree sets the bar

pink hairs the color of cotton candy. Taken altogether

high for all other cherry trees but it is not alone in popu-

they create color clouds that are frankly the pretti-

larity. Sargent cherry (P. sargentii) is beloved for single

est “smoke” you’ll ever see, floating above branches

rose-pink flowers, deep red bark, and bronze fall color

thick with oval leaves that turn striking red and purple

in northern zones, while Higan cherry (P. subhirtella)

plus yellow-orange in autumn. Adding to the choice

offers a smaller, more open tree form well into the Deep

dilemma, C. coggygia ‘Royal Purple’ lives up to its name

South. The flowering cherry trees are uptown cousins of

grandly while the fall color on American smoketree is

the native black cherry that do not fruit and so they are

a brighter red. The native’s bark holds great interest,

well suited for many garden styles and settings.

a scaly brown canvas with a clever, flaking habit that

Zones 5–8

gives it great dimension. Zones 5–8


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Blues, purples

Strawberry Tree

Chaste Tree

(Arbutus unedo)

(Vitex negundo)

Evergreen trees that flower in the fall are a rarity in most

When the solid blue, nearly navy shades of chaste tree

places, including the zones where strawberry tree finds

flowers greet you for the first time, you can be forgiven

a home. The tiny white bells appear as balloons turned

for wanting it in your garden immediately in its full-

upside-down, ready to spill nectar out through each

grown glory. Shaped like upside-down ice cream cones,

narrow neck. They hang in sweet clusters in a sharp con-

the brilliant flower clusters explode upward from every

trast to the dark green leaves, but the blooms are not the

stem in summer like organic fireworks made to celebrate

most colorful feature of strawberry tree. That distinction

Independence Day. They burst like a blooming halo

is reserved for the red fruits that form round nubby orbs,

above stacks of gray-green (or sage-colored) leaves that

each one no bigger than a pea. They gradually ripen

are slightly waffled, lighter underneath, and palmate

to shades of red so brilliant it seems they would glow in

with five fingers, rather like hands. Chaste tree is also

the dark. A small tree no more than 15 feet tall, straw-

called hemp tree to recall other leaves it resembles. The

berry tree usually stands on one dark trunk that brings

tree and its leaves have a pleasantly fresh fragrance,

red tones to brown as it ages. Above is a dense canopy

almost citrusy at times but never offensive, so it’s per-

of perky, upturned leaves that are longer than they are

fect for planting where people can pass close by. This

wide. Native to warmer areas in Ireland and Europe,

small and picturesque 15- to 20-foot tree is also listed in

this species is one parent of Arbutus × andrachnoides,

references as Vitex agnus-castus and is sometimes called

celebrated for rich hues in its burgundy-cinnamon

agnus-castus too. In the garden, chaste tree has a sweet,

bark. Cultivars of strawberry tree include ‘Elfin King’,

almost quaint sprawling pyramid or arc shape that

which can bloom and fruit at 8 feet tall; ‘Compacta’,

hums with bees all day during the long bloom season.

with charming, twisted branches for added interest; and

Because the tree blooms on new wood, it can be pruned

‘Rubra’, with pink flowers that open from dark red buds.

after blooming or when winter freezes its stems to main-

Zones 5–8

tain a pleasing height and shape. Zones 5–9

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Blues, purples

Eastern Redbud

Empress Tree

(Cercis canadensis)

(Paulownia tomentosa)

Few trees are as likely to cause you to slow or even stop

There are trees that are much more popular with gar-

along your commute as eastern redbud on a spring

deners than with professionals in the field, and empress

morning. Its bare gray-brown branches burst with glo-

tree certainly is one. But all agree that the lavender-pur-

rious, delicate blooms that crowd together along their

ple or purple-blue flowers are a powerful attraction to

length. Each tiny bead of a flower captures light like a

people and butterflies alike. The blossoms are even more

prism and creates a blinding, radiant aura of the high-

spectacular because they appear before the leaves in a

est order—purple shades so rich with rose hues that their

flowery cloud of hanging bells gathered into large pani-

color needs a name of its own. But these are not just

cle-shaped clusters that cover the tree. The shape of each

pretty flowers; they are a favorite nectar source for hon-

flower resembles another spring favorite that shares its

eybees and butterflies such as Henry’s elfin. They dazzle

common name, foxglove tree, and in keeping with the

on a tree that can be 30 feet tall and about as wide in full

royalty theme, some refer to it as princess tree. Whatever

sun, but in slightly shady woods will more often be seen

you call it, empress tree is an impressive tree even when

20 feet tall and more upright. Stunning, heart-shaped

not in bloom. The matte green leaves are lobed rather

leaves open in olive green and soon develop brighter,

like those of catalpa and they are large, up to 10 inches

deeper hues that add to the tree’s considerable charms.

across on a 40-foot tree. Densely arranged, the canopy of

Soon to follow are the seedpods, flat beans that speak of

empress tree is a wide, shading beauty in summer with

the tree’s home in the legume family. Eastern redbud is

oblong yellow-green fruits that turn deep brown before

widely distributed in a variety of environments and soil

they explode to send seeds flying. This habit can cause

types; it is native to more than half the continental US

too many seedlings and give it the label “messy.” No tree

and grows more widely.

is for everyone, and empress tree is best grown in full sun

Zones 4–9

where you can mow under it to control its prolific nature. Zones 5–9


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Harlequin Glorybower


(Clerodendrum trichotomum)

(Asimina triloba)

The late summer garden can benefit from cooling blue

Unusual, colorful, and the source of delicious fruit,

and purple tones, and harlequin glorybower delivers like

pawpaw tree should be celebrated in modern gardens.

no other small tree can. The tree’s canopy is almost fluffy,

Native to moist, wooded areas such as creek banks in

full of dark green leaves that smell like peanut butter

half the states, this small, unsung tree stands up to hur-

when crushed, giving rise to another common name,

ricanes as well as blizzards. Huge, sword-shaped leaves

peanut butter tree. They make the perfect pillows to dis-

bring deep green tropical tones to this small tree, which

play huge clusters of pinky-lavender flower buds that

can grow into a dense pyramid in sun or a looser form

pop open all summer to reveal fragrant white pinwheel

in shade. Both deliver color in their coarse texture but

flowers. There can be thousands of flowers on a 15-foot

flowers and fruit are more abundant on sheltered, sunny

tree, and each one seems to attract butterflies in search

sites. Pawpaws have been around since before honey-

of nectar. The white petals fall off to reveal incredibly

bees, and so its pollinators are usually beetles and flies.

beautiful bright blue fruit ringed by fuchsia calyxes that

The exotic flowers have evolved to attract the insects

surround it like a star. The effect is dazzling—the blue is

that prefer dark colors, intense odors, and easy access.

so shiny it looks like polished chrome. Most Clerodendrum

They are deep purple-red, merlot wine shades and face

species are tropical in nature, but this one performs best

downward as if to point their smell in the bugs’ direction.

a little farther north, and if the top is damaged, it will

It works and pollination happens to fruit-lovers’ great

resprout from established roots to bloom each year. ‘Betty

delight. The light green, waxy fruits appear in clusters in

Stiles’ is an especially nicely formed, cold-hardy tree that

the shade of the leaves, each 4 to 8 inches long and foot-

was originally found in North Carolina. Without much

ball shaped. Golden yellow with black seeds inside, the

attention and planted in shade, harlequin glorybower

fruit tastes like banana custard. If you want fruit, seek

becomes a huge thicket with fewer blooms and a propen-

out two different, commercially grown pawpaws; trees

sity to spread unpleasantly.

transplanted from the wild are seldom successful.

Zones 6–9

Zones 5–9

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Blues, purples

Purple-Leaf Plum

Rose of Sharon

(Prunus cerasifera)

(Hibiscus syriacus)

A tree bold enough to have “purple” in its name has to

Althea, also called rose of Sharon, basks with cool blue

be great, and purple-leaf plum tree lives up to its bill-

style all summer in cottage gardens and offers stiffly

ing. New leaves almost drip the color as they fill out,

upright vase-shapes to beds and borders in need of

with deep shades that grow richer as spring hastens on

diverse silhouettes. Its flowers are open, single trum-

to summer. Unlike other plants with purple new growth,

pets that resemble tropical hibiscus in that their petals

this plum holds its color and enhances it in full sun and

seem to be made of slightly wrinkled paper, but they are

hot weather. Shade is a challenge, and leaves may be a

unlike them in color. The dusky blues and purple that

puny green there. Moderately fast growing to about 25

paint these blooms distinguish rose of Sharon from its

feet at most, purple-leaf plum forms a rounded canopy

family and are unforgettable in their simple perfection.

that makes a fine specimen tree alone in the side yard

Each has a bulls-eye center of deeper purple-red with a

or as the focal point in a mixed bed of perennials and

long pistil that pokes out boldly from the center like a

bulbs. Flowers appear before the new leaves in very

nose laden with flower parts and pollen. The tree’s inter-

early spring. They are pink or white, thickly packed

esting leaves are longer than they are wide and lobed

onto the tree with a smell much like an orchard of less

rather like a chrysanthemum. Deep green and slightly

lovely but edible plum trees in bloom. ‘Purple Pony’ has

shiny, they are loaded along each branch from top to

very dark rose-pink flowers, and both ‘Thundercloud’

bottom to create a perfect setting for the flowers on this

and ‘Newport’ are noted for their dark leaf colors. Fruits

small tree. Often seen in rows or planted in clumps, rose

do form on purple-leaf plum, little 1-inch jewels that

of Sharon can be pruned annually maintain it at the

can be purple, red, or even yellow depending on the cul-

height (10 to 20 feet) best suited for your garden. Some

tivar chosen.

trees are greatly improved upon by breeders, and there

Zones 4–9

are fancier, often double-flowered, rose of Sharon trees that are lavender and rosy blue. But the classic cannot be beat for pure purple flowers and old-fashioned charm. Zones 5–8


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Yellows, oranges, golds


Chinese Pistache

(Liquidambar styraciflua)

(Pistacia chinensis)

Fall color can be amazing to view but bittersweet as it

This tree is a real showstopper all year because of its

signals the end of a season. When leaves hang on longer

dynamic compound leaves—no one can resist taking a

than most other trees in exquisite purple shades, it is

second look at close range or across the garden. Chinese

heartwarming to see and feel. Sweetgum is such a tree,

pistache leaves are beautiful, highly sculptural, and

with deep purple color dancing amid bold gold and red

gracefully gathered in a canopy shaped like a fancy

palmate leaf shapes on every branch. When at last they

parasol. The leaves emerge deep green in spring and

drop from the tree, its gray or brown bark is revealed

hold their color through hot, humid, summer weather

with dark ridges that are often spaced neatly like lines

to turn brilliant autumn shades of orange, apricot, gold,

on a graph. Its patterns are drawn on a sturdy trunk and

and sometimes red. Most years, other orange leaf shades

spreading branches and make sweetgum tree easily rec-

pale in comparison to this tree’s colors, so intensely

ognizable against the winter sky. The new leaves emerge

bright they almost look dyed. Every breeze puts them

in spring with five or seven hand-shaped lobes. They are

in motion for an unforgettable, kinetic garden moment.

rich bottle green with petioles that are light in weight

You might not notice long clusters of greenish flowers in

and color, so the new leaves rustle in every spring breeze.

spring, but you will when they become bluish red, deep

The purple feature has been enhanced in cultivars

blue, or bright red berries. They look like delicate jewels

including ‘Burgundy’ and ‘Rotundiloba’. The second of

strewn among the orange fall leaves. But this tree is even

these is also fruitless, a desirable feature for those who

tougher than it looks, with strong, durable wood that

consider the woody fruit called “gumballs” too messy for

can stand up to high winds in exposed, sunny sites. A

garden culture. Others love the fruit’s spines and holes

relatively fast grower to about 30 feet tall and almost as

that resemble crazy organic space capsules; they may

wide, Chinese pistache is nearly pest free and long-lived.

paint them in holiday colors or roll them in peanut

Best in full sun and not picky about soils, it transplants

butter and birdseed for outdoor decorating.

readily and develops good drought tolerance.

Zones 5–9

Zones 6–9

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Yellows, oranges, golds


Golden Chain Tree

(Ginkgo biloba)

(Laburnum × watereri)

Renowned as the oldest living tree species on Earth,

Not to be confused with the Asian native golden raintree,

ginkgo (or maidenhair tree) uses color to charm in

golden chain tree is a long-beloved hybrid of trees from

uncommon ways. Scalloped leaves emerge yellowish

southern Europe. The small (20 feet) tree simply glows

green and open into grass green, squatty triangles that

with spectacular color when in bloom, the quality that

give it another common name, duck foot tree. The tree

makes it a favorite focal point in cottage garden designs.

can be more than 30 feet tall but is more often seen at

Dangling chains of small golden flowers form fragrant

that height; width varies but usually the tree presents

clusters, called racemes, that are more than a foot long

an upright pyramid of bright, bold green. Like most

and taper perfectly into points below the leaves. The tree

trees, ginkgo needs regular water in its early years and

can display such dazzling gold and so many racemes

becomes rather more drought tolerant as it ages; color

in a row along a long branch that their silhouette may

will suffer without full sun and water in dry years. In

remind you of Chinese wisteria vines at their very best.

transition to fall, when the leaves give up the green

Golden chain tree is a member of the legume family as

to reveal their trademark bright gold, the colors are

evidenced in its pea-green, slightly pointed, tri-lobed

briefly—and delightfully—striped in both shades on

leaves and long bean pods that form in summer. Young

individual leaves. In fall, another natural surprise

trees have green stems that change slowly to dark gray-

awaits when ginkgo leaves suddenly cascade off the tree

brown marked with deep creases and crevices that grow

as if a string was pulled to disconnect them. When the

more attractive with time. Golden chain’s rewarding

lawn suddenly wears a gold skirt at the base of the tree,

color can inspire love at first sight that forgives a few

its handsome gray trunks take the stage. Male trees are

frailties, including the need to prune young trees into

preferred, such as cultivar ‘Autumn Gold’ and the dwarf

shape and the fact that all parts of the plant are poison-

form ‘Jade Butterfly’. The odor of female ginkgo flow-

ous. The cultivar ‘Vossii’ tolerates full sun without fading

ers recalls rotting meat, and raking up the petals just

the fabulous flowers.

spreads the smell.

Zones 5–7

Zones 4–9


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Golden Raintree

Pendant Silver Linden

(Koelreuteria paniculata)

(Tilia petiolaris)

To see a golden raintree in bloom is to understand its

More than one linden tree can do well in gardens across

common name. In late spring, every branch tip lights

the center of the country, but pendant silver linden rises

up with huge clusters of small golden yellow flowers that

to the top of the family color chart. Big and little leaf

shower the tree in color. The tree’s leafy canopy grows

lindens, Crimean linden, silver linden—all have jaunty,

dense with so many little branches that there can be hun-

heart-shaped leaves on slick brown branches. Their

dreds of these flower panicles on one 30-foot tree—the

trunks darken and crack nicely with maturity; the trees

halo effect is simply brilliant. Native to Taiwan, golden

offer up pastel yellow flowers each spring, and most

raintree has dark brown, almost corklike ridged bark

put on decent fall color. Pendant silver linden does it

and surprisingly lightweight emerald green compound

all better, displaying more and richer yellow blossoms

leaves. Each charming leaflet has gently scalloped edges

in spring, matched by golden fall leaf colors. The tree

and ruffles easily in the breeze. Golden raintree puts color

is more oval and rounded than its relatives and creates

in motion and keeps it there until late fall like few other

a large, almost weeping form that could be taken for

trees can. Summer sees the flower clusters transform into

granted but for its strong colors. Fragrant little clusters

wild arrangements of salmon-pink, papery envelopes,

of fringed yellow flowers extend from so many leafy

each designed to protect one precious seed. These daz-

branches that from a distance the tree looks like it is

zling structures are lighter than balsa wood but strong

wearing a polka-dotted veil. When the leaves begin to

enough to carry the seed far and wide. And travel they

turn, first fading then deepening to warm yellow-gold

do, becoming a pest in some areas of Zone 9. As they

with red tones, they herald the season’s change, and you

drop from the tree, the leaves turn yellow, and the gnarly

know winter is approaching. The name of this tree is

trunks stand alone for a few months. Like few other trees,

poetic, evoking images of fine handcrafted jewelry, and

golden raintree starts conversations about the awesome

it does not disappoint.

quality of natural beauty, and deservedly so.

Zones 5–7

Zones 4–9

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Yellows, oranges, golds

Quaking Aspen


(Populus tremuloides)

(Sassafras albidum)

There are a select few trees with uncompromising needs

Deep furrows mark the dark red-mahogany brown bark

yet their astounding beauty beckons us to bring them

on sassafras tree and that might be enough to earn it

closer when possible. As a group, poplar trees’ finicky

a place in your garden. But there’s much more to rec-

site needs and vulnerability to pests rate them low on

ommend this colorful native tree, starting with the

the landscape satisfaction scale—the outstanding excep-

way its narrow trunks are arranged and how its leaves

tion is quaking aspen tree. Forgive its flaws and use it

are placed. Like a Hindu goddess’s arms, the tree’s side

where it can deliver unsurpassed color impact, most

branches extend every which way, some go straight out

often in northern and western states where cool sum-

and others bend sharply at the “wrist.” Even without

mers and relatively moist soils can support its pyramid

leaves their distinct geometry can be riveting. Glorious

of jewel-green leaves. With the first chill comes a huge

green, lobed leaves arise from each branch like extended

color transformation; nothing else in the range offers

hands with three stubby fingers that want to be seen.

anything close to these bright, richly yellow leaves.

They splay out from the branches in tiers, revealing the

Each leaf is attached to its branch by an unusual stem

wood behind. When the leafy layers color up in autumn,

that has the strength of a spider’s web and is almost as

it is not possible to pass by a sassafras tree without a

thin. These petioles hold the leaves tight but any little

second or third look. Shades of orange, apricot, gold, and

breeze spins them into frenetic motion and causes them

yellow paint each leaf like a patchwork quilt of perfect

to shudder, to spin about like yellow tops in the air, to

fall color, with a touch of navy blue sometimes added by

“quake.” Just when you think the show is over, leaves

fruits on female trees. Usually grown in the understory

drop to reveal the naked truth—quaking aspen’s white

garden beneath taller trees, sassafras tree stands bright

trunk and angled branchwork is stunning against the

in the shade. The allure only grows when dappled sun-

winter sky. If you do not live where this tree can thrive,

light illuminates it from above—resistance to its color is

consider a pilgrimage to see it.


Zones 4–6


Zones 4–9

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Tulip Poplar

Bald Cypress

(Liriodendron tulipifera)

(Taxodium distichum)

You could look far and wide and never find a tree with

If you think bald cypress only grows in the swamps

flowers as colorful as the yellow and orange blossoms

of the Southeast, consider your horizons expanded

that crown tulip poplar each spring. But, its other col-

because this graceful native tree enjoys a wide range of

orful features distinguish it as well. Each flower actu-

environments. This tree stands erect with a loose, flow-

ally does resemble a tulip in that they are open cup

ing canopy that looks oddly light and soft for such a

shapes, buttery yellow and bursting with orange inside.

large tree; this effect is sometimes more pronounced

The flowers are followed by fruit capsules shaped like

in the West. Feathery, almost frilly, its new leaves are

Christmas lights that are yellowish green and turn tan

very light green in spring and deepen into jewel tones

as they mature. A tulip poplar tree forms a single, thick

that soak up the summer sun and keep growing. The

gray trunk with slight ridges that are lighter in color at

change of season brings out the best in bald cypress as

times in contrast to many native trees. Few side branches

green gives in to stunning golden-brown and rich russets

develop and the top growth is rounded in young trees

to end the cycle. In colorful contrast, the gray trunk is

but spreads with age. The leaves are recognizable from a

coarse with sharp ridges and darker furrows in young

distance, lobed with a deep notch on top in warm, green

trees. Over time the tree’s base may split into lobes that

shades that are also hard to find. Tulip tree is host to

form a big, scalloped, light gray skirt. Bald cypress trees

larvae of the eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly; many

are majestic when gray Spanish moss stripes their leafy

others seek out its nectar as do hummingbirds, and a

branches. But the versatile tree is equally beautiful as

host of birds nest in the canopy. This is a large specimen,

the focal point behind deciduous shrubs or perennials

among the tallest native hardwoods, yet its habits and

in almost any garden soil. Such placement highlights

good looks make it a friendly, welcoming tree well suited

its winter colors, which persist for weeks longer. One cul-

for the modern landscape.

tivar stands out for its bluish green color and narrower

Zones 4–9

silhouette: ‘Shawnee Brave’. Zones 5–9

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Dawn Redwood

Desert Willow

(Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

(Chilopsis linearis)

Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and giant sequoia

This little tree is a colorful garden elf—airy, finely tex-

(Sequioiadendron) are ancient conifers long prized on

tured, fern green leaves shaped like exclamation points,

the West Coast for their beauty and utility. Individual

and clever hat-shaped flowers. Desert willow practically

trees are impressive, huge, and dressed in thick clusters

giggles as its loose canopy waves in the breeze. Each leaf

of deep green leaves that move with the wind; redwood

may be a foot long but is never more than half an inch

groves are the stuff of poetry. Both these trees have lim-

wide with a slightly drooping, kinetic nature. In all but

ited habitat, and the 1941 discovery of dawn redwood,

the most humid environments, desert willow lightens

long thought to be extinct, added a dynamic upstart to

the mood in borders and mixed hedgerows. But groups

this small family of magnificent trees. Dawn redwood

of the trees can be quite dramatic at the end of a sunny

has expanded the big tree’s potential range to the East

path in well-drained soil or a raised bed. The trumpet-

Coast and South, and its fans are both in residential

shaped blooms appear on the current year’s wood; thus

and commercial landscapes. Finely cut leaves shimmer

pruning to shape does not hinder flowering. They are

when fresh; light green new growth lays over the deep

abundant in number and fragrance from spring through

forest color of maturity. The effect is stunning, especially

fall or longer in pastel pinks and violets, occasionally

when sunshine plays around the tree in spring. Its pyra-

white, and sometimes red. They deserve your atten-

mid shape is a naturally uplifting icon in the garden all

tion. Desert willow makes a fine large container plant

summer, and when the leaves flame up into their orange

where it is not hardy. Intergeneric hybrids are rare in

fall colors, the effect is awe-inspiring. No tree bark can

nature, but desert willow is one parent of a delightful

match dawn redwood’s mature form. Trunks start with

one, × Chitalpa tashkentensis. Its other parent is Catalpa

a red bark that darkens, cracks, and peels in charming

bignonioides, and together they create a larger tree with

narrow strips. In time the trunk gains the character of

bigger, pink-streaked blossoms. Like desert willow, this

age, buttressing its crevices into deep cracks streaked in

plant best suits dry climates.

shades of gray.

Zones 7–9

Zones 5–8


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Eastern Red Cedar

Japanese Privet

(Juniperus virginiana)

(Ligustrum japonicum)

On the road to anywhere in the Midwest on a snowy

When you seek a garden bed centerpiece or a colorful

winter day, eastern red cedar offers a crisp green salute

signature plant to repeat throughout the landscape,

to raise your spirits. Stiffly upright, this tree radiates

Japanese privet fits. It has been long appreciated as a

green every day, all year, yet does not stay the same.

hedge plant but is too often chopped into a shadow of

Bright, rich summer color softens with the coming

itself to control its vigor. This 12- to 15-foot woody plant’s

winter into darker greens with yellow and brown over-

best use is as a tree that delivers like the post office—con-

tones. Male trees spew out yellow pollen clouds; females

sistently and year-round. The evergreen leaves are 2 to

put on ice lapis blue cones, a much preferable quality.

4 inches long along lumpy (but lovely) light gray stems.

Unparalleled rot resistance and moth-repelling qualities

Their color matches shiny dark green porch paint, and

have led to a host of uses for this tree. Historically, fence

their heft lends a formal air to the dense canopy. Bright

posts, storage closets, pencils, and hope chests are made

pyramid shapes made of flower buds appear at the

of its wood, and more than a few of the trees have worn

branch tips in spring and soon open into scores of hairy

Christmas ornaments. Like many great native trees,

little stars. The effect is like green glass bowls stacked

eastern red cedar has given rise to cultivars better suited

with scoops of old-fashioned vanilla ice cream. Their fra-

to landscape designs including the deep green, open

grance is powerfully sweet, some say cloying, but you

form of ‘Canaertii’, long popular in the Midwest. ‘Burkii’

forgive that because it brings in the pollinating insects

is prized for its open pyramid form; it develops oddly

just when the garden needs them. The flowers become

beautiful, purple tones in its winter leaves. Rich dark

purplish gray fruits (drupes) that turn even darker in

green leaves, long yellow cones, and shaggy gray-brown

winter to bring more bold contrast to the tree. The culti-

bark make an irresistible statement in incense cedar. The

var ‘Recurvifolium’ sets the standard with gently waved

western native conifer, Calocedrus decurrens, has a simi-

leaves, and ‘Nobilis’ continues it with faster growth and

lar pyramid form that ages into an upright column.

glossier green color.

Zones 4–9

Zones 7–9 (marginal at Zone 6)

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Lacebark Elm


(Ulmus parvifolia)


Trees that you choose for the front garden should be dra-

Garden design takes every sense into consideration,

matically beautiful, long-lived, elegantly neat in habit,

including sound, like the moans of high winds blowing

and easy to grow. Lacebark elm, also called Chinese elm,

through pine trees. Their visual appeal lies in their nee-

hits these essential points with dynamic color all year

dles, bark, cones, and stately silhouette. Like puppies,

from coast to coast. First is its stunning rainbow bark

pine trees vary greatly within the family and each has

that sloughs off with brown, orange, green, and gray

its charms. In Zones 4 through 7, Austrian and Japanese

hues, a quality that may explain its popularity as an

white pines (P. nigra and P. parviflora, respectively) are

urban street tree. Lacebark elm can be endlessly inter-

good examples of this diversity. The Austrian white pine

esting to passersby even without its broad leafy canopy.

can be 50 feet tall, eventually becoming a goblet shape

Those leaves ride on a network of fine-textured branches

of thick branches and dark green, almost-black needles.

that softens their deep green, leathery texture, gives the

Its bark has dark ridges around stunning, abstract tiles

tree gentle motion, and creates excellent shade. Fall

in white and ashy gray. This is a dominant tree, meant

color tends to be yellow and rich wine reds, depending

to be seen from across the garden. Japanese white pine,

on location and the year. Lacebark elm has remarkable

though, covers itself in green-blue needles that sweep

adaptability to a range of climate and soil conditions,

the ground, wide at the base and curving upward like

and shows good tolerance for common pest problems.

a huge chocolate kiss. About 30 feet tall, this pine

The trees can range in size from 30 to 60 feet and far

is at home in a range of garden sizes and styles. The

outperform other non-native elms introduced in recent

American native white pine (P. strobus) has a broader

decades. The native elm, Ulmus americana, was lost to

range (Zones 4 through 8) and an elegant profile, like

Dutch elm disease and has been the subject of many

arms outstretched. In Zones 6 through 9, the resilient

breeding efforts to replace its grandeur. The trees that

native American loblolly pine (P. taeda) has fine bright

result from those programs are worth watching with

green needles, orange flowers, and tapered, 5-inch cones.

hopes for their long-term success.

Zones 4–9

Zones 4–9


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Whites, creams

Weeping Willow


(Salix babylonica)

(Viburnum prunifolium)

The lyrical songs and poems written about this tree are

Too few truly small trees make as big a color statement

both ancient and modern. From the Koran and the Bible

as blackhaw. No larger than 20 feet and often multi-

to Joan Armatrading and British duo Chad and Jeremy,

trunked, the tree is easily pruned to a rounded or more

weeping willows have evoked grand, often sorrowful

spreading canopy right at eye level. Leaves, flowers,

emotions. The best known of its family, there is no better

and fruit are multicolored in multiple seasons. The 2-

focal point tree for damp soils and those that are irri-

to 4-inch leaves are glossy green, rounded, and packed

gated regularly. Numerous varieties with mature heights

thickly onto gray stems that darken with age. In late

from 25 to 40 feet tall are favored in particular locales

spring, spectacular flower clusters decorate the tree

but the overall silhouette of this tree holds our hearts. In

like dollops of vanilla ice cream, scores of tiny white

full sun, its weeping profile is distinct, branches that soar

blossoms dropped on each branch. Part of blackhaw’s

up and bend over just as far. They are thin and grace-

charm is that the individual flowers sport skinny white

ful, covered in skinny lance-shaped leaves that are 3 to

filaments and yellow anthers so each cluster looks a bit

6 inches long and turn as yellow as a baby chicken in

unkempt, like a blonde with bedhead. The fruits, botani-

fall. Where there’s space, grow a weeping willow for sheer

cally known as drupes, have precious pink shades that

drama. Other willows worth consideration for some zones

slowly deepen as the summer wanes. Meanwhile, the

include: white willow (S. alba), noted for huge size and

leaves develop bronzy tones in summer that stand out

diamond willow wood pattern brought on by a harm-

in an understory garden beneath taller trees. The russet

less fungus; purple osier or basket willow (S. purpurea),

colors fade into a dull deep red in late summer but their

with colorful stems on a small tree; dappled willow

display is not over—blackhaw leaves turn shiny red in

(S. integra), for delightful variegated leaves and red winter

autumn. The showy crimson tones are matched by beau-

stems; and pussywillow (S. discolor), the American native

tiful clusters of oval-shaped, deep purplish blue drupes

beloved for its fluffy gray catkins.

that hang on until late in the season, unless devoured

Zones 4–9a

sooner by hungry birds. Zones 4–9

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Whites, creams



(Kalopanax pictus)

(Catalpa spp.)

Summer-flowering trees celebrate the season with

Few trees bring delight when voracious caterpillars strip

panache, pouring out cool, colorful flowers as easily as

their leaves, but catalpas are the exception. Fishermen

you pour lemonade over ice on a hot afternoon. The

prize these caterpillars for bait; they collect and even

creamy bloom clusters of castor-aralia bring an ethe-

freeze them for future use. The defoliation is natural and

real, light-hearted look to the garden when lawns and

new leaves appear again soon after sphinx moth larvae

brightly colored flowers usually dominate. The end of

(or “catawba worms”) go into cocoons. Both Northern

each branch erupts with a wild display of round flowers,

and Southern catalpas present unusual, colorful fea-

each one of dozens in the panicle held apart like starry

tures besides their bright green, heart-shaped, matte

balls on the toothpicks of their petioles. The light hues

leaves, each in its own distinct way. Northern catalpa

of the flowers range from nearly white to almost green;

(C. speciosa) and Southern catalpa (C. bignonioides) put

taken altogether, they seem to blanket the tree in mystery

on large clusters of white, ruffled trumpets. Bright white

for weeks. When the same tree also offers eye-catching,

on a hot summer day, the clean, crisp, fragrant clusters

shiny dark green leaves and rugged bark complete with

are looser and larger in the southern tree. That makes

thorns, it earns a place in the garden. This macho tree

it easier to see the bright yellow and sometimes purple

has deeply lobed, coarse-textured leaves cut like fat fin-

markings in the trumpet’s throat. The northern tree

gers to add an almost tropical flair to its garden presence

holds its blooms more upright and its limbs more erect

everywhere it is grown. Native to north Asia, including

than the southern, but both can reach 50 feet with little

Russia, castor-aralia grows more appealing each year as

more than basic maintenance once established. The

its upright form spreads to take on a rounded canopy.

flowers soon become long, light green seedpods that give

Its bark is fascinatingly dangerous: dotted with small,

rise to the common name, Indian bean. They are dra-

sharp thorns, it ages darker with intriguing, gray ridges

matic, thick clusters of fine-textured beans that dangle

in the mature tree that are mesmerizing all year long.

below the coarse, darker leaves to light up the summer

Zones 4–7

with colorful contrast. Zones 4–9


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Flowering Crabapple

Flowering Dogwood

(Malus spp.)

(Cornus florida)

With numerous species and hundreds of cultivars, there

Not many trees are capable of breathtaking flower

is a flowering crabapple tree for every garden north of

display and long-lasting fall color in leaves and fruits.

Atlanta, Georgia. They are medium-sized trees, each

Sometimes reaching 30 feet tall, flowering dogwood

essentially a vase shape packed with flowers that appear

brings these colorful features and an open form with

before their leaves, abundant fruits, and reliable fall

limbs widely spaced when grown in part shade. In

color. Pink or red buds open to pink and pinkish white

spring, the branches become arms dotted with pristine

flowers, creating a sweet cloud of color above thick,

white blooms, each with four petals perfectly shaped

rich brown trunks in the early spring garden. The leaf

around a simple center. In sunny sites, both branches

canopy is medium green and dense all summer as the

and flowers will be packed tightly so bloom time becomes

fruits, which hang like yellow and red earrings into

a blazing white blur that can stop traffic, in part because

fall, form when the leaves color up in shades to match.

the sight is relatively rare. Shiny red, slightly elongated

Modern cultivars also offer superior disease resistance

berries sit proudly all summer where the flowers were,

and distinctive features. ‘Liset’ brings drama with deep

usually in groups of five or more, waiting for wildlife

red buds that open into rose-red flowers followed by bold

to eat and disperse them. Even after they’re gone, white

maroon fruits the size of marbles. Pink buds and clear

stem tips remain as the leaves take on ruby red fall

white, quarter-sized flowers make ‘White Angel’ a favor-

color. Dogwood is a native tree but suffers in prolonged

ite in formal garden designs where its colors contrast

drought. Farther north, another dogwood deserves

well with brick and concrete statuary. ‘Harvest Gold’ is

attention: Kousa dogwood (C. kousa) covers each branch

unusual and stunning. Pink flower buds open into white

with white flowers in late spring followed by large red

flowers, and little gold “apples” decorate it well into fall.

seed balls. The Asian native tree delivers brilliant fall

Smaller than most, ‘Narragansett’ matures at 12 feet

color in purplish red and pure red. Its flowers are more

tall with red flower buds, white blooms tinged with pink,

pointed and closer together, stacked like whipped cream

and cherry red fruits.

and almost obscuring the leaves.

Zones 4–8

Zones 5–9

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Whites, creams

Star Magnolia


(Magnolia stellata)

(Platanus spp.)

A small tree, usually no more than 20 feet tall, upright,

Across the country, many new homesites are a blank

and about 15 feet wide at most, star magnolia more than

slate. They need color in a big way, and the right big

lives up to its name. The spectacular and fragrant starry

tree to set the scene. American sycamore (P. occidentalis)

flowers appear in late winter or early spring, covering

puts color into every design element, from its stately

the tree’s round canopy with pristine white pops of color.

form covered in huge green leaves, to textural contrast

Rows of narrow, slightly curled petals are stacked around

in rounded fruit that is lighter green all summer. Fall

a neat cream center; they are light enough to flutter in

turns the leaves brown and tan and after leaf drop, the

a slight breeze. Star magnolia brings a hopeful mood to

sight of its creamy bark with rough brown peels provides

stir the season’s optimism, and the tree is beautiful alone

a winter muse for artists of all sorts. Sycamore reaches

or in a row at the back of a long border. Lancelike leaves

70 feet or taller and spreads nearly as wide, with native

follow the flowers; they are crisp green all summer,

habitats along streams and rivers from Canada to

then slightly yellow-umber in fall. Green pods form in

Texas and east. It is equally at home in garden soil with

summer and then split open to reveal shiny scarlet seeds

irrigation in dry seasons. As tall but not as wide, London

in late autumn. The tree can fill both color and culture

planetree (Platanus × acerifolia) graces cities worldwide

needs in the garden. It is a bright light to curse winter

because it tolerates urban environments and common

away, thrives in moist areas, and can bloom in shade at

diseases better than sycamore. As a young tree, it has

the edge of a wooded area. The cultivar ‘Centennial’ is

darker leaves and a more upright shape but matures

taller and more vigorous and pyramid-shaped than the

with the same spreading form. Planetree bark has a

species. ‘Royal Star’ blooms slightly later and so better

more spotted pattern in shades of reddish brown and

escapes late freezes to flower when the species does not.

cream that is equally impressive in winter. Both Platanus

Zones 4–8

trees provide imposing, colorful charm and can be the only tree your garden needs. Zones 4–9


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Grays, browns, and barks

American Hophornbeam

Crape Myrtle

(Ostrya virginiana)

(Lagerstroemia hybrids)

Whether tree bark peels to relieve a tree of pests or just

When the parents of a crape myrtle include the hardy

to show off in winter, gardeners revel in the natural, if

L. faurei, they are reliably hardy far north of their previ-

disconcerting, process. American hophornbeam puts

ous southern range. Besides selecting for cold tolerance

brown shades front and center in winter but a closer

and flower colors, modern crape myrtles were bred for

examination reveals this tree’s particularly attractive

their spectacular barks that grow more attractive as the

patterns. Narrow strips curl up, still firmly attached and

trees age. White, creams, and an array of grays, plus

oddly fringed, like Easy Rider’s iconic western jacket. Milk

every shade of brown in the crayon box from cinnamon

chocolate brown, tan, and gray mark the trunk in eye-

to rust and mahogany, these barks peel grandly. The

catching linear patterns that invite a closer look even

trees perform well in almost any well-drained soil and

when the tree has leaves but are most dramatic without

full sun, and mature to heights from 20 to 30 feet or

them. Hophornbeams are 20 to 40 feet tall and almost

more. Their flowers range widely from white to pinks,

as wide when they’re mature; they form a rounded pyra-

purple, and red.

mid shape that shows off forest green, serrated leaves

‘Lipan’ is a small crape myrtle (20 feet) whose white

that can be 5 inches long tapering to sharp points. They

bark peels away to reveal dark, cocoa-brown beneath.

are the perfect backdrop for light green fruits in little

‘Tuscarora’ is also small, with cocoa patches under san-

cocoon shapes that adorn the tree in summer like finely

dalwood brown bark on a neat, vase-shaped tree. ‘Biloxi’

crafted earrings. Fall color is briefly yellow-brown and

stands taller; it has coffee-bean-brown bark with green-

soon gives way to the amazing bark display. American

ish gray and tan underneath.

hophornbeam’s appeal extends to its ability to tolerate

‘Miami’ has light gray bark that exfoliates to show

alkaline soils well and hold its own as a full sun street

off patches of red-brown and bone colors that can be

tree as well as in the understory beneath other stately

quite mottled. ‘Wichita’ displays bark that is russet-

trees. It is underappreciated yet once you see it in winter,

potato brown and red mahogany on tall, upright trunks.

you will never forget the statement it makes then and

‘Natchez’ is tall with the reddest cinnamon shades

all year.

revealed under tan and cream bark.

Zones 4–9

Zones 6–9

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Grays, browns, and barks

Downy Serviceberry

Japanese Zelkova

(Amelanchier arborea)

(Zelkova serrata)

Designing a “naturalized” area in a modern landscape

Not every tree has attractive yet different bark in youth

can be challenging, but this native American tree can

and old age. When it also makes a striking shade tree

establish that “wild” mood nearly by itself. Even if

and maintains good looks all year, it becomes a winner

downy serviceberry had no other qualities to recom-

for modern garden designs. Japanese zelkova debuts

mend it, its dynamic form and sleek gray trunks cer-

with dark trunks and branches that are glossy, like the

tainly would. The bark is beautiful in winter, streaked in

shiny red colors of cherry wood. Mature zelkovas display

shades that range from storm cloud gray to charcoal on

storm cloud gray bark that flecks off to show red-orange

gently curved trunks and thick branches. Depending on

tones in pockets all over the trunks. Native to Japan but

the site, downy serviceberry ranges in height from 20 to

also Korea where it is much beloved for its tenacity, zel-

40 feet tall with trunks that can be thick as an elephant’s

kova is said to invoke a mood of tolerance and goodwill.

leg and widen to a fat “foot” or base. Attractive all year,

Its name, however, comes from two words in the native

its features include fuzzy white flower and crisp dark

language of the Republic of Georgia that mean “bar”

green leaves that exhibit autumn shades from apricot to

and “hard,” a reference to the durable wood. Growing

orange and reds. Striking blueberry-like fruits complete

slowly to grand heights (60 feet or more at times) this

the package, prized by birds and humans alike.

tree establishes an erect posture. Its canopy is a fountain

One natural hybrid of the group has the deservedly

of leathery leaves that spread to shade a street, a walk-

boastful name A. × grandiflora, or apple serviceberry.

way, or a bench in the backyard. Fall color offers gold

This tree averages 20 feet and as wide if left to form a

and purple as the leaves prepare to drop off a sturdy tree

thicket, maintaining the rich gray trunk and branches

that has the good looks of an elm but resists its pests and

of its parent. It is further distinguished by purple new

also tolerates heat and humidity.

growth. Apple serviceberry cultivars feature strong

Zones 5–8

red fall color and include ‘Princess Diana’, ‘Autumn Brilliance’, and ‘Ballerina’. Zones 4–9


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Paperbark Maple

River Birch

(Acer griseum)

(Betula nigra)

No other maple has trunks and branches as beautiful

At every formal gala, there are many beauties but one

as the paperbark does. This tree gains new fans each

always stands out; it is the same among trees. The tall

time it is seen in the winter landscape where its colors

“drink of water” in an Emerald City-green gown gets

bring vibrant contrast to gray skies and snow banks. The

attention, and if she has nice legs, your glance lingers.

bark peels in muscular fashion as if it would rip off the

So it is with river birch—that first glimpse can start a

tree painfully, in clutched red fists. That does not happen

lasting love affair. In this case, it is the “legs,” the tree

yet the colors beg a second—and third—look. Paperbark

trunks that are so enticing, especially because they

shades encompass reds from sienna to rust, sepia, and

are usually seen in multiples that further increase the

cinnamon as the peels twist away to reveal gnarly levels

attraction. But single trunked or in classic triples, river

below. When spring arrives, the canopy takes on its

birch bark puts on a show all year with bark that peels,

summer cover of greenish blue leaves that have three

curls, and colors like few can do. Every shade from

distinct leaflets forming a triangle called a trifoliate

white through gray and cinnamon are grandly revealed

leaf. The trees thrive in full sun and almost any soil that

in curiously charming, wide curls. Slipping out from

drains. Not taller than 30 feet but thick with branches,

under the leafy canopy of small, puckered leaves with

paperbark maple puts a primal beauty in your face as

toothy edges or revealed in all their winter glory, river

a focal point tree to be seen and appreciated all year

birch bark is unforgettable long after that first glance.

long. Another trifoliate (or trident) maple, three-flower

The trees can be as tall as 60 feet eventually, but begin

maple (A. triflorum) brings especially attractive, if differ-

their show much sooner, at about 10 feet, and only

ent, peeling bark in chocolate brown and ash gray to the

get grander year by year. They are covered in draping

scene. Both of these maples display red fall color, but it is

swaths of leaves that rustle in the breeze until autumn

more robust in the three-flower maple.

turns them yellow and casts them aside.

Zones 4–8

Zones 4–9

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Blue holly

Holly (Ilex spp. and cultivars) There’s more than meets the eye in hollies: shrubs large

takes its name from its showy black fruits. The small

and small, with and without thorns, berried or not, solid

leaves are glossy and bright green when they’re new,

green and variegated leaves, evergreen and decidu-

and take on blue tones as they mature. Indestructible

ous. Each plays an important role in modern garden

yaupon holly (I. vomitoria) almost belongs in a class by

design with unstoppable color year-round. Some holly

itself for strident good looks in an assortment of sizes

“bushes,” as they are called, are often featured in foun-

and colors. Truly dwarf specimens, accent plants, and

dation plantings because no matter the weather or con-

taller dense thickets may have red, orange, or yellow ber-

ditions, they never flag. Thick with leaves, the shrubs

ries. Deciduous hollies have a special place in gardeners’

keep the scene neat around the front door or in thorny,

hearts. Southern states have possomhaw (I. decidua),

impenetrable hedges. But larger hollies make strong

and everywhere, winterberry (I. verticillata) delights

statement plants in a border where evergreen leaves or

gardeners in late winter when its thickets explode with

berry showers (on deciduous selections) become winter

orange-red berries hiding in the leaves until they drop

anchors for the design. Theirs are the brightest winter

off. Slow-growing to about 10 feet tall, ‘Cacapon’ and

reds—at least until you clip them for holiday decorat-

‘Winter Red’ are superior selections, and the smaller ‘Red

ing or the birds make a buffet. These plants can be big

Sprite’ brings its defiant beauty to any size garden.

berry makers, as long as both male and female plants

When a wonderful plant originates outside the

are included. The dependable nature of hollies finds a

United States it is called “exotic,” and we embrace

home in every zone, depending on the variety selected.

them if they are well behaved and bring extra panache

Native American hollies are a varied bunch that

to the garden. Blue holly (I. × meserveae) is especially

show off the best facets of the group. Inkberry (I. glabra)

dramatic with a spooky blue cast to its spiny leaves in contrast to scarlet red berries in the Meserve series. ‘Blue Girl’ and ‘China Girl’ are excellent in Zones 4 through

Roses decorate landscapes nationwide with good reason—no

7. Japanese holly (I. crenata) has small leaves with no

other shrub equals the passion they inspire in gardeners. Climber

spines in rich, forest evergreen colors. For fine texture on

and shrub types play equal roles in this landscape for color and a

a small or medium-sized dense shrub and black berries,

dignified air of old garden style.

consider ‘Convexa’ and ‘Glory’ in Zones 5 through 7.

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Japanese spirea

Spirea spp.

Spirea (Spiraea spp. and cultivars) Spireas first became popular as big shrubs with a blaze of

green with a blue cast and buckets of flower clusters in

white glory in their spring flowers, but now their beauty

orbs that look like little white nosegays. Reeves spirea

spans the seasons and the nation. More colors and sizes

(S. cantoniensis) has double flowers on a similar shrub.

await to deliver texture in color to every garden style.

The Bumald spireas (S. × bumalda) are hybrids

Spirea leaves vary from the blue-green color of a tropi-

of two Asian species and selections taken from them.

cal lagoon to screaming yellows, all striking and mostly

‘Goldflame’ started the trend toward these smaller spi-

fine-textured. The plants have scores of woody stems

reas with graceful 3-foot mounds. In early spring, new

that form thickets ideal for resting wildlife. The shrubs

leaves emerge in fiery red-orange shades that fade to

have different flower arrangements that may appear in

yellow. Its sweet pink flower clusters are characteristic

spring or summer, or both. Some are single, others are

of the Bumalds, flat-topped and plentiful. ‘Goldmound’

in clusters that may be round or flat, yet all have that

has a richer, buttery yellow color that lasts all year and

intangible quality that attracts and holds your interest

pink flowers that are small but bright. ‘Lime Mound’

year after year.

begins the year with new leaves that are bright orange

There are two distinct kinds of spireas, bridal wreath

and turn a steady lime green; its flowers are slightly

and Bumald, separated by the arrangement and timing

more purple than the others. ‘Anthony Waterer’ has

of their flowers. The basic spirea flower has five flared

become the name for several similar shrubs with reddish

petals that are sometimes separate from one another

green leaves and rosy pink flower clusters. One of them

but are most often cupped like a horn. Baby’s breath

is ‘Crispa’ noted for its incredibly fine, twisted leaves that

spirea (S. thunbergii) is the earliest bridal wreath type

are sometimes variegated. You will find brighter pink

to bloom and can be downright breathtaking in early

flowers in ‘Froebelii’ and ‘Gumball’.

spring. Its tiny white flowers have flared petals open like a fairy’s peaked hat amid lime green leaves that are small, feathery, and soft to the touch. The classic bridal wreath is Vanhoutte spirea (S. × vanhouttei), which sets the bar for this group and sets it high. Vanhoutte covers an exuberant fountain shape with leaves that are dark


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Albury purple

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum spp. and cultivars) Yellow-flowering shrubs are an uncommon treat any-

to Zones 5 through 7, Albury purple (H. androsaemum)

time, and those that deliver summer color are even more

puts on rich golden flowers with chart-topping clusters

precious, drawing in scores of bees. St. John’s wort is a

of 10 or 11 flowers in each. Its spectacular maroon ber-

diverse group of shrubs with sunny yellow blooms that

ries often last for weeks after the purplish green leaves

ranges from quaintly small to good-sized and garrulous.

are gone.

These worts (the traditional word for “plant”) are native to temperate zones in the US and around the world,

In Zones 4 through 8: • Great SJW (H. pyramidatum) features an

beloved for their complicated flowers, and respected for

upright growth habit (5 feet by 3 feet) and

their herbal properties. The plants take their common

saffron yellow flowers with lush, glossy petals

name from St. John the Baptist, whose birthday is cel-

in large center clusters.

ebrated in June when the plants bloom. The flowers vary

• Sungold (H. patulum) thrives in wet soils, a perky,

slightly in their warm yellow hues and attitude but all

rounded mound (3 feet by 3 feet) of flowers with

have five petals that open to reveal prim halos of yellow

very prominent bright yellow stamens.

stamens; many form attractive fruits. The plants display

• Sunny Boulevard (H. ‘Deppe’) features small,

bright green or green-blue leaves that have evolved to

almost daffodil-looking flowers on a similar small

suit their wide range of native habitats; some are decid-

shrub that blooms beginning in mid-summer; its

uous while others are semi- or completely evergreen.

narrow leaves are deciduous.

The Hypericum genus offers a size and shade for many

In Zones 5 through 9, ‘Hidcote’ SJW (H. × Hidcote)

designs that seek yellow in a sunny or partly shady

has a long bloom season on a slightly larger, 4-foot

garden. Despite their native origins, they are surpris-

mounded plant. ‘Sunburst’ (H. frondosum) is larger still

ingly underused and so make loud, colorful statements

(5 feet by 5 feet) and is drought tolerant once established

in every zone. An excellent St. John’s wort for Zones 4 to

in Zones 6 through 9. Its spectacular flowers look like

7 is Kalm’s SJW (H. kalmianum ‘Ames’), an evergreen

lime yellow lollipops. They soon burst open dramatically

with brilliant golden yellow flowers. Its upright branches

and cover the shrubs.

cover a 3-foot mound of blue-green leaves that are longer than wide. Especially stunning, although limited

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Burkwood viburnum

Viburnum (Viburnum spp. and cultivars) Viburnums are garden soldiers, stalwart staples for year-

• American cranberrybush (V. trilobum ‘Bailey

round good looks and color that stand at attention through

Compact’). Burgundy fall color and persistent red

snow, thunderstorms, and summer heat. They never com-

fruit, Zones 4–7

plain, seldom need much attention, and so are taken for

• Nannyberry (V. lentago). White “snowball” flowers,

granted and sometimes considered old hat. But tried-and-

purple berries, yellow-orange fall leaf color, Zones

true colors, elegant forms, and great diversity mark this group and can make selecting just one quite a challenge.

4–8 • Mapleleaf viburnum (V. acerifolium). Creamy

One may be a featured player in all its glory or a dozen

white “snowballs,” shiny purple berries, fall color

can stand close to elevate a hedgerow. Viburnum leaves

gold to purple, Zones 4–8

can be coarse-textured and waffled or smooth, shaped like

• Arrowwood (V. dentatum). Not as showy with

fat footballs or maple leaves. Fall colors are sometimes

small flowers and brilliant blue berries in summer

golden but may also offer every deep red and purple shade

that turn black, prized by wildlife, yellow fall color,

imaginable. The often-fragrant flowers gather in clusters

Zones 4–8

that may be larger than your fist and very dramatic or tiny

• Doublefile (V plicatum f. tomentosum). Tiered rows

and barely noticeable. They are usually white or cream,

of big flat flower clusters, red fruits turn black fruit,

or rarely, sweet pink as if they were blushing from the

Zones 4–8. Stellar selections include ‘Pink Beauty’,

sudden attention they get in spring. You cannot overlook

‘Mariesii’, ‘Shasta’, and ‘Summer Snowflake’.

the charming fruits, which often undergo mind-boggling color changes from summer into fall. The name “viburnum” comes from the Latin for “wayfaring tree,” which might refer to the way they spread. Thanks to the birds

• ‘Mohawk’ Burkwood viburnum (V. × burkwoodii). Red buds open with white flowers, red berries, orange-red fall color; Zones 5–8. • Smooth witherod (V. nudum ‘Winterthur’). Small

that devour the fruits and then deposit the seeds far away

white flowers, bright pink fruit turns deep blue.

from the mother plant, there is no shortage of Viburnum

Shiny, leathery leaves turn wine red and maroon

species. These can be huge, back-of-the-border shrubs or quite small in the case of dwarf varieties. The best, most colorful ones mature between 6 to 8 feet tall and wide.


shades; Zones 5–9. • Koreanspice (V. carlesii). Pinkish flowers, vibrant red berries, and toothy deep green leaves, Zones 5–9

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Reds, pinks

Burkwood Daphne

Flowering Quince

(Daphne × burkwoodii)

(Chaenomeles ‘texas scarlet’)

People either love or hate daphne shrubs. The latter

Spring can start sweetly with a crocus or some other

camp insists they are finicky divas, as likely to croak as

fairly subtle plant, or you can kickstart it with bright

they are to reward with colorful arias. Ally yourself with

red ‘Texas Scarlet’ quince. The typical flowering quince

the lovers and provide well-drained soil that is richly

has precious salmon flowers, blooms for about a week,

organic and provide plenty of water regularly in sun

and then disappears into a green blob of leaves. ‘Texas

or shade. Burkwood daphne drapes its shapely, almost

Scarlet’ represents the best of this shrub’s modern incar-

evergreen leaves in a cloak of purplish pink flower buds

nations: it is a showstopper at about 3 feet tall and up

that are fat with expectation. They open into tight cor-

to 5 feet wide. Arching upward with exuberance, each

sages of star-shaped blooms that are white tinged with

branch shines with fat clusters of cardinal red flowers,

pink and extremely fragrant. The flowers give way to

each open just enough to see the yellow stamens in its

scarlet red berries that last from summer to fall. For an

throat. Glossy and round green leaves 1 to 2 inches long

even brighter spot in the garden, choose ‘Carol Mackie’

and wide grow thickly to make ‘Texas Scarlet’ a shapely

for its leaves edged in white. With both buds and flowers

shrub deserving focal point status in the spring garden.

in rosy pink shades and neat habit, this daphne lights

Adaptable to most soils but not drought tolerant, modern

up a shady spot all year. Put up a “do not disturb” sign

flowering quince shrubs need not be relegated to the

and let daphne find her voice in your garden. In two sea-

backyard. These are real showoffs for red in spring, with

sons this shrub’s ebullient form will enchant you, and

strong shapes and handsome leaves to carry on for the

once it blooms, you will be hooked. Although daphnes

rest of the year. A bit larger shrub with flowers the color

can adapt to soils that are acid or neutral in pH, rose

of Dorothy’s ruby slippers, ‘Scarlet Storm’ offers added

daphne (D. cneorum) offers strong rose pink flower colors

drama. This and other lovely quinces in the Double Take

in looser clusters and grows well in rocky soils.

series were introduced by North Carolina’s Tom Ranney.

Zones 4–8

Zones 5–9 (marginal at Zone 4)

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Reds, pinks

Japanese Barberry

Mountain Laurel

(Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea)

(Kalmia latifolia)

Reds—deep scarlet, maroon, and almost purple—make

You may be surprised to learn that a shrub with the word

the leaves of Japanese barberry a hallmark for garden

“mountain” in it can grow almost anywhere, but that

color. Its optimistic form, red-brown thorny branches,

is the case with mountain laurel. This native American

and red berries make it a must-have when you seek

species is known for pink and white flowers as well as a

texture contrasts in shrub plantings. But the variety in

large, rounded shape in sunny gardens and a slightly

color and size of its leaves takes Japanese barberry to the

looser, some say more attractive, form in part shade.

next level of desirability because the group is so diverse.

Its evergreen leaves are rich dark green and shiny with

They range from little ones like ‘Bagatelle’, barely 2 feet

neatly pointed ends held out like open arms in a welcom-

tall with coppery red and green leaves, to the upright

ing embrace. Each branch explodes with spring clusters

‘Helmond Pillar’, covered in bold maroon, to the broad,

of buds that are every bit as attractive as the flowers they

almost perfect hedge form of the species itself. About an

hold inside. The species is lovely, but the variety ‘Ostbo

inch long and dotting the many complex, and interwo-

Red’ mountain laurel is among the best of the selections

ven branches, the leaves may be red, purple, or shades

and cultivars chosen for both its smaller size (5 to 7 feet

in-between. The brilliant ruby red berries appear in

tall and wide) and smashing crimson color flower buds.

summer and can last six months unless, as often hap-

As if they know how gorgeous they are, the buds stand

pens, they are devoured by hungry birds. The shrub is

up on stiff stems for weeks before they finally begin to

usually maintained at about 4 feet tall and wide, and

open. The flowers are blissfully slow to show their baby

grown in full sun where its colors will be at their best.

pink interior petals, so ‘Ostbo Red’ is covered with buds

Although it tolerates most soil conditions, this is not a

and petals at the same time in a truly memorable show.

plant for boggy sites. Its thorns make Japanese barberry

Like many native plants, mountain laurel grows well

an effective but beautiful barrier plant. Cultivars with

with few problems in well-drained soils.

variegated leaves include ‘Rose Glow’ with pink and

Zones 4–9

purple leaf patterns. Zones 4–8


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Piedmont Azalea

(Physocarpus spp., cultivars, and hybrids)

(Rhododendron canescens)

Too few shrubs are known for their amazingly color-

It’s not necessary to live in the Piedmont to enjoy the

ful bark but this American native outdoes them all.

explosion of pink that is this azalea. All you need is a

Ninebark gets its name from its bark’s peeling habit;

desire to expand the early spring garden with a plant

curls strip themselves off to reveal outrageous shades of

that redefines the terms “shrub” and “pink.” No amount

red and brown in the winter garden. The beautiful leaves

of pruning will make this plant a hedge, and its strongly

emerge, shovel-shapes with gentle lobes and distinct,

upright form means it works best as an understory

taut veins with outstanding texture. The flowers are pink

or border background choice. But even in deep shade

or whitish pink, grouped in oval-shaped, flat-headed

where its branches stretch awkwardly, this is not a

clusters that become shiny red fruits. At a size of 8 feet by

tree, so shrub it must be. Piedmont azalea, also called

6 feet, ninebark creates an imposing presence in sunny

Pinxter azalea or bush honeysuckle, glows with blush

sites. Smaller selections are even more popular because

pink buds with rosy tubes that open into shapes more

they add colorful leaves and more compact forms to the

like a Japanese honeysuckle than most azalea flowers.

plant’s sometimes-rangy profile. Golden leaves that turn

Pale, almost lavender lower petals reach out like launch

lime green and surround the red fruits mark ‘Dart’s Gold’.

pads for the long, curvy pistil and stamens. These wispy

‘Amber Jubilee’ marks its leaves in rich gold and orange,

flower parts are featured in the species, and the cultivar

then turns them dark red and purple in fall. ‘Coppertina’

‘Varnadoes Phlox Pink’ has even deeper pink buds and

looks like it sounds, bronze new growth with chartreuse

pinker flowers. Piedmont azalea thrives in sunny and

tones in their heart. By summer, the leaves are copper

shady gardens, any acidic soil, and for most of the year

red, deep in contrast to pale pink flowers and striking

is a rather gawky green presence like a vase on stilts. The

against its red fruits. It is not as vase-shaped as ‘Summer

flowers appear just before the leaves with a sweet but

Wine’ can be. This one has redder leaves, almost purple,

strong fragrance reminiscent of cloves.

pink flowers, and an exuberant vase silhouette like its

Zones 5–9

relatives, the old-timey spireas. Zones 4–7 (marginal at Zone 8)

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Reds, pinks

Red Osier Dogwood

Shrub Rose

(Cornus sericea)


A classic Christmas card depicts a snow bank with red

People are of two minds when it comes to shrub roses—

osier dogwood stems popping out all over it, their bril-

they dismiss or embrace them, often for the same rea-

liant red brighter than Santa’s hat. They are stunning

sons. Compared to hybrid tea roses, shrub types are

even without the snow, leafless and held straight up like

very easy to grow since they seldom, if ever, require

pointed cherry-red arrows flashing warm messages in

pest control. Few shrubs bloom as often as a remontant

the coldest winter landscape. Few shrubs garner as much

(reblooming) rose, and with heights that range from less

attention in one season and few deserve it. Especially

than 2 feet to nearly 5 feet, there’s one for every sunny

in designs weighted heavily toward spring and summer

garden space. These qualities can seem understandably

color, a hedge or slope dotted with the upright vase form

elementary to veteran cut-flower rosarians. However, the

of red osier dogwood bridges the seasons with panache.

rest of us appreciate them as well as the neat rounded

Since new stems are more brightly colored, garden-

forms and flower colors in every shade of rose and pink.

ers either prune out one-third of old ones each year or

Flower sizes vary almost as much; let the last flush make

cut the entire shrub down every other year. Its colorful

scarlet red hips in fall. Use the shrub rose to establish

profile is not limited to winter, however, and includes

your hue as a hedge or to put the color twist of repeated

delightful drupes that are white with a blue cast and fall

bloom flushes into a mixed shrub row with spireas and

color in red-purple hues. Red osier dogwood thrives in

hydrangeas. This class of roses thrives in well-drained

sunny or shady sites, in richly organic soils with plenty of

soil and once established needs no more water and fer-

water, even boggy conditions. Only slightly less vibrant,

tilizer than other flowering shrubs. There are two differ-

red twig dogwood (Cornus alba, especially the variegated

ent sorts of shrub roses: antique or old garden roses, and

‘Elegantissima’) tends more toward the purple shades

modern introductions such as the David Austin roses

in its stems. Equally attractive but usually larger and

and KnockOut roses. Shop locally for suitable varieties.

thicker, its flowers are sometimes more fragrant.

Zones 3–9

Zones 4–7


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Blues, purples

Spreading Cotoneaster

Blue Mist Shrub

(Cotoneaster divaricatus)

(Caryopteris × clandonensis)

Stiff small leaves and strong gray stems give the

Clear purple-blues—cool, calming, and serene—can be

Cotoneaster family members plenty of rugged good looks

hard to find in the heat of late summer gardens. Blue

that make them a durable landscape choice across the

mist shrub solves this dilemma with subtle shades that

country. But this one, spreading cotoneaster, takes the

have big impact in a shrub bed or as a featured player

best of its relatives’ good qualities and goes beyond them

among perennial plants. Its flowers are packed in a cloud

with outstanding red shades in three seasons. As a 6-foot

that can be sweet sky blue or vibrant purple, depending

hedge, it forms a thick, shiny screen with exuberant,

on the individual plant as well as its selections and cul-

arched branches that stand out amid more understated

tivars. Their hues may remind you of the lavenders your

shrubs. But spreading cotoneaster possesses enough

great aunt favors, but there is nothing demure about this

individual charm to stand alone at the center of a well-

plant. The little blooms reach out in bunches from the

drained or xeriscape planting. Pink-tinged, perky white

leaf axils of stiff stems, poking above gray-green leaves

flowers start the parade in spring nestled in new leaves

that form a dense plant that is very attractive to bees

that look like bright green collars made just for them. As

and butterflies. The oddly fragrant plants form exuber-

the leaves take on deeper hues, red berries bright as stop

ant mounds about 3 feet tall and wide, and they keep

signs adorn the length of each branch all summer and

their neat shape in sunny sites with well-drained soils.

fall. Not done yet, every leaf takes on deep scarlet reds

Blue mist blooms on new growth and will have more

that last long into fall before they finally drop. Tough as

flowers if you cut its stems back early in spring. When a

nails in sun or part shade with well-drained soils, spread-

plant is named for prestigious public gardens, you can

ing cotoneaster seldom needs any attention from its

trust that it is beloved, like ‘Blue Kew’ and ‘Longwood

gardener once it is established. Even pruning is not rec-

Blue’. Both are prized for their dark violet-blue flowers.

ommended, except rarely, so its natural vigor can grow

‘Worcester Gold’ harkens to another common name,

unrestrained with huge numbers of flowers and berries.

blue spirea; its lavender blue flowers and yellow-green

Zones 4–7

leaves make it a seasonal focal point like its namesake. Zones 6–9

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Blues, purples

French Hybrid Ceanothus

Meyer Lilac

(Ceanothus × delilianus)

(Syringa meyeri)

When you first see this shrub, it’s as if a new shade

If you think it’s old-fashioned to love lilacs, you’d be cor-

was invented just for your pleasure. Take the prettiest

rect—so long as you know that retro is very now. Meyer

lilac and infuse it with pure purple to get a shade of

lilac is a hands-down perfect purple with no competi-

lavender-blue that can be almost gray at times and is

tion for looks and fragrance. Hypnotic describes this

always eye-catching. These selections and cultivars show

particular lilac’s effect on garden visitors. You smile

dependable blues: ‘Gloire de Versailles’ in lighter hues

as the perfume finds them first and leads them to the

and ‘Henri Desfosse’ with deeper violets. French hybrid

neat, compact shrub where they marvel at how many

ceanothus ranges from 4 to 12 feet tall with a spreading

flowers burst from each cluster. Purple tubes that define

form that provides plenty of leaf tips to hold the flower

“lilac” in pastel chalks open their ends to release that

clusters that all but block out the leaves when the plants

heady aroma and reveal light shades inside. The com-

are in bloom. But the bottle green, glossy leaves carry

bination creates colorful visual depth that obscures the

the rest of the year with style. They are slightly coarse

leaves from view for weeks. Meyer lilac is more compact

in texture with pronounced veins that look almost puck-

in its habit than other lilacs, with grass green leaves

ered; their impact is strong and separates them from

that are rounded and almost cupped, in smart contrast

other evergreen (or semievergreen) shrubs.

to the bubbly blooms. This one is seldom leggy, with

Other ceanothus cultivars deserve attention for color

plenty of leaves from ground level up to form a rounded

and cultural concerns. ‘Dark Star’ (C. × ‘Dark Star’) is

shape no more than 6 feet wide and somewhat shorter.

a hybrid with dense flower cover in deep purple blue

Dwarf Korean lilac (S. meyeri ‘Palibin’) is popular for its

shades. Ceanothus × pallidus has more cold tolerance

smaller overall size with plentiful flowers and compact

and can be grown in Zones 6 and 7. Its cultivars ‘Roseus’

canopy of cute little leaves. Tinkerbelle (cultivar name

and ‘Marie Simon’ offer rosy-lilac colors in dense flower

of ‘Bailbelle’) is a captivating Meyer lilac with pink buds

clusters on shrubs 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.

and dark wine-colored blossoms. None are picky plants

Zone 8–9

and are grown widely in their zones. Zones 4–7


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Oregon Grapeholly

Purple Beautyberry

(Mahonia aquifolium)

(Callicarpa dichotoma)

Some plants are intriguing to look at because they

Like a farmer named Mr. Green, when “purple” and

seem made of disparate parts. Even the name of this

“beauty” are in your name, you’d better be good. This

Mahonia can be confusing since it is not a grape nor a

shrub lives up to its name. Purple beautyberry spends

holly, and it is native to Oregon but also more of the

each summer putting on its sparkling berries, or drupes,

Pacific Northwest. A treasure for color in the shade

in tight clusters at each leaf axil. The metallic purple

garden, Oregon grapeholly has leaves so green that they

berries look like BBs that have been painted and hot-

are blue and develop beautiful bronzy purple color in

glued into bundles for some ignoble purpose. The sight

winter. This oddball shrub has crazy, spiky, scalloped

of them atop perfect rows of bright green leaves in late

leaf edges rather like some hollies and creates welcome

summer is enchanting, but they really pop once the

coarse texture amid hardy ferns and azaleas. Oregon

leaves turn yellow most autumns. Soon you get the plea-

grapeholly is a devil among those angels—stiff, upright

sure of watching birds devour them on a bright after-

canes with spiny leaves and a cocky attitude to go with

noon; the gray stems hold your interest all winter. In

them. But it can also join other evergreens in a partly

northern zones, you are advised to cut the stems down

sunny hedgerow without losing any of its color punch.

in late winter to stimulate new growth. Elsewhere, only

Tiny yellow flowers cascade in long clusters from the top

minimal early spring pruning will be needed. At 4 feet

of the canes each spring like bold necklaces. Soon the

tall and slightly wider, this shrub offers white, pink, or

jewel blue fruits appear, sometimes delft blue and some-

lilac flowers on a sweetly draping vase shape. It thrives

times closer to navy, but always exquisite. And yes, the

with well-drained soil in partly shady to partly sunny

clusters do resemble tiny grapes in a way, yet they have a

sites and needs only minimal maintenance.

distinct presence that cannot be confused with any other

American native beautyberry (C. americana) is a

plant. Both standard and dwarf varieties bring outstand-

denizen of the woods in the Southeast and is well suited

ing color in four seasons.

to large, shady gardens.

Zones 4–9

Zones 5–8

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Blues, purples

Purple Giant Filbert

Redleaf Loropetalum

(Corylus maxima var. purpurea)

(Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum)

This plant needs another name as this one is mislead-

There may be no more startling shrub than redleaf

ing at best and possibly even insulting to the Filbert

loropetalum. Its leaves are unmatched for pert rounded

family. The common name implies an odd-colored, huge

shapes and shades of deep wine shades of burgundy,

nut—a filbert—but you’d have to look hard for any here,

merlot, and claret. They flow along every curving branch

and they’d be a disappointment to crack. In this case,

of the shrub, so perfect and plentiful they might have

“purple giant” refers to the extraordinary leaves of this

been piped on by a talented cake decorator. Flowers

plant, which, like other big shrubs that can be used as

appear in spring to reinforce the color palette with fuch-

small trees when lower limbs are exposed, allowing a

sia, carmine, or raspberry narrow petals that twist and

canopy to form. Gray trunks are obscured by a host of

flare out like shiny ribbons. A member of the witch hazel

purple leaves that are fat ovals with thick veination. The

family and related to that old Southern favorite, white

waffling is strangely attractive with rough, muscular,

fringe flower, redleaf loropetalum outshines the rest of

yet still friendly good looks. Spring brings in the bold,

its clan with vigor that often belies its label. The species

almost metallic purple leaves; it is impossible to miss

and some selections from it can reach 8 feet tall and

purple giant filbert even at the back of the border or in

make excellent weeping tree forms or espaliers. Some

the far corner of the garden. There it does double duty

of the group go through leaf color changes while others

with unparalleled color and a densely leafed thicket

pop out in their strong purple shades and stay that

that is ideal for birds and other wildlife to rest and nest.

way all year. Cultivars and selections of note include

Averaging 10 feet tall and wide but capable of larger

‘Blush’ with brilliant red flowers and rosy new growth

size, this thub grows in sun or part shade where its colors

that appears all summer to create a patchwork quilt of

stay stronger as summer wears on. Its fruits and male

color; ‘Garnet Fire’, aptly named for its leaf color and

catkins are quite purple too.

bright red blooms; and ‘Zhuzhou Fuchsia’ for the deep-

Zones 4–8

est maroon leaves and dark pink flowers. Zones 7–9


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Yellows, oranges, golds


Dyer’s Greenwood

(Calycanthus floridus)

(Genista tinctoria)

Red shades in the burgundy-maroon range of purple get

It’s true that good things sometimes come in small pack-

plenty of attention in the fall garden, but few spring and

ages, and Dyer’s greenwood packs plenty of bright yellow

summer flowers sport such muscular tones. Sweetshrub

onto small, deciduous shrubs. The individual blooms

(or Carolina allspice) blooms with ironic beauty, in the

and late summer seedpods give away its relations to the

deepest hues of purple with petals that seem sharp and

peas, beans, and brooms, but this shrub is more upscale

stiff, as if to cut you if you dare to touch them. Their

than most of that family. Dyer’s greenwood stacks pea-

fragrance seems heaven-sent, too sweet for this tough

like flowers in clusters that stand erect, opening from

flower orb. Their aroma is like the best fruit salad you

bottom to top. Each bud is longer than wide, quite

ever smelled, a combination of banana and strawberry

plump, and opens like a mouth ready to shout about

with pineapple and, some say, passionfruit. It lingers in

spring’s joys. Their plentiful flower spikes point straight

the air like perfume, long enough to make you wonder

up and cover the low mounding shrubs like birthday

about its source. In garden and vase, these flowers are

candles for a centenarian. The effect is dazzling in the

unusual, tightly formed like little roses that might have

main bloom cycle, but the flowers keep on coming spo-

been carved instead of grown in the back garden and

radically for many more weeks. Dyer’s greenwood gets

picked days ago. Glossy leaves cover this shapely but

its name from the green twigs that cover the 3-by-3-foot

rather squat shrub that is usually 6 to 8 feet tall and

shrub in winter. It thrives in sunny sites, including those

slightly wider. Sweetshrub is a native American plant

with poor fertility and relatively dry conditions, such as

that thrives in most soils including clays, and in sun or

in front of fences and along sidewalks where bed prepa-

some shade where its form is more open and graceful.

ration is impractical. ‘Royal Gold’ has flowers in darker

But in sun, there will be more flowers and brighter fall

gold hues on a 2-foot-tall shrub. ‘Bangle’ shows more

colors of gold and purple before they drop to reveal dark

heat and drought tolerance in a similar sized shrub.

purple-gray stems.

Zones 4–7

Zones 4–9

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Yellows, oranges, golds



(Forsythia × intermedia)

(Fothergilla major ‘Mt. airy’)

The first to bloom in many gardens and a welcome sight

When a hybrid plant occurs without human effort, and

to the winter-weary, forsythia might have invented yellow

it is honestly better than either of its parents, you can

flowers. The shrub is flamboyant, vase-shaped, and cov-

see it as proof that nature continues to amaze. ‘Mount

ered in sometimes-fragrant single or semi-double flow-

Airy’ fothergilla was named by Dr. Michael Dirr for

ers on leafless stems. They grow exuberantly, all yellow

the Ohio arboretum where he found it, the overlooked

arms flung wide to embrace the coming of spring. The

offspring of two native species. Before this deciduous

leaves emerge kelly green and some deepen their hues

shrub drops its leaves each autumn, ‘Mt. Airy’ simply

in summer; they are pointed ovals with slightly serrated

stuns viewers with yellow and orange with red-purple

edges. Forsythia can be described as a vase- or funnel-

tones in its fall color. It is a player in the color game

shaped, and their shape is best maintained with pruning

in spring and summer, too, beginning with flared oval

after flowering since the shrub blooms on old wood. Fall

leaves 3 to 4 inches long that are bottle green with gray-

color varies but can be deep gold with exquisite purple

ish blue undersides. Late spring flowers are perky bottle-

mottling. Like many species, forsythia has given rise to

brushes made of sweet-smelling, tiny flowers that pop

many “children” in the form of cultivars, selections, and

from every stem. The flowers are white and airy, so light

hybrids, including Forsythia × intermedia. Out of hundreds

you can see the green stems inside brushes up to 3 inches

tested, a few rise to the top for the color and panache of

tall and round like lollipops. They can tolerate some

the parents in a smaller shrub. ‘Sunrise’ is as wide as it is

shade as long as the soil is moist and richly organic.

tall at 5 feet by 5 feet; dwarf ‘Golden Peep’ spreads across

One parent, F. major, is larger than ‘Mt. Airy’ and brings

the soil with single blooms (2 feet by 3 feet); ‘Mindor’ or

more apricot color to the fall show. Another, F. gardenii,

‘Show Off’ is about 4 feet by 4 feet and branches freely

is smaller and often called dwarf fothergilla. For added

from its vase shape for even more flowers than most;

color dimension, consider ‘Blue Mist’ and ‘Blue Shadow’

‘Meadowlark’ is noted for cold tolerance.

fothergilla shrubs with serious blue tones in their leaves.

Zones 4–8


Zones 5–8

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Fragrant Sumac

Japanese Kerria

(Rhus aromatica)

(Kerria japonica)

Also known as lemon sumac, this shrub’s colors recom-

A treasure introduced to Western garden culture around

mend it for space in mixed hedgerows and naturalized

1800 from Japan, the species Kerria is named for its col-

plantings. Fall sends its neatly lobed leaflets into flam-

lector, William Kerr. The most beautiful of the bunch

ing shades of orange, yellow, and red to warm up your

by most estimation is also known as Japanese rose or

garden as well it does in native stands. With such bright

‘Pleniflora’, referring to its family origins and abundant

leaves and shiny red berries gathered into tight clusters,

double flowers. They are bright golden yellow, quarter-

fragrant sumac looks dressed up for every autumn cel-

sized, and a rare treat in partial shade where they bloom

ebration. A dense, deciduous thicket of stems supports

their heads off in late winter and spring, depending on

all this color and more, including stacks of rounded yel-

location. The outstanding flowers dot stiff, spring green

lowish flower clusters in spring. Their shade is subtle, yet

stems that hold that bright hue all year long. The leaves

stands out amid the pinks that can dominate gardens

are equally bright green, very toothy, sometimes arrow-

early in the year. Fragrant sumac spreads underground

shaped, and a bit puckered. Its linear form presents best

to form its spreading clump, a favorite resting place for

in a bed of shrubs with contrasting shapes where it can

wildlife in summer under the shade of fragrant, green

stand out as it should. The colors and attitude of Japanese

to greenish yellow leaves. This shrub varies in size but

kerria are as festive as the T-shirts at a St. Patrick’s Day

is usually grown 3 feet × 4 feet or slightly larger and

parade. Select cultivars are slightly smaller with more

is pruned after flowering to shape its growth. It thrives

predictable forms and are well suited for smaller gar-

in well-drained, even slightly rocky soils, in full sun or

dens. ‘Albescens’ has flowers more creamy than yellow

slightly less. The sweet flowers attract butterflies as well

with jaunty petals that are not all alike. ‘Golden Guinea’

as other nectar-seekers, and the berries bring in hungry

has larger, single yellow flowers. ‘Simplex’ offers bright

birds fueling up for the winter.

yellow blooms that look more like kerria’s relatives in

Although the leaves are a similar shape to the toxic sumac, none of fragrant sumac’s plant parts are poisonous.

the rose family. Zones 4–9

Zones 4–9

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Yellows, oranges, golds

Tangerine Cinquefoil

Witch Hazel

(Potentilla fruticosa)

(Hamamelis vernalis)

When you want a shrub with impossibly large flow-

Just when it seems that winter will go on forever, witch

ers to contrast with fine-textured leaves, think shrubby

hazel blooms to reassure us that spring will come. In

cinquefoil. But when you want sunny yellow blooms

full sun or part shade, its fragrant and unusual yellow

with touches of bright tangerine-orange, know that tan-

flowers burst out around the bare branches. The twisted

gerine cinquefoil is for you. With a bloom season that

petals flare out from dark red calyxes in delightfully

lasts from late spring to fall and a preference for dry

whimsical, thin yellow ribbons that last for weeks in

sites, it’s a star that shines where few others can thrive.

cold weather. They look like brilliant yellow spiders with

The shrub is wider than it is tall, usually 2 to 3 feet tall

many more than eight legs crawling along each stem.

by 4 feet wide, with dusky, almost gray-green leaves that

Such unusual color and habit in the coldest months is a

are oddly ferny in appearance. Tangerine cinquefoil is

welcome sight soon followed by bright green leaves that

at its best with room to spread, but it is not particular

cover the grayish red stems. Witch hazel leaves seem to

about soil type so long as it drains well. Blooms will be

mirror the flowers with golden yellow fall color in most

paler yellow in full afternoon sun, and the shrub’s form

years. Native habitat is often the areas along stream beds

will be denser and, ironically, less attractive. Best used in

and gravel soils where witch hazel’s suckering habit can

masses, tangerine cinquefoil can line a walk, fill a flow-

take over the space. In the garden, plant it in full sun for

erbed, or bloom like crazy in front of taller evergreens.

best flowering and in well-drained soil; prune after flow-

Other cinquefoils have a place in modern garden design

ering to shape and remove suckers when they appear to

to provide low-maintenance plants with abundant flow-

control its spread. Another native, common witch hazel

ers and interesting leaves that attract butterflies, but

(H. virginiana) is a large shrub or small tree that blooms

usually not deer. The species has pale yellow flowers

in late fall with yellow flowers in softer shades. Because

with prominent centers; they are not as cupped as tan-

of its astringent properties, it is used in commercial skin-

gerine and other cultivars.

care products.

Zones 4–7


Zones 4–9

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Chinese Juniper

Evergreen Euonymus

(Juniperus chinensis)

(Euonymus japonicus)

The name Chinese juniper has become almost generic for

Every garden needs go-to shrubs with dark green color

shrubs with blue-green needles. It has spawned scores of

that can take whatever the seasons bring. You might use

named cultivars and selections that are beautiful, dura-

them to mark an entrance or establish hedging, but the

ble, and colorful. For a range of green shades few other

best, including this one, offer contrasting greens as foils

groups can match, fine texture, and dense form, the

to lighter shades. Evergreen euonymus fills these gaps,

Chinese junipers are unrivaled in the shrub world. The

but those who have only seen the sometimes-garish

light brown cones are fleshy, small, and almost round;

variegated version may hesitate. Deep shades of bottle

on female junipers, they offer nubby contrast to the rich

green and slightly lighter new growth let these leaves

foliage colors. Chinese junipers can be trees or very large

glow in a very good way. Rounded with slight points on

shrubs, but smaller ones and the groundcover forms are

the ends, evergreen euonymus leaves are held tight and

better suited for most gardens. Each depends primarily

dense on their stems and are so glossy they seem dipped

upon its color to distinguish it. ‘Pfitzer Compacta’ juni-

in wax. The plants grow into fat, slightly rounded forms

pers are perhaps the best known, recognized by grayish

with a natural grace that is often concealed by the box

sage green leaves and branches at 45-degree angles that

shapes into which they are usually pruned. Delightful

seem to drip their needles like candlewax. ‘Pfitzer Aurea’

flowers appear on these looser shapes, whitish yellow

starts golden yellow in spring before its strong green

blooms that soon form pink structures with orange seeds

takes over. ‘Pfitzer Glauca’ brings muted blue tones and

inside. Evergreen euonymus has other good qualities

softer texture to this classic landscape form. ‘Sea Green’

to recommend it: simple maintenance needs, adapt-

might have been called the mint juniper to best describe

ability to most soils, salt- and shade-tolerance, and

its color. About 4 feet tall and wider, its branches arch

fast response to pruning rank are among them. The

gracefully. Another ‘Glauca’ with very blue needles is

pest issues common to Euonymus usually manifest in

in the × sargentii group of Chinese junipers, noted for

crowded, unpruned shrubs and are easily addressed. If

ground-hugging form.

variegation or a mix is needed, seek out ‘Silver King’ for

Zones 4–9

pale green leaves with creamy white edges. Zones 4–9

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Heavenly Bamboo

(Fatsia japonica)

(Nandina domestica and cultivars)

Any garden spot in shade, part shade, or morning sun

This plant lives up to its status as an exotic, both in

can benefit from the yellow-green hues on display in

origin and garden impact. Nandina was imported from

fatsia. This quirky evergreen shrub delivers coarse tropi-

Asia and got its common names, heavenly or sacred

cal texture in big, shiny leaves. They are palmate, or

bamboo, from two of its features. The multi-stemmed

hand-shaped, and might belong to the Incredible Hulk

shrub grows on segmented woody canes that are rem-

if he had two extra thumbs. Leaf colors range from deep

iniscent of slender bamboo stems. Its rich forest green

avocado shades in the older leaves to nearly chartreuse

leaves are compound leaflets that form fine-textured,

new growth. Each is held stiffly on a stubby stem in

graceful arrow shapes. They extend horizontally from

lighter hues that increase the bold look and visual appeal

the canes like open fingers; those with the finest cut

of the shrub. What starts as a fat clump of leaves near

leaves look like feathers. Where they are not evergreen,

ground level soon develops a rough trunk that is dark

fall color is red so dark it might be purple. Two dwarf

green with brownish gray-netted patterns reminiscent

nandinas set the mood where smaller plants are pre-

of cantaloupe rinds. The trunk is more exposed as the

ferred: ‘Harbor Belle’ has new growth in shades of pink

shrub sheds lower leaves with age and adds bold notes to

crowned by small white flowers in spring, followed by red

fatsia’s tropical presence. Its greens are uncommon and

berries, and ‘Flirt’ shines with new growth throughout

expressed in unforgettable form, but this shrub explodes

the season in shades from coral-red to scarlet above dark

in late winter with light green flowers that turn creamy

green mature growth. The species has become invasive

white. Balls of flowers stick out of their clusters on stiff

in some areas, but some recommended cultivars offer a

stems, like unbelievably cute, fuzzy golf balls stuck on

neater habit and very colorful leaves. Fall color ranges

toothpicks. They attract bees in droves, adding needed

from greenish yellow to orange-red and fire engine red

nectar at a time of the year when little is available.

in ‘Firepower’; bushy ‘Gulf Stream’ has coppery-orange

Zones 7–9

new growth; and smaller ‘Harbour Dwarf’ is wider than tall with orange and orange-bronze fall color. Zones 6–9


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Japanese Pieris


(Pieris japonica)

(Camellia sasanqua)

Some shrubs are meant for center stage, and Japanese

Hands down the best evergreen shrub for its zones,

pieris is a star, glossy as porch paint and just as slick. Its

sasanqua has shiny, small (2 to 3 inch) leaves that seem

leaves are narrow, about 2 inches long, and arranged

unfazed, aloof from the world. Some are the rich green

in whorls so they appear as stacked wheels around their

of Wellington boots while other varieties are as dark as

branches. New growth is dazzling: bright, truly spring

champagne bottles. They do not suffer wind damage,

green plus coppery shades of bronze and red. The green

shake off snow and ice, and laugh at summer heat.

tones deepen and the others hold as more new leaves

Sasanquas are not bulletproof, but their perfect green

emerge, and the big shrub becomes an organic kalei-

leaves surely seem to be. A denser shrub with more spec-

doscope of color. At the end of a path, around a corner,

tacular fall flowers is readily maintained with annual

Japanese pieris lights up the shade garden with a dense,

pruning after bloom season. Sasanqua varieties are

rounded form. Then it blooms with draping chains of

chosen for their size and flower color. Standard sasan-

urn-shaped white flowers whose fragrance draws you in.

quas stand 8 to 10 feet tall and almost as wide. A favor-

About 8 feet tall and wide, the greens of Japanese pieris

ite is ‘Yuletide’ with a red flower and prominent gold

are unmatched as focal point plants but they are also

stamens that blooms late season. ‘Kanjiro’ has rose pink

dramatic in groups. Three plants in a row can create a

blooms, while ‘Jean May’ has small, pale pink blooms.

wall of Granny Smith, emerald, and forest green in color

Midsized varieties at 4 to 6 feet include the classic white

shades. Himalayan pieris (P. formosana var. forrestii)

‘Mine-No-Yuki’ (white dove), ‘Shishi Gashira’ with rose

may seem misnamed since it thrives in warmer zones,

pink flowers, and sweet pink ‘Showa-No-Sakae’. Dwarf

but it is well worth consideration there. It adds to the

varieties include ‘Marge Miller’ that grows 1 foot tall with

color palette with new red growth that changes to cream

a weeping form and pink flowers, and ‘Chansonette’,

before becoming green, and its chains of white flowers

which matures at 2 to 3 feet with rose pink flowers.

are stunning.

Zones 7–9 (marginal at Zone 6)

Zones 5–8

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Whites, creams


Adam’s Needle Yucca

(Clethra alnifolia)

(Yucca filamentosa)

Summer in the garden can be almost monochrome

A clump of strappy, rather sticky leaves with sharp

green, with only a few subtle differences in leaf color

pointy ends and odd peeling hairs sounds like a

and texture to distinguish one green plant from others.

Halloween scarecrow, not a desirable shrub. Yet Adam’s

Summersweet bucks that trend to stand out with dynamic

needle yucca is a true garden treat beloved for towering

pea shades arranged on an upright, open form in shady

poles of perfect summer white flowers that attract butter-

spaces. The thin leaves pick up any breeze in a pleas-

flies in droves. The leaves can be 3 feet long, lower ones

ing lilt, but this American native and its cultivars make

splayed out on the ground and the rest upright, sound-

you wait for their lighthearted garden impact. The long,

ing a bold textural note in the garden. They are trom-

narrow leaves sometimes turn darker but often maintain

bones, not trumpets, and demand attention for beautiful

lighter shades all summer in much needed, finer-textured

contrast to almost every other plant. The leaves may be

contrast to the neighboring shrubs. An inch wide and

green, blue-green, or variegated with yellow, all perfect

up to 4 inches long, the leaves take on creamy yellow

foils for the wistfully creamy white flower stalks that rise

colors in fall, a welcome feature in a thicketing shrub

from them each year. Adam’s needle blooms are puffy

form like this one. New suckers can be left to spread, cut

orbs stacked up like marshmallows on thick stalks often

down to control their size, or dug up and transplanted.

taller than the 3-foot shrub. At first sight, the two parts

Sweetshrub tops its sparkling form with fragrant flower

seem oddly juxtaposed, yet the total effect is pleasing,

spikes that may be pink or white and are more plenti-

ruggedly handsome, and quite welcome in contempo-

ful in sunnier sites. Larger, smaller, and different color

rary gardens. Native to much of the US, the colors of

sweetshrubs deserve consideration. ‘Pink Spires’ reaches

both leaves and flowers on Adam’s needle are most

8 to 10 feet tall, while ‘Hummingbird’ will be compact

pronounced in full sun but it tolerates some shade and

and no larger than 4 feet. For darker green leaves, red

needs only minimal water once established.

flower buds, and deep pink blossoms, ‘Ruby Spice’ is a

Zones 4–9

favorite selection. Zones 4–9


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Annabelle Hydrangea

Chinese Fringe Flower

(Hydrangea arborescens ‘annabelle’)

(Loropetalum chinense)

Sometimes a species gives rise to a plant so superior to

A favorite in cottage gardens and older landscapes,

its parent that you marvel that they are related. Smooth

Chinese fringe flower has robust, somewhat open form

leaf hydrangea (H. arborescens) is nondescript in nature,

and cascades of ribbony white flowers. This shrub is

but steps up in the garden and, happily, its daughter

attractive year-round, just waiting to herald summer

is a real show-off. Luscious, huge flower heads in late

with curly white streamers that seem made for the

spring make Annabelle the finest hydrangea in the

season: they are as cool as coconut gelato. Reliable in

family for bright white color that lasts weeks. At their

part shade or dappled sun, Chinese fringe flower tickles

best, the flowers can be as big as basketballs, so large it

the air, and its motion draws you closer to see the flowers

seems they might break the branches that hold them.

in detail. They remind you of witch hazel blooms, and

What you see are scores of white bracts that surround

both are in the same plant family; that’s why Chinese

tiny flowers, packed tightly together in stunning clus-

fringe flower is sometimes called Chinese witch hazel.

ters on sturdy shrubs often wider than they are tall. The

Fast-growing, it can reach 10 feet tall and be pruned into

bracts age, turning pale green and then tan whether you

a small tree, but it is far superior as a large, rather effu-

leave them on the shrub or deadhead them. Removing

sive presence in the garden maintained at about 6 to

old flowers often brings on more blooms for a double

8 feet wide and tall. Fringe flower’s rounded leaves are

feature of lush white flowers later in the summer. Once

dark green with darker veins, average 2 inches long, and

they are gone, Annabelle shifts to fall color and main-

emerge alternately along gently arched branches. They

tains your interest with large serrate leaves that turn

are nearly evergreen; new leaves come on as old ones

delicious shades of yellow, especially in southern zones.

drop off. This shrub was introduced to the United States

Whether in sun or part shade, Annabelle hydrangea can

from Asia in the late nineteenth century, long before

be pruned each spring to shape and keep its new growth

its red-leafed relative made its debut, and continues to

dense to display the magnificent flowers.

deliver cooling color to the summer garden.

Zones 4–9

Zones 7–9

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Whites, creams

Chinese Photinia

Glossy Abelia

(Photinia serrulata)

(Abelia × grandiflora)

The Photinia family has gotten a bad name since its

There are gaps in the color palette of every garden and,

standout, Fraser photinia (P. fraseri), was besieged by

white summer- and fall-flowering shrubs fall right into

leaf spot disease. Thankfully, there are others waiting to

those. Glossy abelia takes on that challenge not only

step up with even more colorful features and no fungus

with late-season blooms but also with attractive features

issues. Chinese photinia brings evergreen leaves with

the rest of the year. A prize in sun or part shade, abelia

sawtooth edges that put on new growth with the trade-

forms an upright fountain of thin branches that spills

mark reddish shades. But these clusters have creamy

wider than it is tall. The leaves are glossy bottle green,

bronze tones that add colorful, desirable bulk to these

neatly pointed, and plentiful; they turn rich bronze and

big, round, coarse-textured shrubs each year. Puffy and

coppery in autumn. In warmer zones the shrubs are

hairy, the warm white flower clusters stand out in late

evergreen or nearly so but even where the leaves drop

spring in a stark contrast to the dark green older leaves

entirely, they persist well into fall and then reveal the

and bronzy new ones. Scores of small blossoms join

fine lines of their supporting thicket. Spring’s new growth

forces in flat, jaunty flower heads that sit like a Sunday-

has a rosy glow until the leaves unfurl; trimming it then

best hat atop every branch tip. The creamy flowers have

resets the process for more colorful tips. Blooms appear

a distinct smell and hold great attraction for pollinat-

on the current year’s wood from early summer until after

ing insects in search of breakfast. Soon berries form that

Labor Day. Each one is a little white trumpet standing

slowly turn to bright red in fall, a feature seldom seen

on a rosy ring of sepals and held in sumptuous clusters.

on the Frasers. Another evergreen relative, oriental pho-

They are sweetly fragrant and a welcome nectar source

tinia (P. villosa), has creamy white flowers with impres-

for late in the season. Hedges and mixed beds welcome

sive red berries and fall color in yellow and orange hues.

abelias, and the small variety ‘Little Richard’ makes a

Both can be trained into small trees, but their landscape

fine container plant.

value is greater as large shrubs used for colorful hedging

Zones 6–9 (marginal at Zone 5)

and screens. Zones 5–9


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Slender Deutzia

(Exochorda racemosa)

(Deutzia gracilis and cultivars)

Selecting shrubs that bloom before their leaves emerge

Splendid white flowers are the icing on the cake of these

in spring speaks volumes about your innermost desires.

flamboyant Hydrangea relatives, slender deutzia and her

They shout the sentiment, “C’mon already, it’s time

cultivar offspring. All have scores of sweet-smelling, bell-

for the season to change!” Few carry the message

shaped blooms in spring that are held in loose clusters

better than pearlbush, also called common pearlbush

called racemes. In sunny, well-drained garden soil, they

although there is nothing low-class about this shrub.

cover the shrub, and bees cover them in a breathtaking

Its flower buds do look like perfect white pearls and as

spectacle. The plants are generally round with narrow

they open, cupped white flowers open in succession from

branches that arch gracefully yet have the strength to

bottom to top on 6-inch raceme clusters. They spill out

withstand the wildest storms. They are durable, low-

from myriad branches that grow their own way in a

maintenance shrubs that can be 5 feet tall and as wide.

loose form about 10 feet high and wide that is perfect

Lance-shaped and dark green, the deciduous leaves

to display the flowers. Planted in a shrub border or as

sit opposite one another along the stems, adding to its

a backdrop to perennials, pearlbush dazzles early and

graceful garden impact. Smaller than the species, two

then puts on handsome small, medium-green leaves in

cultivars have additional features that offer design uses

a perky, if somewhat unpredictable form. Light prun-

beyond the classic mixed hedgerow. Award-winning

ing after the flowers finish keeps pearlbush in its space,

‘Nikko’ soon reaches 2 feet tall and spreads slowly to 5

unless you prefer its naturally wilder, offbeat shape.

feet wide, perfect for spilling over a garden wall. Its flower

Fall color varies depending on location but is gener-

bells have showy yellow stamens. Deutzia ‘Duncan’, whose

ally muted. ‘The Bride’ joins this species and another

trade name is Chardonnay Pearls, has lime-yellow leaves

Exochorda to create a smaller shrub about 4 feet tall and

all year on a slightly larger shrub. It holds its flowers in

slightly wider. Its branches arch sweetly to show off lots

tiny fists; the effect is round, rather like pearls. Popular in

of smaller flowers in 4-inch racemes.

cottage gardens since the early twentieth century, showy

Zones 4–8

deutzia (D. × magnifica) can provide 10 feet of grayish green leaves and double flowers. Zones 5–8 (marginal at Zone 9)

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Flowering perennials


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Hosta ‘Undulata’

Hosta plantaginea

Hosta (Hosta) Hostas, also called plantain lilies, gleam in the shade

bells. It thrives in light shade with consistently moist soil

garden with clumps of wide, pointed leaves that drape

and is often 30 inches tall in Zones 5 through 9.

like limp daggers. Plantain lily paints the scene with a

The choice of hostas is greatest in Zones 4 to 8. Green-

range of rich green, blue, and sometimes yellow and

leaved plantain lilies pack plenty of textural contrast,

white hues. The plants have such presence they are

like ‘Aphrodite’ with its distinct veins and white flowers;

impossible to ignore even at a distance and glow like

it grows 18 inches tall and wide. Taller and wider, ‘Royal

summer candles on the patio when they bloom. Solids,

Standard’ offers pleasant aromas in white flowers above

stripes, and colorful edges mark the leaves and are

sharply ribbed, light green leaves.

topped by spikes of bell-shaped, often fragrant flowers

‘Bright Lights’, 2 feet tall and wide, pops with

in summer. These perennials grow in richly organic,

lime-green leaves edged in dark blue-green and white

well-drained soil that has a ready water supply nearby.

trumpets. Two feet tall with green leaves edged in

Some are best suited for deep shade while others do best

white, ‘Minuteman’ stops traffic with fat purple flowers.

in more light; different sizes, leaf patterns, and flower

Just as large with fat, yellow-edged green leaves, ‘Wide

colors add even more pizazz to plantings. In general,

Brim’ lives up to its name. ‘Olive Bailey Langdon’ is

blue leaf hybrids grow better in northern zones than

focal-point big, a yard tall and twice as wide. Her leaves

they do in the South and West. ‘Big Daddy’ pours out

are deep green with wide, pale green edges, and white

waffled blue leaves and white flowers. Most unusual,

flowers. Smaller but no less dramatic, ‘Whirlwind’ gives

‘Abiqua Drinking Gourd’ has blue, quite bizarre cup-

its leaves a quaint twist, accentuating the yellow color

shaped leaves. An exception to the northern rule is ‘Blue

with green edging.

Angel’ with huge, silvery blue leaves and white flower

Truly impressive at nearly 4 feet tall and wide, ‘Empress Wu’ brings leaves in deep green with a blue cast to every zone. The flowers are lilac and borne on short

Perennial plants create a sense of place and convey reliability

stems. The whimsically named ‘Night Before Christmas’

when they return year after year to bloom abundantly in their

has sharply pointed leaves painted white down their

season. Combining a pair of bold colors, such as this bright yellow

wide middles like Santa’s beard. Its purple flowers are

coreopsis and blue salvia, says much about a gardener.

the perfect tubular bells.

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Copper iris

Siberian iris

Iris (Iris spp.) When a group of plants rings the bell for enough people,

more exist than those listed below, these few beardless

it can inspire great art as irises have for centuries. Few

irises dominate garden culture; most bloom later than

remember the leaves, their shafts like arrows pointing

spring’s earliest bearded iris.

skyward, usually stiff and always sharply pointed. A bed of colorful iris can grow anywhere and reinforce your garden’s signature shade in spring or summer. A clump

• Siberian iris are divas in light shade with neat “bouquets.” Flower colors include unusual orange and brown as well as purple-red, yellow, and blue.

or three in a perennial border can carry the eye from

• Japanese iris have been described as “corsage

color burst to color burst. Their heights vary, adding to

iris,” a reference to their huge, flat shape. Their

garden utility. Some iris plants have flower petals that

ruffles and flourishes come in blues, purples, and

hang down, known as falls, and also have additional

white with some marbling and cute yellow flecks.

structures on those downward petals. Those are the beards that give this group their name, but there are

Three native irises bring a sense of place:

other important differences between this group and other irises. The bearded irises are drought-tolerant sun-lovers

• LA (Louisiana) iris show the flattest flowers with

and require soil that is relentlessly well drained. There

the fattest petals in every color but pure orange—

are six defined types of bearded iris, characterized by

and some of the reds come close, reflecting their

their height, flower size, and bloom time. When choos-

copper iris parentage (I. fulva).

ing bearded irises for the garden, a plant’s height may determine its usefulness but flower color brings it home. The others, the beardless irises, are no less interesting and include a plethora of specific kinds that are gener-

• Pacific Coast iris include 11 species native to fields and woods in milder climates along the West Coast. Flower colors range from white and yellow to pale and deep purples just short of true red.

ally more tolerant of different growing conditions. They

• Virginia iris (I. virginica) may be white, blue, or

are usually more casual in style, and have narrower,

lavender with elegantly simple flowers found in

more grass-like leaves that form strong clumps. Yet

native meadows and at water’s edge in the eastern

beardless irises present as many colors, bicolors, and fas-

US. They are carefree in the garden.

cinating flower details in endless combinations. While


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Mealycup sage (S. farinacea)

Bog sage

Salvia (Salvia spp.) The repetition of related plants can create color har-

• May Night sage (S. × sylvestris ‘Mainacht’) is big

mony and design unity—when some are taller or shorter

at 20 inches tall and wider. Its dark flower stems are

than others, the effect is greatly reinforced. That’s where

vivid lavender.

salvias make their well-deserved reputation. Salvias put on dense clumps of lance-shaped leaves just stiff enough to stand out in greens from light to dark. The spectacular flower spikes are sturdy towers of flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds in droves. Their

Zones 5–9: • ‘Texas Wedding’ (S. greggii) forms a clump 2 feet by 2 feet with stunning, pristine white flowers. • Cobalt sage (S. reptans) is more upright than most

colors range from deep apricot and rose-red pinks to sky

with leaves like needles. The plant is 3 feet tall and

blue, royal blue, and a multitude of purples. From small

spectacular with raucous blue flowers.

and sweet to big, muscular stalks, the flowers have the same essential structure—a tube with an extended lower “lip.” Sunny sites and areas with some shade in very hot

Zones 6–9: • ‘Pink Preference’ (S. greggii) is 2 feet tall and

climates, well-drained fertile soil, and moderate water

3 feet wide with dark, rosy pink flowers that have

are the keys to months of salvia flowers for many sea-

dramatic, nearly black calyxes.

sons. There are many perennial salvias to choose from; here are some that may be overlooked.

• Furman’s red sage (S. greggii ‘Furman’s Red’) has the truest red flowers on a taller plant, 3 feet by 2 feet. • ‘Maraschino’ is a S. greggii hybrid that reaches 3 feet

Zones 4–8:

tall and wider with flowers the color of red velvet cake.

• Caradonna sage (S. nemorosa) has sleek, dark

• Japanese sage (S. nipponica ‘Fuji Snow’) is breath-

green leaves in a foot-tall rosette topped with even

taking all year. Its white leaf margins dissolve in

taller and dramatic violet flower spikes.

summer, replaced by huge pastel yellow flower

• Eveline sage (S. ‘Eveline’) sends up ethereal lilaclavender flowers on spikes almost 2 feet tall that dominate their light green leaves.

spikes that are more than a foot long. • Bog sage (S. uliginosa) easily grows bigger than 4 feet tall in sunny, wet sites. The clumps are covered with a sky blue cloud of flowers for months.

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Threadleaf tickseed

Largeflower tickseed

Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.) Lots of gardeners want the airy feeling of wildflowers but

dark centers. Threadleaf tickseed (C. verticillata) puts

their design has no vast space for swaths of native peren-

its sturdy yellow daisies with pointed petals on decep-

nial plants. Coreopsis brings that loose, country vibe into

tively wimpy-looking stems and leaves. Their novelty is

cultivated gardens in all zones with bright, golden yellow

matched only by their reliable, colorful show on plants 24

pops of color. Tickseed is the common name given to the

to 30 inches tall in the species but varied in its selections.

entire family, and all have similar, tick-looking seeds,

‘Zagreb’ is a very small threadleaf, while ‘Golden Shower’

but there the obvious resemblance ends. Leaves range

is tall and blooms for weeks. Creamy yellow, almost

from spring green to bluish, substantial to quite thin in

white, ‘Moonbeam’ blooms in between the others. A bed

shape. The flowers present almost endless vamps on the

of all three puts low-maintenance, high-impact color in

classic daisy shape, and some have markings the color

place to carry a happy message of welcome.

of redwood. Small or large, on short stems or impossi-

Other selections and varieties of Coreopsis are often

bly long ones, the vast majority of flowers are buttercup

named for our planet’s star and their color. ‘Rising Sun’

yellow but some are orange, red, or pink. Tickseeds are

shows off yellow petals with red bases in a semi-dou-

full sun plants, happy in all but rich, wet soils; some can

ble bloom with a yellow center. Thinner leaves and a

grow in pure sand or gravel.

looser, more casual habit give ‘Baby Sun’ a showy single

Largeflower tickseed (C. grandiflora) is the grand-

flower with bright red rings where the yellow petals meet

daddy of the garden bunch, native and self-sowing to

their center. ‘Early Sunrise’ is smaller with slightly wider

delight or chagrin, depending on space available for the

leaves than the species and solid yellow, semi-double

tall plants. On plants 2 to 3 feet tall, the 2-inch blooms

blooms. A delightful red tickseed, ‘Mercury Rising’ is

have greenish centers and solid, bright yellow ray petals

a smaller plant selected from C. rosea that blooms for

with characteristic notched petals. Lanceleaf tickseed

months in Zones 5 to 8 with deep red-purple flowers on

(C. lanceolata) sets a lighter, airy mood with finer-textured

fine-textured leaf mounds.

leaves on a plant about 18 to 24 inches tall. Its flowers that look more like traditional daisies, yellow petals with


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Reds, pinks



(Astilbe hybrids)

(Penstemon hybrids)

Astilbes are shade garden staples with more colors

Simply beautiful pink or red flowers fill beds and big sec-

available every year as breeders expand the palette.

tions of many perennial borders for plenty of bells on

They range in height from 6 inches to nearly 4 feet tall,

sturdy stems. The flower tubes open with pouty lower

with fernlike leaves and thin, upright stems. Leaf colors

petals and one hairy stamen, or tongue; some seem to

range on the dark side of green, with bronze and copper

positively smirk at you. They range in shades from car-

overtones, to bright spring greens. Each leaf widens at

nation pink to bright and deep claret reds and can bloom

its middle, tapers to a graceful point, and is toothed or

for weeks in bright sunny gardens. In the warmer zones,

scalloped on its edge. Those flowers are nothing short

flower color will be stronger longer if the plants are

of spectacular, tiny flowers gathered into plumes fancy

located away from late afternoon heat. Once established

enough to adorn any Sunday chapeau. Shades of pink

in well-drained soil, the plants are quite drought tolerant.

astilbes include salmon, coral, bubblegum, and pastel

Several species of Penstemon are native to different parts

chalk. There are true reds, lavenders, purples, and whites.

of the United States and have been bred extensively with

Bloom times vary from spring through summer, and

English species to create the chic perennials we enjoy.

flowers differ slightly among the diverse hybrids. Dark

Beardtongue hybrids include the dramatic ‘Dark Towers’,

scarlet ‘Fanal’ is one of many Astilbe × arendsii hybrids

with purple leaves and baby pink flowers, and ‘Hidcote

that thrive in the shade garden with moist, organic

Pink’, a favorite for clear pink blooms. The flaming red of

soils. ‘Federsee’ (also called ‘Catherine Deneuve’) forms

‘Ruby’ flares from stems invisible under so many flowers,

a mound of leaves 18 inches tall with rose-pink flow-

while ‘Red Riding Hood’ is bright red with a very upright

ers on fluffy spikes that can double its height. ‘Ostrich

growth pattern that creates an unusually regimented

Plume’ stuns with coral pink flowers in looser clusters

effect. ‘Firebird’ blooms traffic signal red on thin stems

than most. No taller than a foot in bloom, dwarf astilbes

with strappy leaves, and the denser crown of ‘Port Wine’

are distinctly pixie-ish and appealing. ‘Key West’, for

puts up stunning flowers worthy of their name.

example, has rich pink, tufted flowers above coppery

Zones 4–7

green leaves. Zones 4–8

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Reds, pinks

Cardinal Flower


(Lobelia cardinalis)

(Aquilegia canadensis)

Up to six feet tall at its best, this is a Roman candle of a

Romantic and demure, columbine nods its flowers on

perennial plant in summer and fall. Big clumps of showy

thin, rod-like stems as if it is too shy to speak. These bells

green leaves grow quickly to support tall flower spikes as

speak in color, cardinal red and canary yellow, and their

scarlet as Miss O’Hara. The jade green leaves are long

message is a clear welcome to the wildflower patch or

and narrow with prominent veins that run their length

partly shady garden bed. Hummingbirds are drawn to

and add to the plant’s graceful stance. The red flowers

the droopy blooms that have red spurs and sepals, yellow

crown each stem with fat tubular buds that open over sev-

petals and stamens arranged like elfin hats in a fairy

eral days from the bottom to the flaming red tip. Nectar

garden. Sometimes as tall as 3 feet, columbine is most

hides deep inside the tube, accessible to hummingbirds

often seen as a mature plant in its second year at 18 to

as they hover over the open petals whose colors attract

24 inches in height, but often blooms in its first spring

them. Two silky, rich red upper petals are curved back

in the garden. It is not impatient to grow although the

and three more spread out like a welcome mat. Each is

flowers will be smaller and in proportion to the young

about an inch long and united in clusters called racemes

plants. The clumps are vigorous with rounded leaflets in

that hold the colors high on the leafy stems like flags on

threes that are gently scalloped and nearly lime green or

fire. Long-lived in the vase, cardinal flower makes a great

slightly darker in color. As good in a naturalized design

cut flower. But let some flowers go to seed to replenish the

as a formal one where a low edging plant that blooms is

stand. Cardinal flowers take the sun in northern zones

always welcome, columbine needs rich organic soil that

but farther south, they grow in partial shade. Richly

drains well and regular irrigation in hot summers. If

organic soil that gets water regularly will bring on the

allowed, it will reseed to replenish and increase its stand.

most flowers and bring in the hummingbirds.

Beyond that, this plant stands its ground sweetly, but

Zones 4–9

with quiet resolve. Zones 3–8 (marginal to Zone 9)


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Garden Phlox


(Phlox paniculata)

(Paeonia hybrids)

From full-sun borders to beds in a bit of shade, garden

Peonies are native to southern Europe, the western

phlox packs a color wallop for weeks if not months

United States, and Asia, but the vast majority of the ones

in spring and summer. Every shade of pink and red,

we grow are Asian hybrids. Not every perennial flower

some with bright red bull’s eyes, paint inch-wide pin-

performs as well in the vase as in the garden; peonies are

wheel flowers that are gathered into tall, fragrant flower

stars in both places for days if not weeks of color. Green-

heads. At times it seems the stems cannot possibly sup-

stemmed, herbaceous clumps average 3 feet tall and 2

port such big flowers, and they do waft in the breeze a

feet wide and need little more attention than their bed-

bit but seldom fall over. Flower colors include the pink

mates in the perennial border. New shoots are often red,

blushed ‘Prospero’, pale pinks of ‘Bright Eyes’ with

and there are scores of pink and red flowers to be grown

proper red “eyes,” and ‘Franz Schubert’, a petite pleasure

in a variety of flower types from single to semi- and fully

at only 3 feet tall. Rosier pinks like ‘Red Eyes’ and the

doubled petal arrangements, as well as Japanese and

unfortunately named ‘Red Indian’ are the pretty pinks

anemone-flowered types. And if you search far and wide

of ballet shoes and tutus. But the boldest in this bunch

for corals, peony shines a warm light in that color group

are gaudy neon pink: ‘Fairest One’ with especially dense

too. Most of the flowers are fragrant and the plants long

flower heads and the huge (5 feet tall) ‘Robert Poore’.

lived in temperate zone gardens. Select local favorite

The plants are thick with light green leaves, pointed and

peony varieties for best performance, especially in the

jaunty on their ends, and thrive in most soils with mod-

South and West, where warm winters are the rule. Tree

erate needs for water and other maintenance. The intox-

peonies are shrubs and not considered here except as

icating fragrance of phlox puts the power of cloves and

one parent of the intersectional hybrids, also called Itoh

cottage pinks on steroids. Just one flower cluster holds its

peonies. These are hugely popular because they bloom

perfume in potpourris and pressed flowers long after the

longer with stronger stems and often huge flowers,

color has finally faded.

including pink and coppery rose.

Zones 4–8 (marginal to Zone 9)

Zones 4–8 (marginal to Zone 9)

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Reds, pinks


Purple Coneflower

(Dianthus spp. and hybrids)

(Echinacea spp.)

The expression “pretty in pink” might have been coined

Make no mistake: the traditional “purple” coneflower is

for this diverse group. They are a broad bunch that

pink. Its hues vary from almost pastel to nearly but not

includes the robust cottage pinks (D. plumarius) and

quite purple, but they are pink nonetheless with bur-

delicate cheddar pinks, (D. gratianopolitanus) as well as

gundy-brown or even orange centers. The species, E. pur-

other species and hybrids. Their colors run the gamut

purea, is widely grown, native to the Midwest and south-

from palest pastel to pink shades made for Easter hats,

eastern United States, and the source of many of the best

to bright fuchsias and purplish reds. Five petals sit close

garden selections. Its flowers are the classic “pink daisies”

together around a darker center or dark ring to create tiny

of cottage garden design with distinct, pointed cones that

saucers filled with color. Most are fragrant and bloom

swell with seeds each summer. The plants are considered

on stems atop gray-green mounds or mats of quill-like

easy to grow, drought tolerant, and ideal for sunny sites

leaves. Well-drained soil and full sun are the keys to suc-

including slopes. Robust and hardy, coneflower clumps

cess with these small perennials whether along a bed’s

are dark green with leaves shaped like arrows that take

edge or filling containers of early spring color. None is

this plant straight into your heart in sun or partial shade.

taller than 18 inches and most are smaller; some spread

‘Ruby Star’, commonly called Rubinstern, has only a

and some form round mounds, but all are covered

slightly drooped flower much like the species on a more

with flowers each spring. Scores of choices await you,

compact plant. Other outstanding coneflowers include

including these three: ‘Bath’s Pink’ sets the standard for

some with exaggerated cones: ‘After Midnight’ with dark

cheddar pinks with the darkest leaves and brightest icy

fuchsia petals, lighter pink ‘Pixie Meadowbrite’, and

pink fringed flowers. ‘Grandiflorus’ has loud, rosy pink

‘Double Decker’, prized for a swingy skirt under the cone

blooms that open almost flat with bright red rings in

and a wacky topknot of petals above it. Closer to sheer red,

their center. ‘Dad’s Favorite’ is a wild, multipetaled, red-

‘Tomato Soup’ has flowers that face you, while ‘Summer

and-white bicolor flower that shouts for attention.

Sun’ starts with glowing red and changes to orange and

Zones 4–8

gold in a few days. Zones 4–8 (marginal at Zone 9)


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Blues, purples



(Clematis hybrids)

(Liatris spicata)

Climbing around a mailbox post or clambering up

You might not recognize that the flower blooming by the

a sunny trellis, blue and purple clematis vines are

side of the road is the same one in that fancy bouquet

unmatched for colorful vigor. There are choices for every

from the florist. But both may be gayfeather, or blaz-

zone with spring, fall, and intermittent bloom times,

ing star, that can easily bring its colorful flower spikes

but all thrive in sunny spots with shade on their roots.

to every sunny garden, too. Each little bloom looks like

The interspecies hybrid Jackman clematis with its clas-

a tiny mauve or purple button whose shape reveals its

sic purple flowers is the best known for its dark shin-

membership in the Aster plant family. They are packed

ing petals that pop out from tight yellow centers. But

tightly along tall flower spikes in shades uncommon in

another one, Durant’s clematis, has more flowers that

summer and so are as welcome in the perennial border

are only slightly smaller on a neater, dark green vine.

as they are in naturalized areas. Fluffy as a feather boa

Modern hybrids gain attention for huge, cooling blue

and erect as a soldier at attention, this native wildflower

flowers like pale ‘Madame Chalmondeley’, blue-purple

opens from the top down, a most unusual and whimsical

‘Pearl d’Azure’, and the lilac shades of ‘Elsa Spath’.

habit in garden plants. The plants average about 5 feet

A charming hybrid feature retains blue shades in the

tall and bloom in summer atop stems with wispy leaves

seed heads long after the flowers are done. Nonvining

that look frail but are not; they thrive in full sun with

clematis deserve attention for clusters of brilliant purple

moist, well-drained soil. ‘Kobold’ is a smaller plant with

tube-shaped flowers. ‘Cote d’Azur’ and lighter colors of

brilliant flower colors on the lilac side while the flowers

‘Wyevale Blue’ are popular cultivars of C. heracleifolia

of ‘Floristan Violett’ are stunning violet blue. A relative,

popular in Zones 4 to 7. Renowned breeder Raymond

Liatris graminifolia, has equally exotic flower color in

Evison has turned the tables on this group with Petit

lilac-blue but with grassy leaves unlike its relatives.

Faucon (the tradename for C. ‘Evisix’) and others. Best

Zones 4–9

grown as true perennials and cut down each spring at rose-pruning time, the deep metallic purple petals of Petit Faucon open with long petals amid shrub roses. Zones 4–9

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Blues, purples

Joe-Pye Weed


(Eupatorium spp.)

(Veronica spicata)

It’s said that an expert is a journeyman far from home,

From the front edge of a border to center stage in col-

and that adage certainly applies to Joe-pye weed. This

orful beds, speedwell finds a home in sunny perennial

native perennial has long been both a garden favor-

plantings. Blue, bluer, and bluest might describe the

ite overseas and a weed to be conquered at home.

pointy flower spikes with clear hues that stand out in

But if you like purple flower heads as big as footballs

any planting. Upright and covered in buds, speedwell

and shaped like them, too, this is your plant for late

looks like a mass of pale green fingers pointing skyward;

summer color. Stacks of pointed leaves longer than they

when they open, there is no more eye-popping sight to

are wide stick straight out from stems as tall as 10 feet

be seen. Beloved for its neat, dark green, toothy leaves

in areas of cool summers. Thick clumps push up scads

and plentiful flowery spikes, the plants bloom for weeks

of tiny flowers in purple clouds that attract a bevy of

in summer and then spread by rooting stems as they

bees and butterflies. If their height would overwhelm its

fall over. From less than a foot tall to more than 2 feet

bedmates, this plant and the very similar spotted Joe-

in full bloom, speedwell wins the blue ribbon for easy

pye weed (E. maculatum, with stems blotched purple)

perennial color. ‘Blue Fox’ has lavender or lilac-blue

can be pinched in spring to shorten their ultimate

flowers on a petite plants, and ‘Glory’, also known as

height, but ‘Gateway’ is grown for its naturally shorter

‘Royal Candles’, is noted for flowers that are dark violet.

stature. Wherever you cultivate Joe-pye weed, consider

Tiny ‘Nana Blauteppich’ blooms bright blue at less than

adding its relative, wild ageratum (E. coelestinum), as a

4 inches tall, and ‘Romiley Purple’ has a muscular look

companion in the bed for complimentary flower colors.

and blue-violet blossoms. A subspecies, V. incana ‘Silver

The flower clusters on these smaller plants are delicious

Carpet’, has the additional desirable feature of silver-

lilac to blue shades; together they are irresistible. The

green leaves to go with its deep blue blooms. Many gar-

entire group deserves your attention.

deners recognize speedwell as the first blue flower they

Zones 4–8 (marginal to Zone 9)

ever remember seeing; its potent colors are memorable. Zones 4–8


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Yellows, oranges, golds

Stokes’ Aster

Black-Eyed Susan

(Stokesia laevis)

(Rudbeckia spp., hybrids, and cultivars)

Sometimes a native perennial plant gives rise to such

Step into the world of black-eyed Susan flowers for

stunning offspring that they far outshine the species. In

unmistakable, bold color that shines up at you in big

fact, people may not even recognize the dainty, inch-

daisy shapes surrounding deep, dark centers. Flower

wide light blue “daisies” with fine petals extended

shades range from orange coneflower (R. fulgida) to the

around a wide round center. It is a sweet, late spring-

lemony yellow petals of cutleaf coneflower (R. laciniata)

flowering doll and a good companion to small ferns and

with dozens of selections and hybrids in between. The

native columbine in naturalized settings. With much

flower petals simply glow with vibrant, heartwarming

larger flowers, brighter colors in shades from delft blue

color whether one plant or a plethora comes into view.

to nearly purple, Stokes’ aster daughters are ready for a

The colors have tremendous depth that shines through

debutante’s ball. Their flowers are held on light green

in every photo, even those taken with the simplest

stems above the clumps and can come in waves for

camera. Black-eyed Susans are at home in full sun, and

weeks if you deadhead them. The leaves offer bright con-

most adapt to any average soil but are less tolerant

trast to the flowers with strappy, almost lime green color

of severe drought conditions. By far the most popular,

piled into thick clumps. They thrive in sunny to partly

‘Goldsturm’ calls on its sturdy R. fulgida background

shady sites where soils are well drained in all but the

with golden yellow petals around a dark disk 3 inches

most northern zones where they can be enjoyed as con-

across. Fast to grow and colonize, the plants easily reach

tainer plants. The most popular, Stokesia ‘Blue Danube’,

2 feet tall and wide or larger and dominate their space

lives up to its name with clear blue blooms 2 to 3 inches

if allowed. Slightly less rambunctious but sunnier yellow

wide. ‘Wyoming’ delivers deeper purple tones while

with a small, dark nose, R. hirta readily reseeds itself.

‘Klaus Jelitto’ brings even larger blue flowers on plants

Double-flowered black-eyed Susans are as easy to grow

that can be 2 feet tall in bloom. ‘Omega Skyrocket’ has

and make excellent cut flowers, including ‘Goldquelle’

erect stems and is perfect for the cut flower garden.

that looks like a buttery yellow chrysanthemum. It is a

Zones 5–9

treasure for zones with cool summers. Zones 3–8 (marginal to Zone 9)

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Yellows, oranges, golds

Blanket Flower


(Gallardia spp. and hybrids)


Many plants seem to get their common names from

When a youngster picks a bouquet, enthusiasm some-

their beautiful blooms, perhaps none as appropriately

times wins and nary a blossom is spared. Mothers can

as blanket flower. The name speaks volumes once you

relax and smile when daylily stems are clutched tight in

have seen it, but read closely. While you might associ-

little fists—new buds will open again tomorrow. Indeed,

ate the colors and patterns of fiery yellow, gold, and red

everywhere you look in late spring and summer daylilies

that mark blanket flower with the beautiful blankets

of a dozen types bloom, many with the sunniest yellows,

woven by Native Americans, the plant is named for its

most brilliant golds, and the orangiest oranges in the

spreading habit. Some creep across the sand in coastal

garden. More than any other plant group, our beloved

zones, others spread into tall stands on the prairies, and

daylilies can be bred in every direction: single and

smaller selections add to small pots. All deserve more

double flowers, dwarf and giant plants, rebloomers, and

attention in sunny garden spots for their crazy colors in

the tongue-twisting diploids and tetraploids. Petals may

striking patterns. Blanket flowers bred for garden culture

be solid shades or bi- or tricolored, but many modern

mostly come from G. × grandiflora and include ‘Goblin’

daylilies are the children of the big, tawny orange

with petals that are orange-red with golden tips on a

H. fulva; the golden H. dumortieri; and the smaller, lemon

foot tall plant. ‘Tokajer’ can be 2 feet tall and brings rau-

yellow H. minor. Among hundreds of named choices,

cous rusty-orange flowers (with a tinge of purple). The

the legendary ‘Mary Todd’ holds its own for pure deep

‘Lollipop’ series of blanket flowers look like their name—

yellow; equally storied are ‘Hyperion’ and ‘Lemon Drop’.

stiff stems hold the double orange flowers high above the

Dwarf and reblooming ‘Stella d’Oro’ introduced daylilies

dense, hairy clump of leaves. Another blanket flower, G.

to container culture. Another old favorite, ‘Kwanzo’, has

aristata, is native across the northern tier to the West

no rivals for double orange flowers. Full sun in almost

Coast. From it comes ‘Bijou’, noted for 3-inch-wide, rich

any soil grows long, narrow leaves into robust clumps

orange-red flowers with golden notes on plants no more

ready to send up lots of stems with flowers that each last

than a foot tall.

but one glorious day.

Zones 4–9


Zones 4–9

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Lady Fern

(Oenothera fruiticosa)

(Athyrium filix-femina)

Like another common name in this family, evening

Damp shade has no better companion than lady fern,

primrose, sundrops is the moniker given to many plants

which is probably the first garden fern most people ever

unrelated to it. The “true” sundrops bloom all day with

see. This is an elegant, well-behaved plant that can be

bright, crayon-yellow flowers that have four fat, papery

counted on for years of brilliant green color. Tougher

petals on perky stems above plants about 20 inches

than she looks, the spring green fronds start each year

tall. But hybrids born of marriages with pink evening

as adorable new stems or croziers that may have red or

primroses may open late in the day like them; neverthe-

pink hues. Soon they unfurl, tall, erect, and yes, fern

less, sundrop yellows embody the positive outlook that

green with a definite airy élan that lights up the darkest

defines the color. Its buds are often pink with red stems

corners and lasts all season. No other fern has as many

and pink or red flower parts, but you can be forgiven

variations as this lady and many are named. Crested,

for not noticing them once the screaming yellow flowers

crisscross designs and fancy plumes mark them, and

open. ‘Sonnenwende’ makes the most dramatic bicolor

one with both has a tongue-twisting name, ‘Plumosum

statement with rosy pink buds, but its yellow flowers are

Cristatum’. ‘Frizelliae’ is a sweet dwarf fern with all the

the attraction. ‘Lady Brookborough’ offers piles of small

elegance of the much larger ladies. Finely cut leaves

yellow flowers while ‘Yellow River’ stands tall with buck-

create a feathery, plume effect in ‘Rotstiel’ in fronds that

ets of big blooms. Ozark sundrops (O. missouriensis) has

can be 4 feet tall. In the same family, Japanese painted

yellow flowers as big as your hand but demands excel-

fern (A. nipponicum var. ‘Pictum’) has fronds in several

lent drainage like that found in rock gardens. To fur-

shades of green from dark with gray tones to silver, blue-

ther confuse the name game among Oenothera species

greens. Left alone, it spreads with endless color combina-

there is another species that thrives from Zone 7 into the

tions in shade or morning sun. The surprising offspring

tropics. The flowers of O. drummondii are yellow, but its

of lady fern and this painted fern is ‘Ghost’, grown and

common name is beach evening primrose.

loved for its spooky gray-green fronds.

Zones 4–9

Zones 4–8 (marginal to Zone 9)

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Shield Fern

(Rosmarinus officinalis)

(Polystichum spp.)

For green shades that can be dark moss green, gray-

You could grow an entire grotto of diverse-looking

green, and even lighter hues when mature, rosemary can

ferns and never leave this group, beloved for a range

garner attention even before you detect it by its aroma.

of green shades and hardy good looks in damp, shady

Young plants and old growth are darkest, heat and

spaces. Sword fern (P. munitum) stands tall with fronds

bright sun brings out the gray tones, and new growth

more than 4 feet long that arch gracefully up and away.

starts out at grass green. Then its magnificent woodsy

Native to the western US and well adapted nationwide,

aroma adds dimension to this colorful, usually upright

sword fern’s side growth can be tough to remove, but

plant’s appeal. The species is rounded at ground level

the elbow grease required pays off with large stands in a

with branches that curve wide and up, toward a point

few seasons. Not limited in its appeal, either, Christmas

about 4 feet above the center. Its leaves are fat needles

fern (P. acrostichoides) hails from the East and was once a

that also point up from the branches, creating an uplift-

commercial source of holiday greenery. Often described

ing, optimistic mood. Prostrate rosemary (‘Prostratus’) is

as leathery, its fronds are longer than wide and are

smaller overall with an arching habit that allows it to

a deep, dark forest green. Two of the soft shield ferns

stand alone or spill over walls in a brilliant green row.

(P. setiferum) offer charming shapes and habits and

Let rosemary be the centerpiece of a well-drained knot

more points on the green spectrum. One group has

garden or xeriscape bed to best enjoy its color palette.

blue-green fronds so divided that they seem crocheted

This herb can grow in part shade, but in full sun its flow-

into lacy loops. Equally upright with rust-colored mid-

ers attract pollinators to its blue or white lipped tubes of

ribs, the fronds of the Divisilobum group are simpler in

nectar. Where it is not garden-hardy, rosemary can be

design. The individual leaflets are so small they might be

grown for years in a container protected from freezing

beads strung on army green string. Southern shield fern

and/or propagated each summer to grow as a house-

(Dryopteris) shares its name with these ferns. Florescent

plant in winter.

lime green fronds are 3 feet tall and perennial in the

Zones 8–9 (marginal to Zone 7)

South and West. Zones 4–9


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Whites, creams

Wake Robin



(Iberis sempervirens)

When spring pokes the shade garden, wake robin comes

Every garden bed looks better with a neat edge, and a

along for the ride, popping up in its native woodland

low-growing flowering perennial can keep it spiffy if it

environments across the globe. Those who seek truly

is well-behaved in habit. Candytuft is such a plant, with

unusual, long-lived perennial plants with a strong sense

crispy bunches of small emerald green leaves and flow-

of place really should seek out local favorite Trillium spe-

ers in dress whites. They bloom for weeks in early spring

cies and encourage their use in garden culture. You will

with a modest show in autumn in many areas. Mounds

be rewarded with pleasing shades of green in leaves that

of bright white flowers crowd the leaves out of view, each

can carpet shade under trees while other plants are still

one decked out in layers of crisp petals around green-

sleeping. Each leaf is wide and roughly heart-shaped;

ish white eyes. The lowest, widest tier shows candytuft’s

three leaves top each stem in nature’s most perfect tri-

toothy, squared off petals that are its signature, clean

angle of color. Some are solid green, like the best known

white smile. Candytuft has a clean, sweet fragrance that

of the bunch, great white trillium (T. grandiflorum), and

smells as cool as the plants look. The hardy plants bask

its selections including ‘Flore Peno’. But others offer sur-

in sunny or partly sunny beds with well-drained soil.

prising mottled, streaked, or painted leaves such as wake

Unlike other perennials, candytuft can also be grown

robin (T. cuneatum) with distinctive light and dark mark-

as an annual and allowed to reseed in place or col-

ings. There are more than two dozen trilliums native to

lected for planting the next season. This strategy avoids

the United States, some with flowers held up like scepters

the crispy leaves that excess heat and humidity can

and other hidden, nodding under the leaves. All thrive

bring, but the plants can also be cut back in summer.

in moist, organic soils where they can be undisturbed,

Candytuft will experience senescence or summer dor-

and each is called different names depending on where

mancy in Zones 8b and 9; they return with cool weather

it grows. Do not harvest any wildflower in its native

and bloom intermittently all winter.

stands; instead, seek them out from reputable nurseries

Zones 4–9

and plant swaps. Zones 4–8 (marginal to Zone 9)

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Whites, creams

Eulalia Grass

Great Globe Thistle


(Echinops sphaerocephalus)

Other colors may flash and fade as summer wears on,

If gardeners chose plants based on a menu of land-

but these ornamental grasses gain steam with the heat.

scape attributes, this perennial might check off every

Some say they best display their true colors, creams and

item but its color tops the list. Great globe thistle defies

whites, in autumn and winter but eulalia grass brings

comparison for its whites, which rock your expectations

color all year. Spring sees them as heaps of long, thin

with gray, green, and even cream tones, depending on

blades piled up like haystacks; both solid greens and

the day and the sunlight. Diversity reigns in perennial

variegated leaves turn lustrous buff in fall. White and

border design where plant height, texture, flower shape,

silvery hues take perennial style and grace to new levels:

and bloom season matter greatly. Great globe thistle

‘Variegatus’ sets its standard with wide leaves and a stal-

has it all in a gorgeously bizarre plant, beginning with

wart form. ‘Cabaret’ is more upright, while ‘Morning

its rugged spiny leaves that are shaped like their rela-

Light’ has the thinnest leaves and the finest texture of

tives, artichokes and pasture thistles. Their undersides

all. But white and cream take center stage when eulalia

are cottony white and spaced wide along tall (4 to 6

grasses bloom with tall, fluffy plumes. Some of the best

feet) flower stems, affording you a great view of even

include ‘Malepartus’, with airy, soft-looking, creamy

more color. The plant’s stems are oddly white, a rarity in

white plumes and ‘Silver Feather’, whose name nails

perennial plants, and stiff in comparison to everything

the flowers’ brilliant good looks. Eulalia grasses can be

but tree branches. And then there are the flowers, the

outstanding as focal point individuals or grown together

globes that are intricate round clusters that, more than

into nearly impenetrable barriers to mark a property’s

anything else, resemble the Death Star in the movie Star

edge. By the time in late fall or winter that you cut them

Wars. Each tiny, sage-green bud stands like a map tack

down, the entire plants have donned wheat straw cloaks.

on the globe and opens into an elegant, feathery white,

Versatile and durable, eulalia grasses thrive in sun or

glowing orb. Great globe thistle would be a gawky mess,

part shade and any well-drained soil.

easily overlooked, were it not for its unexpected and

Zones 5–9

unworldly whites. Zones 4–9


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Shasta Daisy

(Persicaria polymorpha)

(Leucanthemum × superbum)

Like people, plants sometimes get a bad reputation

A bouquet sends a message: pansies are for thought,

from their relatives, and such is the case with knot-

roses express emotions, and daisies—yellow centers with

weed. Aggressive and not especially pretty to most eyes,

white ray petals flying in perfect circles—speak brightly

other Persicaria species and many related plants in the

in a welcome hello to friends. Leaves are John Deere-

Polygonaceae family are mostly considered weeds. But

green and glossy, just the perfect supporting cast for

even in the most dysfunctional families, there are excep-

the chaste white flower petals that surround a dense

tions—well behaved and lovely, perhaps forced to take

yellow disc center. Ironically, the story of this clas-

another name to avoid recognition. This particular knot-

sic white flower comes shrouded in mystery, unlike its

weed has become known as giant fleece flower, certainly

simple beauty. Whether you think Luther Burbank bred

a more descriptive, stylish name. The creamy white

it from international stock or simply selected ‘Shasta’, he

flowers are chic; upright clusters filled with knotty small

named it in 1901 after years of seeking its perfect white

blooms in profusion, their effect is rather like fistfuls of

color and universally pleasing form. Many more bright

freshly sheared fleece. Even the flower buds are elegant,

whites have followed with single, double, frilly double,

densely packed and light green atop stems 3 to 5 feet tall

and curious anemone flower shapes, but a few stand out

and thick with leaves shaped and colored like spireas.

from the pack. ‘Becky’ follows true Shastas with later

The muscular clumps can stand tall behind black-eyed

bloom and equally simple flowers on a more forgiving

Susans and other bold summer colors or contrast nicely

plant, but all these daisies do best in moderate environ-

with the cone-shaped blooms of purple butterfly bushes.

ments without extremes of wet and dry soils. ‘Esther

They thrive in full sun with well-drained soil, tolerate

Read’ has delightful fully double flowers on a 2-foot

some drought, and any amount of heat and humidity

plant, while ‘Aglaia’ loosens up its doubled petals for an

the climate offers. Call it knotweed or giant fleece flower,

occasional glimpse at its yellow center. ‘Alaska’ is grown

this perennial will be at home in cottage gardens and

from seed yet displays great uniformity in both plants

add crisp flair to naturalized garden designs.

and crisp, white, single flowers.

Zones 4–9

Zones 5–8

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H. micrantha ‘Palace Purple’

H. sanguinea

Coral Bells (Heuchera) Sometimes you think you know a plant, and then every-

casual design as when they are used to soften the hard

thing changes, like the day your teenager gets her driver’s

lines of a deck. Deeply cut edges or crazy outlines almost

license. Coral bells (H. sanguinea) used to be a nice, pre-

like maple leaves make a stronger statement of order and

dictable groundcover with ruffled green leaves and cute

formality. Groups of three plants repeated along a curved

pink flowers. But late in the last century a plethora of

bed can bring comforting unity and stability.

quite different selections and new releases from breeders

• ‘Alabama Sunrise’ has yellow-green leaves that

appeared in landscapes and garden centers. Leaf colors

feature bright red veins in spring and summer. They

from practically pink to purple, orange, yellow, and rain-

are deeply lobed, wrinkled, and mesmerizing.

bows of mixed shades now decorate sunny sites in the North and partial shade in the South. The world of coral

• ‘Amber Waves’ undulates with shades of gold and apricot on scalloped leaves that might be piles of

bells has changed so dramatically that many gardeners

fancy oak leaves but for their pale pink flowers.

do not recognize the original and know only Heuchera as

• Deep purple leaves with white edges emphasize the

the name for these fabulous plants. They are still polite

extravagant ruffles that distinguish ‘Amethyst Myst’.

mounds about a foot tall and wide, have fancy leaves in

• A calico tapestry of orange, red, and yellow hues

a dense clump, and belong in every well-drained garden

mark ‘Peach Crisp’. Its leaves are both lobed and

soil nationwide. Their versatility makes the garden pos-

ruffled for superior colorful dimension.

sibilities almost unlimited. Coral bells can fill a bed, edge a sidewalk, or take their place in the front row of a perennial border. The incredible array of color patterns

• ‘Southern Comfort’ has rounder leaves that seem to roll out of their crown in shades of light orange and apricot.

enables you to lay out a mixed-up crazy quilt or rein-

• ‘Delta Dawn’ has leaves that are veined, lobed, and

force your theme palette. Round-leafed coral bells suit a

edged. Dark orange-red veins create intricate patterns on peachy backgrounds with gold-green rims and flower stems.

Groundcover choices use color and growth habit to establish the

• ‘Rave On’ gets attention for shiny silver leaves with

basis of a top-down design. A flat, dark green profile emphasizes

red underneath and tall spikes crowded with tiny

everything above and around it while a mat of looser, lighter

coral flowers. Whoever named it can be forgiven for

green offers contrast to other plants in the design.

the effusive name—this plant earns it.

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Athyrium niponicum var. pictum

Dryopteris marginalis

Hardy Ferns

This group refers to evergreen and deciduous ferns with

(D. fragrans) thrives in moist environments yet can toler-

average clumps 2 feet by 2 feet or smaller. In practical

ate some drought without damage in northern zones.

terms, hardy ferns may be ankle-, calf-, or almost knee-

Cliff ferns (Zones 5 through 8) hail from around

high, but their clumps must grow dense to be considered a

the globe, including all US states and are usually 6

groundcover. They are well suited for living mulches and

inches tall or measured falling over rocks as their name

low profile beds as well as in cameo roles in the perennial

implies. Tolerant of sunnier sites than most ferns, they

border or shady grotto. Hardy ferns offer a boatload of

include the grass-green blunt-lobed woodsia (W. obtusa)

plants to choose from that diverge wildly in characteris-

a loose, airy fern with tufts of stems about 10 inches tall

tic color and texture. There are selections for every zone,

in the garden. Oblong or rusty woodsia (W. ilvensis) is

shade density, and green hue you desire, in textures from

tougher than it looks. Open and upright in form, the

boldly coarse to frilly fine. Brilliant examples of the group

ribbon-green fronds are almost lacy.

include wood ferns (Dryopteris) and cliff ferns (Woodsia).

Hardy in Zones 4 through 9, Japanese painted fern

Wood ferns (Zones 5 through 8) include crested

(Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) defies imagination with

buckler (D. dilitata ‘Cristata’), which ups the ante on

its exotic, enchanting beauty. Its fronds are lacy, light

exuberant, girly good looks with crested tips on each

and dark green with a cloak of silver and claret that is

shiny frond. Male wood fern (D. filiz-mas) is native

most unexpected. A patch among muscular hosta and

to the United States and has big clumps of emerald

ginger plants delivers stunning textural contrast in bril-

green fronds that are evergreen in warm winter areas.

liant color. In Zones 5 through 8, other Athyrium cultivars

Champion’s wood fern (D. championii) has Christmas

with surprising color include ‘Branford Beauty’ with bur-

green fronds and light lime green new growth. It is 2

gundy stems and silvery fronds and ‘Lady in Red’ noted

feet tall and wider, with arching, yard-long fronds. With

for scarlet red stems. ‘Silver Falls’ radiates in morning

similar dimensions, Formosa wood fern (D. formosana)

sun with reddish pink stems and purplish leaf veins.

has fronds that are lighter in color and texture with especially wide bases. Hardier still, fragrant woodfern


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Reds, pinks



(Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

(Cornus canadensis)

If you could stand up a single stem of bearberry, it might

Although its name may not seem inspired, bunchberry

be taller than you are—but this groundcover’s habit

(also called creeping dogwood) describes this ground-

never lets on. Its profile is not over a foot high yet the

cover quite well. It has shiny, cardinal-red berries in, well,

rough red stems can spread 6 feet, twisting around and

bunches, atop crisp, five-leaf clusters that turn glorious

growing together into delightfully dense clumps. The

fall shades of red and purple. Look closely and you’ll

leaves are glossy, round at the outer edge, slightly spoon-

see the resemblance to its relatives, the dogwood trees.

shaped, and evergreen in shades from lime to forest

The leaves are broadly oval, slightly curved around the

green. The flowers are pinkish white, bell-shaped, and

edges with a pointed tip. They seem longer than they

a sweet surprise as their fragrance wafts up to your nose

are because each leaf has distinctive veins running its

in late spring. Soon the power punch of color arrives in

length, and their color ranges from crayon-green to hues

crimson red berries with such sheen they might have

with yellow tinges. Growing at a moderate pace in well-

been polished. If bearberry were a woman, you’d say

drained soils, bunchberry spreads with underground

she is the girl-next-door—cute, clean, and polished. A

rhizomes to form thick drifts in shady beds. Late spring

modern selection of this storied plant, ‘Massachusetts’

brings the flowers, tight little clusters that would be

is especially showy with great garden potential. Smaller

nondescript but for the four satiny bracts around them.

and with a thicker, more compact form than the native,

More understated than those on the trees, creeping dog-

its flowers and berries are a bit larger, too. Native from

wood’s flowers do shine unlike any other groundcover

Alaska to Virginia (and Greenland), the plants thrive in

in late spring. The bright berries form in summer and

poor, acid soils and so make an especially colorful state-

persist unless eaten by wildlife until the first cool snap.

ment in difficult garden areas. Let the runners roam to

Then the leaves take the stage for weeks with striking

show off their true prostrate habit and create a colorful

red hues from candy apple to almost purple. Bunchberry

view where few plants could.

fits neatly under trees and peeks out from the edges of

Zones 4–6 (marginal to Zone 7)

shrubs and makes a perfect living mulch at no more than 6 inches tall. Zones 4–7 (marginal to Zone 8)

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Reds, pinks





Cinquefoil quite literally takes its name from the

Without question, stonecrops solve lots of design

fourteenth-century term for “five leaf” and is not named

dilemmas with serene, chic style. The plants and flowers

for its petals. But their perfect symmetry has timeless

are undemanding, and their colors are bright and cheery,

appeal. The plants will surge and spill, sending leafy

especially the reds and pinks. Well-drained and poor

branches every which way to set up for a long bloom

soils welcome this groundcover that roots everywhere a

season of flashy red flowers. There are five petals in each,

stem or shiny leaf makes contact. They rapidly spread

surrounding a bright yellow center; in garden varieties,

wider than tall across open space, gravel, and gentle

each flower can be as wide as the saucer for a teacup. ‘Red

slopes but are well behaved and easily kept in their

Ace’ ages its flowers from red to apricot and sometimes

place. Tiny Lydian stonecrop (S. lydium) has clusters

several shades appear at once. ‘Red Robin’ is flirty with

of tightly wrapped leaves, green cylinders with red

pale yellow tones on the underside of scarlet red petals.

frosting just lighter than the red stems. ‘Ruby Glow’ (S.

Cinquefoil plants are not tiny, creeping groundcovers

middendorfianum), at 10 inches tall, looks like its name,

meant to edge a neat bed. The plants average 18 to 24

with starry flowers in shades from rose to ruby to garnet.

inches tall and spread into dense mats that are much

Even its leaves have a dark red-purple sheen. Two-row

wider and so can best be considered in this group for this

sedums (S. spurium) bring brilliant pinks and reds to

pleasing habit. Palmate, or hand-shaped, leaves grow

plants 3 to 6 inches tall, depending on variety. ‘Dragon’s

into thick bunches of tiny fingers reaching up and out

Blood’ shimmers with rose pink hues in flowers and

in shades of grayish green. The plants thrive in moist,

darker leaves. Diminutive ‘John Creech’ is but 2 inches

well-drained soil and full sun, but the flowers will last

tall yet covered in bright pink flowers from summer

longer and hold their colors with afternoon shade. Their

to fall. A variegated two-row sedum adds pink stripes to

versatility earns space in designs from quaint cottage

its green and white leaves for added dimension in its

style to clean, modern, low-maintenance plans.

dense mat. Almost a foot high, ‘Vera Jameson’ rounds

Zones 4–7

out this group with pink flowers in the mauve range. Zones 4–9


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Blues, purples

Brass Buttons

Carpet Bugle

(Leptinella ‘Platt’s Black’)

(Ajuga reptans)

If your design sense says there should be a ferny-looking

Sweet rosettes of leaves that range from dark green to

plant for sunny sites, brass buttons, particularly ‘Platt’s

purple look impossibly quirky, their veins so tight that

Black’, will suit your style. This purple is so dark that

they seem stitched into waffle patterns. Each leaf is

its moniker truly suits; the leaves are nearly black and

slightly scalloped and flares to a round outer edge for

oil-slick shiny. They are 2 inches long, almost an inch

even more ground-hugging interest. They are gathered

wide, and taper slightly down like a fern frond. Each leaf

into a ground-hugging crown that spreads in sun or

has tiny, flat leaflets all along its length to form mats

shade and wears its spring flowers like a tiara made of

of purple and purplish green that are no more than a

cloisonné blue beads. Because they are packed so tightly

few inches tall, but healthy rhizomes will spread much

onto the flower stem, each horn is squished so its lower

wider. Well-drained, organic and preferably acidic soils

lobe sticks out like a trumpeter’s pouty lip. Also known as

provide optimum growing conditions for brass buttons.

bugleweed, this groundcover has gone uptown in recent

The habit and leaf detail of ‘Platt’s Black’ resemble

decades with a plethora of stunning selections. ‘Black

button fern (Nephrolepsis) if it were camouflaged with

Scallop’ looks unworldly with deep purple leaves that

deep purple spray paint. This New Zealand native is

glisten in sunlight even on a dry day. ‘Mahogany’ has

rugged enough that you can walk gently on established

leaves that are redder and rounder on a slightly shorter

plantings without damaging them and even mow the

plant. ‘Burgundy Glow’ has purple new growth amid

flowers off to increase leafy growth. Its gold flowers and

leaves that age to blue green with white markings. ‘Dixie

small berries are not very showy but do add contrast-

Chip’ shows different variegation, green, off-white, and

ing texture to the leaves in summer. Brass buttons is a

red-purple leaves and deep violet flowers. ‘Chocolate

full-sun plant everywhere except Zones 8b and 9 where

Chip’ has lighter, Delft-blue flowers, and ‘Atropurpurea’

partly shady sites will best maintain the leaf color of

even has purple stems. Especially small ‘Purple Brocade’

‘Platt’s Black’.

has shorter bloom stems in tight, purple-blue clusters.

Zones 4–8

Zones 4–9

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Blues, purples

Creeping Raspberry


(Rubus pentalobus)


Also known as creeping bramble and ornamental bram-

Shady places need color to brighten them, never more

ble, this is an evergreen groundcover that is virtually

so than in early spring when everyone is looking for

indestructible. It is favored for four-season interest and

signs of the new season. Lungworts have it—green,

lives up to its billing with dark purple-red and sometimes

silver, and mottled leaves put on flowers in purple and

bronze fall color that lasts until spring when the clumps

blue shades to warm your heart and the garden scene.

turn green with new growth. Their shades are rich like

The blooms come in clusters that emerge from dark,

the hues woven into quality tapestries that depict knights

red-purple buds that pop open into blue, purple, or

and derring-do. The leaves are puckered into lumpy,

pink bell shapes. Long leaves range from a few inches

round heart shapes, some lobed and/or slightly wavy on

to more than a foot long from the clump to their tip

their edges. They pack visual muscle and are held stiffly

and taper sweetly to form bubbly mounds. The plants

on strong, short stems that deliver three-dimensional

spread by rhizomes, but slowly, and some also reseed

interest, unusual in such a low-growing plant. Creeping

to further build their numbers. They do best in rich soil

raspberry is at home in full sun and partial shade, in

that stays just moist but also drains away the excess, yet

almost any soil that drains well. It needs only minimal

can adapt to slightly less ideal conditions. Long-leaved

amounts of water once established and will crawl and

lungwort (P. longifolia) dazzles with pure blue flowers,

sometimes run in every direction from its crown to form

and its selection ‘Cevennensis’ is noted for leaves 18 to

a dense mat 2 to 4 inches tall. White flowers keep spring

20 inches long. Bethlehem sage (P. saccharata) has wild

interesting, followed by raspberry-like fruits that can be

silver leaf markings, especially prominent in ‘Milky

purple, red, or golden yellow for more color well into

Way’, with dark blue blooms. A fabulous hybrid, ‘Roy

summer. Creeping raspberry is at home in beds and bor-

Davidson’ has precious pale blue flowers atop long,

ders but also in large containers and rock gardens where

spotted leaves. ‘Silver Bouquet’ features shiny silver

it can spill over surfaces with panache.

leaves and incredible blue and pink blossoms.

Zones 6–9


Zones 4–8

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Yellows, oranges, golds

Fairy Wings



(Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’)

Fairy wings, also known as bishop’s hat and less

Golden yellow heading toward chartreuse in shade,

romantically called barrenwort, invites close inspection.

moneywort, or creeping Jenny, spreads its cloak of round

They seldom look as tall as their 1-foot height and

leaves quickly. Each leaf is the size of a quarter or a dime,

spread slowly into piles of little leaves shaped like

and they are stacked in whorls around short, equally

organic valentines. They offer plenty of pizazz all by

colorful stems. They run across bare ground, rooting

themselves, especially those colored in shades of bronze,

anywhere a stem hits the soil, and spill out of containers

gold, and red. Each is deeply notched at the stem end

like the ruffles on a goofy teenager’s tuxedo shirt. This

and held aloft on a thin, stiff stem. The result is a slightly

shade, bright and compelling, defines happy yellow in

flattened clump with a neat profile in the garden. Then

plants made for moist, sunny sites and makes an indel-

the yellow flowers appear, tiny individuals arranged

ible imprint on all who see it. The yellow leaves are thick

in loose bunches that fill the space in early spring

in dimension and in growth pattern with a relentless

sometimes before the leaves. They may be pastel shades

positive attitude—they never flinch in thunderstorms

or much brighter, like E. warleyense with flowers that

and can tolerate brief dry spells without losing leaves

are bright orange and yellow. Long-spurred fairy wings

or color. About 4 inches tall, creeping Jenny’s profile is

(E. grandiflorum) is 8 inches tall, a bit wider, and has

upright yet gently undulating, upbeat and almost fluffy.

quirky, spiky leaves. Two more barrenworts are slightly

Moneywort, another common name for this plant, is

less hardy than the others They are, however, better

taken from the traditional term for weed, “wort,” refer-

suited to Zone 8b and sometimes Zone 9, where they

ring to its gold coin-shaped leaves and flowers. Creeping

are reliably evergreen. E. × perralchicum can be more

jenny is a seventeenth-century term for whooping

than a foot tall with twice the spread and its selection,

cough, and the plant was used in its treatment. Equally

‘Frohnleiten’ brings flowers an inch wide in mounds to

popular, ‘Golden Globes’ is a green-leaved relative

the spring garden. Of similar size, E. perralderianum adds

(L. procumbens) with charming yellow flowers surround-

brown spurs in contrast to its sunny yellow flowers.

ing a red center.

Zones 4–9

Zones 4–9

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Yellows, oranges, golds


Yellow Archangel

Lily Turf

(Lamium galeobdolon)

(Liriope spicata)

For a plant that is otherwise known as dead nettle,

Sometimes a plant seems to be everywhere, and we are

Lamium has much to offer in the color garden. Deep

tempted to deem it too common to grow. But there’s a

shade presents challenges to seasonal yellow color

reason for its popularity, and in the case of lily turf, that

beyond a few plants that do not lose their hues there,

reason is the color green. Dark and rich, the strappy

mostly in their leaves such as hostas. Yellow archangel

leaves are as green as the finest pool table felt and just

meets this need with distinctive flowers in mellow yellow

as lustrous. The entire plant is no more than a foot

shades that are quaintly charming. Most of its flower

tall, yet there are scores of leaves springing from each

parts seem to peek shyly from under one big petal above

clump. They form a mound that is neat but never boring

them, an exaggerated cap. Their effect is clever, as if it

because just enough of the leaves stand up at atten-

had been drawn to attract attention from visitors to the

tion—and gain yours. Muscular spikes of purple-blue

difficult areas under trees and between them. Shallow-

flowers join them in summer and are followed by round,

rooted and ready to spread on stems that creep at

black berries.

ground level, the plants are quite drought tolerant once

‘Big Blue’ lives up to its name with thick spikes of

established. Yellow archangel might also be exalted (as

blue flowers that seem to punch their way out of the

its name suggests) for its striking silver and gray leaves

clump in summer. Any well-drained soil can support

painted to exaggerate their elongated heart shapes. The

lily turf; with regular watering and annual fertilizing in

plants establish themselves with steady vigor, spreading

spring, it will show its vibrant colors for years. Lily turf

both above- and belowground by stolons and rhizomes.

plants are best maintained by cutting off the old leaves

The clumps are a foot tall with flowering stems held sev-

in late winter before the new ones arise in the center of

eral inches above that to create a round mound with

the plant. Divide clumps every three years for more flow-

leafy antennas flush with yellow blooms. ‘Hermann’s

ers and the neatest looks.

Pride’ has slightly narrower, toothy leaves and lemon

Zones 5–9

yellow flowers with a sweet, sophisticated air. Zones 4–9


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Whites, creams


Bishop’s Weed

(Pachysandra terminalis)

(Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’)

Evergreen groundcovers are a treasure when their colors

Green leaves with white variegation grab whatever light

sparkle and mark the seasons with subtle changes.

reaches shady gardens and bounces it around, illumi-

Pachysandra is also called spurge, although that is

nating the space. Their presence adds interest, dimen-

the name of a group of lawn weeds and hardly suits

sion, and texture to the view, and also continuity with

this beautiful, ground-hugging plant. Adaptable to all

their constant color. Not all plants have strong variega-

but the driest sites, its colors respond to the available

tion, neatly defined in each leaf, and not all hold their

sun, with the darkest bottle greens in deep shade and

white variegation all year. Even in shade, bishop’s weed

yellow-green, almost chartreuse hues in sun. In high

fulfills this mission; in brighter beds it can be a guid-

shade, pachysandra’s shiny evergreen leaves gleam

ing white beacon along paths and in between shrubs.

like emerald green gems that would make a jeweler

Not every leaf is painted alike, and each of three leaflets

proud. The leaves are 2 inches long, slightly toothed,

can vary greatly within one leaf cluster. A bit rounded

and arranged in flat clusters called whorls to create

in the middle and a little toothy around the edges, the

a dynamic planting that refracts every ray of sun. Its

leaves have green feathery patterns drawn with white

stems are also green, with the delightful habit of rooting

rims. Sometimes white or green consumes most of the

where they touch the ground, ensuring thick stands for

leaf, but usually it’s a fascinating mixed bag of patterns.

years. In spring, flowers that are small white brushes

A foot tall and half again as wide, bishop’s weed quickly

add interest to passersby and are another reason to grow

grows into a thick mat of color in almost any soil that

pachysandra along walkways and under trees near the

drains well. The flowers are a minor feature and can be

house. Sometimes called Japanese spurge, it’s not to be

sheared off to prevent seedlings that may lack strong

confused with Allegheny spurge, a native Pachysandra

coloration. If any shoots are ever entirely green, they

(P. procumbens) with a coarser habit and ability to live in

should be removed, too, so the striking green and white

deeper shade and wetter conditions. Its green is deeper,

can dominate.

too, with blue-gray overtones.

Zones 4–9

Zones 4–9

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Whites, creams

Dwarf Fountain Grass

Lamb’s Ear

(Pennisetum alopecuroides)

(Stachys byzantina)

If you are in the camp that feels names like “Little Bunny”

The first glimpse of this perennial in a garden bed or

are too cute by half, call it “groundcover fountain grass”

planter can be cause for a double take as you look back

and grow it anyway. Few others even come close to this

to confirm the view. Fuzzy, oddly white leaves demand

little ornamental grass for color and cover at ground

closer observation, which reveals a thick white coating

level. No more than 18 inches tall and a bit wider, this

of baby-fine hairs soft as eiderdown all over them. The

grass forms a dense mat of fine-textured green leaves

“hairs” are white in full or part sun, glisten when morn-

that goes creamy ecru in late summer or fall, depending

ing dew sits on them, and shine like silver when the light

on the zone. Its puffy white flowers appear in late spring

is just right at dusk. Each elongated oval leaf is wide

atop thin, wiry stems. Each bloom is shaped like a

in the middle and gently pointed at the end; someone

capsule and comprised of dozens of tiny florets and nods

saw a resemblance to lamb’s ear and named it. Natural

with a little wink in the breeze. They are decidedly cute,

whimsy and tactile joy can be overlooked if a plant’s

some have a slight cockeyed bend to the inflorescence,

colors are not as magnetic as these whites are, but lamb’s

and they are fuzzy in a silly, attractive way. Slightly

ear goes further. As a featured player along the edge of

larger ‘Hameln’ has longer, narrower flowers, creamy

a perennial planting, its color reflects well, literally and

tan spires on an equally compact plant. In between the

figuratively. Lamb’s ear plants stay close to the ground

other two in height and plume shape is ‘Piglet’. Dwarf

and spread rapidly into a dense clump. Where neces-

fountain grasses are best grown in full sun in northern

sary, control their rampant nature by removing young

zones but with afternoon shade farther south. The need

sprouts promptly and removing flowers before they set

for well-drained soil and regular watering make these

seed. Two selections never bloom: ‘Silver Carpet’ and

grasses good companions for many flowering perennials.

big lamb’s ears, ‘Helen von Stein’. The latter is a larger

Zone 5–9

plant, still under a foot tall and twice as wide. Zones 4–9


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USDA Hardiness Zone Map

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Planting Chart Genus

common name


Garden soil tyPe


Acer Aesculus Amelanchier Arbutus Asimina

maple buckeye downy serviceberry strawberry tree pawpaw

US/Japan US woodlands US woods’ edge Europe west US east and central

richly organic well-drained, organic richly organic richly organic well-drained, organic

sun/sun to part shade part sun to part shade sun to part shade sun to part shade sun to shade

Betula Catalpa Cercis Chilopsis Clerodendrum

river birch catalpa redbud desert willow glorybower

US US south US east to Mexico US southwest China and Japan

well-drained, organic adaptable adaptable well-drained well-drained, organic

sun sun sun to part shade sun to part sun sun to part shade

Cornus Cotinus Ginkgo Hibiscus Juniperus

flowering dogwood smoketree ginkgo rose of Sharon redcedar

US east to Mexico US/Europe to China China China, India US east and central

well-drained, organic well-drained adaptable well-drained, organic adaptable

part sun to part shade sun to part sun sun sun sun

Kalopanax Koelreuteria Laburnum Lagerstroemia Ligustrum

castor-aralia golden raintree golden chaintree crape myrtle Japanese privet

Asia from Russia to Korea Korean, China, Japan Europe central China, Korea Japan, Korea

well-drained, organic richly organic well-drained, organic adaptable adaptable

sun to part shade sun sun sun sun to part shade

Liquidambar Liriodendron Magnolia Malus Metasequoia

sweetgum tulip poplar flowering magnolia flowering crabapple dawn redwood

US east to Mexico US east and south hybrids/Japan hybrids China

adaptable well-drained, organic well-drained, organic well-drained, organic adaptable

sun sun sun to part sun sun sun

Nyssa Ostrya Paulownia Pinus Pistacia

blackgum American hophornbeam empress tree pine Chinese pistasche

US, Canada US, Canada China Europe/Japan/US China, Taiwan, Philippines

well-drained, organic well-drained, organic adaptable well-drained adaptable

sun sun sun sun sun

Platanus Populus Prunus Quercus Salix

American sycamore quaking aspen ornamental cherry, plum oak weeping willow

US US, Canada Asia US Asia

richly organic adaptable well-drained, organic adaptable richly organic

sun sun to part sun sun to part sun sun to part sun sun

Sassafras Stewartia Taxodium Tilia Ulmus

sassafras stewartia bald cypress pendant silver linden elm

US east and south Korea, Japan US east and south SW Asia US, Canada

richly organic, acid richly organic adaptable well-drained, organic adaptable

part sun to part shade part sun to part shade sun sun sun

Viburnum Vitex Zelkova

blackhaw chastetree zelkova

US east and south Europe, Asia Japan

adaptable adaptable adaptable

part sun to part shade sun sun to part sun



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regularly regularly in summer regularly regularly regularly in summer

tree tree tree tree tree

regularly regularly in summer regularly grow on dry side regularly

tree formula early spring tree formula early spring flowering tree formula summer flowering tree formula summer flowering tree formula spring

to keep sprouts clipped off while young to shape only to remove dead wood cut back dead wood in spring while young to shape

regularly in summer grow on dry side grow on dry side regularly grow on dry side

flowering tree formula summer flowering tree formula summer tree formula spring, summer flowering tree formula spring, summer tree formula early spring

only to remove dead wood while young to shape while young to shape cut back dead wood in spring shear into shape in winter

regularly in summer regularly in summer regularly regularly grow on dry side

tree formula spring, summer flowering tree formula summer flowering tree formula spring, summer flowering tree formula spring, summer tree formula spring and summer

clip off spent flowers select 1 or 3 trunks shape after flowering keep sprouts clipped off shape after flowering

grow on dry side grow on dry side regularly in summer regularly in summer grow on dry side

tree formula summer tree formula summer flowering tree formula summer flowering tree formula summer tree formula spring

while young to shape while young to shape only to remove dead wood only to remove dead wood shear into shape in winter

regularly grow on dry side regularly grow on dry side regularly in summer

tree formula spring tree formula spring flowering tree formula summer tree formula spring tree formula spring

while young to shape only to remove dead wood while young to shape only to remove dead wood only to remove dead wood

regularly regularly in summer regularly regularly in summer regularly

tree formula spring tree formula spring flowering tree formula summer tree formula spring tree formula spring, summer

only to remove dead wood while young to shape cherry: tip prune in winter while young to shape trim to keep branches off ground

regularly regularly regularly regularly regularly

tree formula spring flowering tree formula spring tree formula spring tree formula spring tree formula spring

only to remove dead wood only to remove dead wood while young to shape while young to shape only to remove dead wood

flowering tree formula spring, summer flowering tree formula spring tree formula spring

to shape after flowering cut back dead wood in spring while young to shape

in in in in

summer summer summer summer

regularly regularly regularly in summer

formula formula formula formula formula

PruninG spring, summer early spring early spring in spring spring, summer

only to remove dead wood while young to shape only to remove dead wood only to remove dead wood only to remove dead wood

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common name


Garden soil tyPe


Abelia Berberis Callicarpa Calycanthus Camellia

glossy abelia barberry beautyberry sweetshrub sasanqua

China Japan US, Japan US south Asia

richly organic well-drained, organic richly organic well-drained, organic richly organic

sun to part sun to part part sun to part sun part sun to

Ceanothus Chaenomeles Clethra Corylus Cotoneaster

ceanothus flowering quince summersweet purple filbert cotoneaster

US, Mexico China US east and south Europe China

well-drained, organic well-drained, organic well-drained, organic adaptable well-drained

sun to part shade sun to part shade part sun to part shade sun sun

Daphne Deutzia Euonymus Exochorda Fatsia

daphne deutzia euonymus pearlbush fatsia

China Japan Japan China Japan

well-drained, organic richly organic well-drained adaptable richly organic

shade part sun to part shade sun to part shade sun to part shade part shade to shade

Forsythia Fothergilla Genista Hydrangea Ilex

forsythia fothergilla Dyer’s greenwood hydrangea holly

China US Europe, Asia US east China, Korea

well-drained, organic richly organic well-drained richly organic well-drained, organic

sun to part part sun to sun part sun to sun to part

Kalmia Kerria Loropetalum Mahonia Nandina

mountain laurel Canada, US kerria China loropetalum, fringe flower China grape holly Japan heavenly bamboo China

well-drained, acid richly organic well-drained, organic richly organic adaptable

part sun to part shade part shade sun to part sun part shade to shade sun to shade

Photinia Physocarpus Pieris Potentilla Rhododendron

Chinese photinia ninebark pieris cinquefoil native azalea

China Canada, US China, Myanmar China US east

adaptable adaptable richly organic well-drained richly organic

sun to part sun sun part sun to part shade sun part sun to part shade

Rhus Rosa Spiraea Syringa Viburnum Yucca

fragrant sumac rose spirea lilac viburnum Adam’s needle

US east Asia Asia China US, Japan US

well-drained, well-drained, well-drained, well-drained, well-drained, well-drained,

part sun to sun sun to part sun part sun to sun to part

astilbe lady fern clematis columbine tickseed

China and hybrids US east US, Japan, China US US

richly organic richly organic well-drained, organic richly organic well-drained, organic


organic organic organic organic organic organic

shade shade part shade part shade

shade part shade shade sun

part shade shade part shade shade

PEREnniALS Astilbe Athyrium Clematis Columbine Coreopsis


part shade to shade part shade to shade sun to part sun part shade to shade sun

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regularly in summer grow on dry side regularly in summer regularly in summer regularly in summer

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to to to to to

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flowering shrub formula spring, summer flowering shrub formula spring shrub formula in spring flowering shrub formula in spring shrub formula in spring

seldom if ever to shape after flowering to shape in spring to shape after flowering only to remove dead wood

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flowering shrub formula in spring, summer flowering shrub formula in spring flowering shrub formula in spring flowering shrub formula in spring, summer shrub formula in spring

to to to to to

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flowering shrub formula flowering shrub formula flowering shrub formula flowering shrub formula shrub formula in spring

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to to to to to

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shrub formula in spring shrub or rose formula spring, summer flowering shrub formula spring, summer flowering shrub formula in spring shrub formula in spring shrub formula in spring

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regularly regularly regularly in summer regularly in summer grow on dry side

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in spring in spring, summer spring, summer spring, summer

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common name


Garden soil tyPe


Dianthus Echinacea Echinops Eupatorium Gaillardia

cottage pinks coneflower great globe thistle Joe-pye weed blanket flower

Europe US Europe US US

well-drained, organic well-drained, organic adaptable adaptable well-drained

sun sun sun sun sun

Hemerocallis Hosta Iberis Iris Leucanthemum

daylily hosta candytuft iris daisy

Asia Asia Europe US, Asia Europe

well-drained, organic richly organic well-drained, organic well-drained well-drained

sun part sun to shade sun to part shade sun to part shade sun

Liatris Lobelia Miscanthus Oenothera Paeonia

gayfeather cardinal flower ornamental grasses sundrops peony

US US Asia Mexico US, Asia

richly organic richly organic well-drained well-drained richly organic

sun to part part sun to sun to part sun sun to part

Penstemon Persicaria Phlox Polystichum Rosmarinus

beardtongue knotweed phlox sword fern rosemary

US US, Asia US Asia Europe

well-drained, organic well-drained well-drained, organc richly organic well-drained

sun to part sun sun to part shade part sun to part shade part shade to shade sun to part shade

Rudbeckia Salvia Stokesia Trillium Veronica

black-eyed Susan sage Stokes’ aster wake robin speedwell

US US, Mexico, Europe US US US

well-drained, organic well-drained, organic well-drained richly organic well-drained, organic

sun sun to part shade sun to part shade part shade to shade sun to part shade

to to to to

part part part part

shade shade sun sun

shade shade shade sun

GRounDCovERS Aegopodium Ajuga Arctostaphylos Epimedium Heuchera

bishop’s weed carpet bugle bearberry fairy wings coral bells

Eurasia UK US west Asia, Europe south North America

adaptable adaptable adaptable well-drained adaptable

part sun to part sun to sun to part sun to part part sun to

Lamium Leptinella Liriope Lysimachia Pachysandra

yellow archangel leptinella lily turf moneywort pachysandra

Europe, Asia New Zealand Asia Eurasia Asia

adaptable adaptable adaptable adaptable adaptable

part sun to part shade part sun to part shade sun to shade sun to shade part sun to shade

Pennisetum Pulmonaria Rubus Sedum Stachys Woodsia

little bunny lungwort creeping raspberry sedum lamb’s ear hardy fern

Africa, Asia Europe US west North America, Europe Europe US

well-drained well-drained well-drained, organic well-drained well-drained richly organic

sun sun to part shade part sun to part shade sun to part sun part sun to part shade part shade to shade


part shade part shade shade shade part shade

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Water grow on dry regularly grow on dry grow on dry grow on dry

fertilizer side side side side

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perennial perennial perennial perennial perennial

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in in in in in

spring spring spring spring spring

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flowers flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers,

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when when when when

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perennial formula in spring and summer perennial formula in spring and summer perennial formula in spring and summer flowering perennial formula in spring perennial formula in spring and summer

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regularly in summer regularly in summer grow on dry side grow on dry side regularly

flowering perennial formula in spring perennial formula in spring and summer perennial formula in spring and summer perennial formula in spring and summer perennial formula in spring and summer

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after flowering to control spread to control spread after flowering after flowering spent fronds

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More colorful plants IN ADDITION TO THE PLANTS PROFILED in this book, there are many others that can deliver buckets of color. Here are more to consider as you bring top-down, year-round color to your garden.

AnnuAL FLoWERS Every locality has must-have annual flowers that every gardener enjoys each year; use this list to expand your color collection. Because the range of annuals is so great, and can change so rapidly, use this list as a starting point but check out all the options for your area. Bacopa • Sutera cordata

Marguerite Daisy • Argyranthemum frutescens

Cape Daisy • Osterspermum hybrids

Nemesia • Nemesia fruticans and hybrids

Cleome • Cleome hassleriana and hybrids

Strawflower • Bracteantha species

Creeping Zinnia • Sanvitalia species

Summer Snapdragon • Angelonia angustifolia hybrids

Fan Flower • Scaevola aemula and hybrids

Superbells • Calibrachoa hybrids

Lobelia • Lobelia erinus and hybrids

Twinspur • Diascia hybrids

ouTSTAnDinG BARkS Tree bark colors add winter interest, but also unify the landscape through the seasons. Birch-bark Cherry • Prunus serrula

Manchurian Stripebark Maple • Acer tegmentosum

Bois d’Arc • Maclura pomifera

‘Joe Witt’

Himalayan White Birch • Betula utilis jacquemontii

Seven-Sons Plant • Heptacodium miconioides

Honey Locust • Gleditsia triacanthos

Weeping Blue Cedar • Chamaecyparis nootkatensis

Lacebark Pine • Pinus bungeana

‘Glauca Pendula’

WiLD vARiEGATion When you’re looking for just the right eye-catcher to add contrast to the garden scene, check this list. Many of their common names begin with their designation, as in “variegated butterfly bush.”



Alleycat Redbud • Cercis canadensis ‘Alley Cat’

Beautyberry • Callicarpa japonica ‘Variegata’

Giant Dogwood • Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’

Bollywood Azalea • Rhododendron ‘Bollywood’

Hinoki Cypress • Chamaecyparis obtusa ’Aurea’

Butterfly Bush • Buddleia ‘Summer Skies’

Silver Sweetgum • Liquidamber ‘Silver King’

Daphne • Daphne ‘Silver Edge’

Snakebark • Acer conspicuum ‘Esk Flamingo’

Pieris • Pieris ‘Passion Frost’


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Capri Joe-Pye • Eupatorium ‘Capri’

Callaway Ginger • Asarum shuttleworthii ‘Callaway’

Columbine • Aquilegia ‘Leprechaun’

Edgehog • Dianthus ‘Edgehog’

Double Stuff • Polygonatum ‘Variegatum’

Emerald Mist • Brunnera ‘Emerald Mist’

Frosted Joe-Pye • Eupatorium ‘Frosted Elegance’

Fragrant Star • Erysimum ‘Fragrant Star’

Lungwort • Pulmonaria ‘Silver Bouquet’

Gold Fairy Bells • Prosartes hookeri

Purple Dragon • Lamium maculatum ‘Purple Dragon

(formerly Disporum genus) Great Masterwort • Astrantia ‘Vanilla Gorilla’

SHRuBS FoR ConTAinERS Your signature color can shine in big containers, and the addition of small shrubs enhances their impact. Not surprisingly, their common names all begin with the word “dwarf.” Bluebeard • Caryopteris incana ‘Sunshine Blue’ Blueblossom • Ceanothus thyrsiflorus repens Blue Sargent Juniper • Juniperus chinensis sargentii ‘Glauca’ Shrubby Veronica • Hebes odora Weigela • Weigela ‘My Monet’

Reading List FOR MORE INFORMATION about topics and plants addressed in this book, consult these references. Armitage, Allan M. Armitage’s Garden Annuals: A Color Encyclopedia. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2004. Courtright, Gordon. Trees and Shrubs for Temperate Climates. Portland: Timber Press, 1979. Dirr, Michael A. Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs. Portland: Timber Press, 1997.

Hériteau, Thomas, Charles, and Jacqueline. Water Gardens. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996. Martin, Laura C. Gardens of the Heartland. New York: Abbeville Press, 1996. Odenwald, Neil and James R. Turner. Identification, Selection, and Use of Southern Plants, 4th rev. ed.

———. Dirr’s Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland: Timber Press, 2002.

Baton Rouge: Claitor’s Law Books and Publishing, 2010. Ogden, Scott and Lauren S. Plant Driven Design.

———. Viburnums: Flowering Shrubs for Every Season. Portland: Timber Press, 2007.

Portland: Timber Press, 2008. Rice, Graham, editor-in-chief. AHS Encyclopedia of

Ellis, Barbara. Covering Ground: Unexpected Ideas for Landscaping. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2007.

Garden Perennials. New York: DK Publishing, 2006. von Trapp, Sara Jane. Landscaping from the Ground Up. Newtown, CT: Taunton Books, 1997.


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Photo Credits

Andre Viette: 157 (Clematis) Annie’s Annuals & Perennials: 171 (Brass Buttons) Arthur Chapman: 169 (Bunchberry) Bruce Marlin: 139 (Fragrant Sumac) Charles Mann: 153 (Beardtongue) Drew Avery: 164 (Great Globe Thistle) Gary Irish: 114 (Desert Willow) George Weigel: 43, 52, 57, 58, 61, 62, 74, 79 (top), 83, 84, 90, 91, 92, 93, 96, 107 (harlequin Glorybower), 111 (Pendant Silver Linden), 121 (American hophornbeam), 122 (Japanese Zelkova), 126 (right), 131 (Ninebark), 132 (red Osier Dogwood), 137 (Dyer’s Greenwood), 146 (Chinese Photinia), 147 (Pearlbush), 147 (Slender Deutzia), 166, 170 (Stonecrop) Jerry Pavia: 98, 101 (left), 104 (Kwanzan Cherry), 105 (Chaste Tree), 110 (Golden Chain Tree), 112 (Quaking Aspen), 112 (Sassafras), 123 (river Birch), 124, 125 (left), 125 (right), 126 (left), 128 (left), 128 (right), 130 (Japanese Barberry), 132 (Shrub rose), 135 (Purple Beautyberry), 140 (Witch hazel), 141 (Evergreen Euonymus), 149 (right), 149 (left), 150 (left), 150 (right), 154 (Columbine), 155 (Peony), 158 (Joe-Pye Weed), 160 (Blanket Flower), 161 (Lady Fern), 168 (left), 168 (right), 172 (Creeping raspberry), 174 (Yellow Archangel) © judywhite/ 5, 6, 36, 39, 50, 59, 64, 66, 71, 72, 80 (bottom), 87, 94, 148 © iStockPhoto: 9 (BasieB); 11 (StukChocolate); 13 (David A. Birkbeck); 14 (chinaface); 16 (Jeanne Mcright); 19 (ron and Patty Thomas Photography); 21 (Ogphoto); 76 (Kings Photo); 80, top (Verena Matthew); 81, left (JenniferPhotographyImaging); 81, right (rodho); 82 (roseABC); 88 (Adventure Photo); 89 (ruth Black) Lee Anne White: 56, 73 Liz Ball: 101 (right), 103 (Blackgum), 113 (Bald Cypress), 115 (Eastern red Cedar), 129 (Burkwood Daphne), 144 (Summersweet), 145 (Annabelle hydrangea), 154 (Cardinal Flower), 173 (Moneywort), 174 (Lily Turf) Pam Harper: 137 (Sweetshrub) Peter Etchells/ 127 (left) Ralph Snodsmith: 138 (Forsythia) Richard Shiell, courtesy Monrovia: 129 (Flowering Quince) Shutterstock: 25, bottom right (stavklem); 26 (maturos1812); 27 (Jamie hooper); 28, top (Igor Sokolov); 28, bottom (MarKord);


29 (I love photo); 30 (Arkadia); 31 (Denise Lett); 32 (Marty Pitcairn); 32, bottom left (Nop Inu); 32, top (robert Crum); 34 (leoks); 35, bottom left (Francesco De Marco); 35, top left (Guzel Studio); 35, right (Poly Liss); 45 (Greg Kieca); 49 (white78); 65 (smikeymikey1); 78 (razvan Bucur); 79, bottom (Nir Levy); 85, left (karamysh); 95 (Antonina Potapenko); 99, right (Kathy Clark); 100, left (Stephen Farhall); 102, left (hintau Aliaksei); 103, Korean Stewartia (Jorge Salcedo); 106, Eastern redbud (Betty Shelton) and Empress Tree (Flaviano Fabrizi); 108, rose of Sharon (ralf Neumann); 109, Sweetgum (Stephanie Frey); 110, Gingko (Inomoto); 113, Tulip Poplar (belkxu); 119, Flowering Crabapple (Kenneth Keifer); 119, Flowering Dogwood (Steven russell Smith Photos); 120, Sycamore (Borodaev); 121, Crape Myrtle (TrE Wheeler BA hons); 122, Downy Serviceberry (Joan Budai); 134, French hybrid Ceanothus (Michaelpuche); 146, Glossy Abelia (alybaba); 151, right (alybaba); 155, Garden Phlox (weter 777); 160, Daylily (freya-photographer); 163, Wake robin (Flora Ehrlich); 165, Knotweed (Martin Fowler); 169, Bearberry (LFrabanedo); 170, Cinquefoil (Alesikka) The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens: 33 Thomas Eltzroth: 85 (right), 86, 100 (right), 102 (right), 104 (Smoketree), 105 (Strawbery Tree), 108 (Purple-Leaf Plum), 109 (Chinese Pistache), 111 (Golden raintree), 114 (Dawn redwood), 115 (Japanese Privet), 116 (Lacebark Elm), 116 (Pines), 117 (Weeping Willow), 118 (Catalpa), 120 (Star Magnolia), 123 (Paperbark Maple), 133 (Blue Mist Shrub), 133 (Spreading Cotoneaster), 135 (Oregon Grapeholly), 139 (Japanese Kerria), 141 (Chinese Juniper), 142 (Fatsia), 142 (heavenly Bamboo), 143 (Japanese Pieris), 143 (Sasanqua), 144 (Adam’s Needle Yucca), 151 (left), 152 (left), 152 (right), 153 (Astilbe), 156 (Pinks), 157 (Gayfeather), 158 (Speedwell), 159 (Black-Eyed Susan), 162 (rosemary), 162 (Shield Fern), 163 (Candytuft), 164 (Eulalia Grass), 165 (Shasta Daisy), 167 (left), 167 (right), 171 (Carpet Bugle), 172 (Lungwort), 173 (Fairy Wings), 175 (Bishop’s Weed), 175 (Pachysandra), 176 (Lamb’s Ear), 176 (Dwarf Fountain Grass) Troy Marden: 117 (Blackhaw), 136 (redleaf Loropetalum), 156 (Purple Coneflower), 159 (Stokes’ Aster), 161 (Sundrops) Wikimedia/Creative Commons: 99, left (h. Zell); 107, Pawpaw (Krzysztof Ziarnek); 118, Castor-Aralia (Dalgial); 127, right (Nova); 130, Mountain Laurel (Bottville); 131, Piedmont Azalea (Daderot); 134, Meyer Lilac (Daderot); 136, Purple Giant Filbert (Marcus Cyron); 138, Fothergilla (Jean-Pol Grandmont); 140, Tangerine Cinquefoil (Opioła Jerzy); 145, Chinese Fringe Flower (KENPEI)

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Abelia x grandiflora (glossy abelia), 146 Acer spp. (maple), 101 Adam’s needle yucca (Yucca filamentosa), 144 Aegopodium podagraria ‘variegatum’ (bishop’s weed), 175 Aesculus spp.(buckeye), 99 Ajuga reptans (carpet bugle), 171 althea (rose of Sharon) (Hibiscus syriacus), 108 Amelanchier arborea (downy serviceberry), 122 American hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), 121 Annabelle hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’), 145 annual flowers, 88–91, 184 Aquilegia canadensis (columbine), 154 Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree), 105 architectural elements, 56–57, 81 Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (bearberry) 169 Asimina triloba (pawpaw), 107 aspen, quaking (Populus tremuloides), 112 aster, Stokes’ (Stokesia laevis), 159 astilbe (astilbe hybrids), 153 Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern), 161 Athyrium niponicum pictum (Japanese painted fern), 168 axis lines in design, 59 balance in design, 12, 57–59 bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), 113 bamboo, heavenly (Nandina domestica and cultivars), 142 barks, 121–123, 184 bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), 169 beardtongue (Penstemon hybrids), 153 Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea (Japanese barberry), 130 berries and drupes, about, 87 birch, river (Betula nigra), 123 bishop’s weed (Aegopodium podagraria ‘variegatum,’ 175 black colors, aspects of, 62 black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp., hybrids, and cultivars), 159 blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), 103 blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium), 117 blanket flower (Gallardia spp. and hybrids), 160 blue and purple colors creating vignettes with, 66 emotional aspects of, 62 in flowering perennials, 157–158 in groundcovers, 171–172 in shrubs, 133–136 in trees, 105–108 blue mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis), 133 brass buttons (Leptinella ‘Platt’s black’), 171 brown colors. See gray, brown, and bark colors buckeye (Aesculus spp.), 99

bulbs, late winter, 87 bulbs, spring. See Iris spp. (iris); Trillium (wake robin) bunchberry (creeping dogwood) (Cornus canadensis), 169 burkwood daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii), 129 bush honeysuckle (Piedmont azalea, Pinxter azalea) (Rhododendron canescens), 131 Callicarpa dichotoma (purple beautyberry), 135 Calycanthus floridus (sweetshrub), 137 Camellia sasanqua (sasanqua), 143 candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), 163 cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), 154 carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans), 171 Caryopteris x clandonensis (blue mist shrub), 133 castor-aralia (Kalopanax pictus), 118 catalpa (Catalpa spp.), 118 Ceanothus x delilanus (French hybrid ceanothus), 134 cedar, eastern red (Juniperous virginiana), 115 Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud), 106 Chaenomeles ‘Texas scarlet’ (flowering quince), 129 chaste tree (hemp tree) (Vitex negundo), 105 cherry, kwanzan (Prunus serrulata), 104 Chilopsis linearis (desert willow), 114 Chinese elm (lacebark elm) (Ulmus parvifolia), 116 Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense), 145 Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis), 141 Chinese photinia (Photinia serrulata), 146 Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), 109 cinquefoil (Potentilla), 170 clematis (Clematis hybrids), 157 Clerodendrum trichotomum (harlequin glorybower), 107 Clethra alnifolia (summersweet), 144 color. See designing with color; problem-solving with color; specific colors color in place concept, 67 color palettes, personal, 15, 73–75, 90 color wheel, 60–61, 63 columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), 154 container shrubs, 185 contrast in design, 10 coral bells (Heuchera), 167 Coreopsis (tickseed), 152 Cornus canadensis (bunchberry, creeping dogwood), 169 Cornus florida (flowering dogwood), 119 Cornus sericea (red osier dogwood), 132 Corylus maxima var. purpurea (purple giant filbert), 136 Cotinus spp. (smoketree), 104 Cotoneaster divaricatus (spreading cotoneaster), 133 crabapple, flowering (Malus spp.), 119 crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia hybrids), 121


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cream colors. See white and cream colors creeping dogwood (bunchberry) (Cornus canadensis), 169 creeping raspberry (Rubus pentalobus), 172 cypress trees. See bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) daisy, shasta (Leucanthemum x superbum), 165 Daphne x burkwoodii (burkwood daphne), 129 dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), 114 daylily (Hemerocallis), 160 desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), 114 designing with color, 37–76 chapter preview for, 9–15 color concepts, 60–62 color relationships, 15, 63–67 creating impact, 12–15, 70–72 principles of (see design principle(s)) top-down color, 73–75 in transitional gardens, 40–41, 46–47, 54–55, 68–69 design inspiration gallery, 8–9, 22–35 design principle(s) balance and focal point, 57–59 form as, 42–44 line as, 38–39, 42 preview of, 10–12 scale and proportion, 51–53 texture as, 10, 44–45, 48, 51 unity as, 53, 56–57 Deutzia gracilis and cultivars (slender deutzia), 147 Dianthus spp. and hybrids (pinks), 156 dogwood, flowering (Cornus florida), 119 dogwood, red osier (Cornus sericea), 132 downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), 122 Dryopteris (woods ferns), 168 dwarf fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides), 176 dyer’s greenwood (Genista tinctoria), 137 earth tones. See yellow, orange, and gold colors eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), 106 eastern red cedar (Juniperous virginiana), 115 Echinacea spp. (purple coneflower), 156 Echinops sphaerocephalus (great globe thistle), 164 elm, lacebark (Chinese elm) (Ulmus parvifolia), 116 emotional aspects of color, 61–62, 70–72 See also mood as design element empress tree (Paulownia tomentosa), 106 entryways, designing, 92–93 Epimedium (fairy wings), 173 eulalia grass (Miscanthus), 164 Euonymus japonicus (evergreen euonymus), 141 Eupatorium purpurea (joe-pye weed), 158 evergreen euonymus (Euonymus japonicus), 141 Exochorda racemosa (pearlbush), 147 fairy wings (Epimedium), 173 fall garden designs, 30–32, 41, 55, 69 fatsia (Fatsia japonica), 142 fern, lady (Athyrium filix-femina), 161 fern, shield (Polystichum spp.), 162


ferns, hardy, 168 flowering crabapple (Malus spp.), 119 flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), 119 flowering perennials. See perennials flowering quince (Chaenomeles ‘Texas scarlet’), 129 focal point in design, 11–12, 59 form in design, 10, 42–44 forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia), 138 fothergilla (Fothergilla major ‘Mount Airy’), 138 Fothergilla major ‘Mount Airy’ (fothergilla), 138 fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica), 139 French hybrid ceanothus (Ceanothus x delilanus), 134 Gallardia spp. and hybrids (blanket flower), 160 garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), 155 gardens, designing. See designing with color gardens, solutions for. See problem-solving with color gardens, transitional, 40–41, 46–47, 54–55, 68–69 See also seasonal gardens gayfeather (Liatris spicata), 157 Genista tinctoria (dyer’s greenwood), 137 ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), 110 glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora), 146 gold colors. See yellow, orange, and gold colors golden chain tree (Laburnum x watereri), 110 golden raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata), 111 grasses, ornamental. See eulalia grass (Miscanthus); dwarf fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) gray, brown, and bark colors, 121–123, 184 great globe thistle (Echinops sphaerocephalus), 164 green colors emotional aspects of, 62 in flowering perennials, 161–162 in groundcovers, 174 for shady spaces, 78 in shrubs, 141–143 in trees, 113–116 groundcovers, 166–176 additional selections, 167–168 blues and purples, 171–172 greens, 174 planting chart for, 182–183 reds and pinks, 169–170 whites and creams, 175–176 wild variegated, 185 yellows, oranges, and golds, 173 Hamamelis vernalis (witch hazel), 140 hardiness zones (uSDA), 177 hardscape in design, 40–41, 68–69 problem-solving with, 80–81, 85 hardy ferns, 168 harlequin glorybower (Clerodendrum trichotomum), 107 harmony in design, 12, 63 heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica and cultivars), 142 Hemerocallis (daylily), 160 hemp tree (chaste tree) (Vitex negundo), 105 Heuchera (coral bells), 167

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Hibiscus syriacus (rose of Sharon, althea), 108 holly (Ilex spp. and cultivars), 125 hosta (plantain lilies) Hosta), 149 Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ (Annabelle hydrangea), 145 Hypericum spp. and cultivars (St. John’s wort), 127 ‘Deppe’ (sunny boulevard), 127 patulum (sungold), 127 pyramidatum (great St. John’s wort), 127

maple (Acer spp.), 101 Metasequoia glyptostroboides (dawn redwood), 114 Meyer lilac (Syringa meyeri), 134 Miscanthus (eulalia grass), 164 moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’), 173 mood as design element, 56–57, 90–91 mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), 130 myrtle, crape (Lagerstroemia hybrids), 121

Iberis sempervirens (candytuft), 163 Ilex spp. and cultivars (holly), 125 indigo colors. See blue and purple colors intensity of colors, 70–72 Iris spp. (iris), 150

Nandina domestica and cultivars (heavenly bamboo), 142 native species in design, 82–85 natural colors (barks). See gray, brown, and bark colors ninebark (Physocarpus spp., cultivars, and hybrids), 131 nonnative species in design, 84–85 Nyssa sylvatica (blackgum), 103

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea), 130 Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica), 139 Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica), 143 Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum), 115 Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata), 122 joe-pye weed (Eupatorium purpurea), 158 Juniperous virginiana (eastern red cedar), 115 Juniperus chinensis (Chinese juniper), 141 Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel), 130 Kalopanax pictus (castor-aralia), 118 Kerria japonica (Japanese kerria), 139 knotweed (Persicaria polymorpha), 165 Koelreuteria paniculata (golden raintree), 111 Korean stewartia (Stewartia koreana), 103 kwanzan cherry (Prunus serrulata), 104 Laburnum x watereri (golden chain tree), 110 lacebark elm (Chinese elm) (Ulmus parvifolia), 116 lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), 161 Lagerstroemia hybrids (crape myrtle), 121 lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), 176 landscape design, elements of, 38–59 Leptinella ‘platt’s black’ (brass buttons), 171 Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta daisy), 165 Liatris spicata (gayfeather), 157 Ligustrum japonicum (Japanese privet), 115 lilac, Meyer (Syringa meyer), 134 lily turf (Liriope spicata), 174 linden, pendant silver (Tilia petiolaris), 111 line as design element, 38–39, 42, 59 Liquidamber styraciflua (sweetgum), 109 Liriodendron tulipfera (tulip poplar), 113 Liriope spicata (lily turf), 174 Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), 154 Loropetalum chinense (Chinese fringe flower), 145 Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum (redleaf loropetalum), 136 lungwort (Pulmonaria), 172 Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ (moneywort), 173 magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana), 100 Magnolia stellata (star magnolia), 120 Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grapeholly), 135 Malus spp. (flowering crabapple), 119

oak (Quercus spp.), 102 Oenothera fruiticosa (sundrops), 161 orange colors. See yellow, orange, and gold colors Oregon grapeholly (Mahonia aquifolium), 135 ornamental grasses. See eulalia grass (Miscanthus); dwarf fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) Ostrya virginiana (American hophornbeam), 121 pachysandra (spurge) (Pachysandra terminalis), 175 Paeonia hybrids (peony), 155 paulownia tomentosa (empress tree), 106 pawpaw (Asimina triloba), 107 pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa), 147 pendant silver linden (Tilia petiolaris), 111 Pennisetum alopecuroides (dwarf fountain grass), 176 Penstemon hybrids (beardtongue), 153 peony (Paeonia hybrids), 155 perennials, 148–165 additional selections, 149–152 blues and purples, 157–158 greens, 161–162 planting chart for, 180–182 reds and pinks, 153–156 whites and creams, 163–165 wild variegated, 185 yellows, oranges, and golds, 159–160 Persicaria polymorpha (knotweed), 165 Phlox paniculata (garden phlox), 155 Photinia serrulata (Chinese photinia), 146 Physocarpus spp., cultivars, and hybrids (ninebark), 131 Piedmont azalea (Pinxter azalea, bush honeysuckle) (Rhododendron canescens), 131 Pieris japonica (Japanese pieris), 143 pines (pinus), 116 pink colors. See red and pink colors pinks (Dianthus spp. and hybrids), 156 Pinus (pines), 116 Pinxter azalea (Piedmont azalea, bush honeysuckle) (Rhododendron canescens), 131 Pistacia chinensis (Chinese pistache), 109 plantain lilies (hosta) (Hosta), 149 Platanus spp. (sycamore), 120 Polystichum spp. (shield fern), 162


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Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen), 112 Potentilla (cinquefoil), 170 Potentilla fruitcosa (tangerine cinquefoil), 140 problem-solving with color, 77–95 annuals, 88–91 chapter preview for, 16–17 shady spaces, strategies for, 78–81 small-space considerations, 92–95 winter designs, 86–87 xeriscape solutions, 82–85 proportion and scale in design, 10–11, 51–53 Prunus cerasifera (purple-leaf plum), 108 Prunus serrulata (kwanzan cherry), 104 Pulmonaria (lungwort), 172 purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma), 135 purple colors. See blue and purple colors purple coneflower (Echinacea spp.), 156 purple giant filbert (Corylus maxima var. purpurea), 136 purple-leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera), 108 quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), 112 Quercus spp. (oak), 102 red and pink colors creating vignettes with, 65–66 emotional aspects of, 61 in flowering perennials, 153–156 in groundcovers, 169–170 in shrubs, 129–132 in trees, 103–104 redleaf loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum), 136 red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), 132 redwood, dawn (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), 114 repitition in design, 56–57 Rhododendron canescens (Piedmont azalea, pinxter azalea, bush honeysuckle), 131 Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac), 139 river birch (Betula nigra), 123 Rosa (shrub rose), 132 rosemary (Rosemary officinalis), 162 rose of Sharon (althea) (Hibiscus syriacus), 108 Rubus pentalobus (creeping raspberry), 172 Rudbeckia spp., hybrids, and cultivars (black-eyed Susan), 159 sage. See salvia (Salvia spp.) Salix babylonica (weeping willow), 117 salvia (Salvia spp.), 151 sasanqua (Camellia sasanqua), 143 sassafras (Sassafras albidum), 112 scale and proportion in design, 10–11, 51–53 seasonal gardens, 40–41, 46–47, 54–55, 68–69 focal points in, 59 lines in, 42 Sedum (stonecrop), 170 shady spaces, gardening in, 78–81, 87 Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum), 165 shield fern (Polystichum spp.), 162 shrub rose (Rosa), 132


shrubs, 124–147 additional selections, 125–128 blues and purples, 133–136 for containers, 185 greens, 141–143 planting chart for, 180–182 reds and pinks, 129–132 whites and creams, 144–147 wild variegated, 185 yellows, oranges, and golds, 137–140 slender deutzia (Deutzia gracilis and cultivars), 147 small spaces, gardening in, 92–95 smoketree (Cotinus spp.), 104 speedwell (Veronica spicata), 158 spirea (Spiraea spp. and cultivars), 126 spreading cotoneaster (Cotoneaster divaricatus), 133 spring garden designs, 23–25, 41, 46, 55, 69 spurge (pachysandra) (Pachysandra terminalis), 175 Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ear), 176 star magnolia (Magnolia stellata), 120 St. John’s wort (Hypericum spp. and cultivars), 127 Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis), 159 Stokesia laevis (Stokes’ aster), 159 stonecrop (Sedum), 170 strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), 105 sumac, fragrant (Rhus aromatica), 139 summer garden designs, 26–29, 40, 47, 54, 68 summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), 144 sundrops (Oenothera fruiticosa), 161 sweetgum (Liquidamber styraciflua), 109 sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus), 137 sycamore (Platanus spp.), 120 Syringa meyeri (Meyer lilac), 134 tangerine cinquefoil (Potentilla fruitcosa), 140 Taxodium distichum (bald cypress), 113 texture in design annuals for, 90–91 as design principle, 10, 44–45, 48, 51 for shady spaces, 79–80 thistle, great globe (Echinops sphaerocephalus), 164 tickseed (Coreopsis), 152 Tilia petiolaris (pendant silver linden), 111 top-down color, 73–75 transitional gardens, 40–41, 46–47, 54–55, 68–69 trees, 98–123 additional selections, 99–102 blues and purples, 105–108 grays, browns, and barks, 121–123, 184 greens, 113–116 planting chart for, 178–179 reds and pinks, 103–104 whites and creams, 117–120 wild variegated, 185 yellows, oranges, and golds, 109–112 Trillium (wake robin), 163 tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipfera), 113

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Ulmus parvifolia (lacebark elm, Chinese elm), 116 unity in design, 38, 42, 53, 56–57 uSDA hardiness zones, 177 value of colors, 70 variegated plants and trees, 185 Veronica spicata (speedwell), 158 viburnum (Viburnum spp. and cultivars), 128 vignettes in gardens, designing, 63–67 vines. See clematis (Clematis hybrids) violet colors. See blue and purple colors Vitex negundo (chaste tree, hemp tree), 105

in shrubs, 144–147 in trees, 117–120 willow, weeping (Salix babylonica), 117 winter garden designs, 33–35, 47, 86–87 witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), 140 xeriscape gardening, 82–85 yellow, orange, and gold colors creating vignettes with, 67 emotional aspects of, 61–62 in flowering perennials, 159–160 in groundcovers, 173 in shrubs, 137–140 in trees, 109–112 yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon), 174 Yucca filamentosa (Adam’s needle yucca), 144

wake robin (trillium), 163 water features, 80–81, 95 weeping willow (Salix babylonica), 117 white and cream colors emotional aspects of, 62 in flowering perennials, 163–165 in groundcovers, 175–176

Zelkova serrata (Japanese zelkova), 122


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Meet Nellie Neal

NELLIE NEAL IS A GARDEN WRITER AND RADIO HOST whose work has appeared in a variety of media platforms for more than two decades. She chose her first plant at age 8, a begonia with a red flower the same color as nail polish she wasn’t allowed to wear. She went on to earn a BS degree from LSU where she studied her mutual passions, English and horticulture. Nellie’s personal style is reflected in her garden, and both have been called geeky and eccentric, but always colorful! After years in California and southern Louisiana, Nellie found a home in central Mississippi and began her radio programs and website, Today, gardeners ask “GardenMama” questions and she answers on radio, online, and in print. She is a serious advocate and practitioner of lifelong, year-round gardening who says the kindest compliment is to hear that her advice worked. When she takes a break from gardening with her husband, Dave Ingram, she visits friends, family, and gardens, haunts thrift stores, and works crossword puzzles. Nellie is the author of Deep South Month-by-Month Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2014); Gardener’s Guide to Tropical Plants (Cool Springs Press, 2012); Questions

also served as contributing editor for Ortho’s All About

and Answers for Deep South Gardeners, 1st and 2nd eds.

Houseplants and Ortho’s All About Greenhouses and as a

(B. B. Mackey Books, 2002 and 2010); Organic Gardening

contributing writer for Annuals for Dummies and Rodale’s

Down South (B. B. Mackey Books, 2008); Getting Started

Low Maintenance Gardening.

in Southern Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2005);

She is a member of the Garden Writers Association,

GardenMama, Tell Me Why (G2C Books, 2004); and The

the Mississippi Nursery and Landscape Association, and

Garden Primer (Loose Dirt Publishing, 1999). She has

the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network.


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