The popular wax begonia is available in a galaxy of varieties representing a wide spectrum of flower and leaf colors. To be precise there is actually a universe of begonias of over 1300 species and hundreds more hybrids. Botanists categorize these into several groups based on growth and root characteristics. The wax begonias are representative of the Semperflorens Group. These tender herbaceous perennials have succulent stems and, depending on the variety, form attractive mounds from 6-18 in (15-46 cm) in height. Leaves tend to be glossy ovals and come in a range of colors: shades of green, mahogany, bronze, red, as well as variegated patterns. Flowers may be single or double with colors ranging from red to pink to rose to white. The bronze-leaved Cocktail series is a dwarf hybrid that is great for edging (I especially like the red flowered 'Vodka').
Purpletop verbena is an erect, clump-forming perennial with stiff, widely branched stems. It can reach 3-6 ft (0.9-1.8 m) in height with an open, airy spread of 1-3 ft (0.3-0.9 m). The scabrous (sandpapery) stems and branches grow in an upright pattern and are square in cross section. Most of the leaves are clustered in a mounded rosette at the base of the plant. The relatively scarce stem leaves are opposite, 3-5 in (7-13 cm) long and clasping (i.e. the leaves have no petioles and their bases wrap around the stem). The flowers are purple, a quarter-inch across, and borne in rounded clusters about 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) across. Botanists call this type of inflorescence a cyme: a flower cluster in which the center flower opens first, and later-opening flowers are on the ends of lateral branches that arise from below the first flower. Purpletop verbena displays its showy flowers all summer long, until the first frost of autumn.
The verbena hybrids are technically perennials, but most are grown as annuals. They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some are erect and bushy; others trailing and mat forming; some dense and compact; others open and spreading. The individual flowers are small, but borne in dense, many-flowered clusters to 3 in (7.5 cm) or more across. The flower clusters can be flattened, rounded or spikelike. Corolla colors include white, pink, crimson, scarlet, vermilion, purple, blue, and yellow, and each flower usually has a white central eye. Some are fragrant. The blooming period lasts throughout the summer and autumn. Trailing varieties may extend 1-2 ft (30-60 cm), and the largest erect forms may top out at 18 in (45 cm). There are hundreds of cultivars and several Series of cultivars, varying in flower color and plant habit. Some of our favorites are 'Amethyst' which has tiny blue flowers with white eyes; 'Carousel' with striped purple and white petals; 'Cardinal' with bright red flowers; and 'Peaches and Cream' with pink flowers that age to creamy white. The Romance Series are low growing and bushy with white-eyed flowers in a variety of petal colors. The Novalis Series are erect plants with rounded, almost spherical flower clusters.
Oshima sedge is represented in cultivation mainly by two cultivars: 'Gold Strike' and 'Evergold' which also is known as 'Aureo-variegata', 'Everbrite' 'Old Gold', and 'Variegata'. These are sometimes listed as cultivars of Carex morrowii or C. hachiijoensis). Oshima sedge is an evergreen or semi-evergreen clump-forming perennial with grasslike leaves. It grows in a dense tussock, 10-20 in (25.4-50.8 cm) high, that spreads out slowly by short underground rhizomes.
Rhizomes are thickened, horizontal, underground, modified stems with scalelike leaves; rhizomes develop roots and shoots at their nodes. Stolons are thin elongate horizontal branches, on or below the ground, that root and produce new plants at their nodes and tips. Runners are like stolons, but produce roots and new plants only at their tips.
Oshima sedge has narrow leaves, 1/4 in (0.6 cm) wide, and about 10-15 in (25.4-38.1 cm) long, that arch upward, then out, in a picturesque weeping habit. The leaves of 'Evergold' are dark green with a broad creamy yellow stripe down the middle. Those of 'Gold Stripe' have a brighter, more golden central stripe. (Really, the leaves could be described as yellow or gold with green margins.) In spring Oshima sedge bears ornamentally insignificant brown flower spikes on 6 in (15.2 cm) triangular stems.
Coral plant is a multi-branched subshrub with slender, rushlike stems that are angled with ridges and leaves that are reduced to little more than small scales. The wiry branches start out erect then fall over to cascade down in lengths as long as 4 ft (1.2 m). From spring until fall outdoors and all year long indoors, coral plant produces hanging clusters of scarlet tubular flowers about 1 in (2.5 cm) long that look like little firecrackers inspiring the plant's other common name, firecracker plant.
There are about 10 species of Agapanthus, all native to southern Africa. Agapanthus praecox, A. africanus and various hybrids are most often grown in American gardens. African lily grows as an ever expanding clump of evergreen strap shaped leaves around 12 in (30 cm) or a little more in length. There are up to 18 leaves, arranged in two ranks. The dark blue flowers are trumpet shaped, 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) wide, and borne in rounded umbels containing as many as 30 blossoms. These flower clusters are 6-12 in (15-30 cm) across, and held above the leaves on scapes 2-3 ft (60-75 cm) tall. Flowers appear in late summer and are long lasting. The African lily cultivar 'Peter Pan' is a dwarf, with its scape reaching little more than 18 in (45 cm) in height, but what it lacks in stature is compensated for by its profusion of long lasting deep blue flowers. 'Albus' is a white flowered cultivar. The Headbourne Hybrids (aka Palmer Hybrids) include several cultivars that are hardier than the species and available in various shades of blue and violet as well as white.
The common snapdragon is one of our most familiar flowers, brightening cottage gardens and fascinating children on both sides of the Atlantic for centuries. Snapdragons have upright stems dressed with two-lipped tubular flowers that come in an almost endless palette of colors, from white to yellow to orange to red, to purple and almost black. True blue is the only color not available. When squeezed side to side, the snapdragon flower opens wide, delighting children of all ages. There are hundreds of snapdragon cultivars, usually listed under one of five groups: Tall (2-3 ft/0.6-0.9 m in height), Intermediate (1-2 ft/0.3-0.6 m), Short (9-12 in/22.9-30.5 cm), Dwarf (4-9 in/10.2-22.9 cm) and Trailing. Some fairly recent introductions, the "butterfly" cultivars, have open faced flowers, with either single or double petals. Tall cultivars include the mixed color collections: 'Rocket', 'Bright Butterflies', 'Supreme Double', with fine ruffled flowers, and the open-faced 'Madame Butterfly'. 'Monarch', 'Pixie' and 'Vanity Fair' are Intermediate mixtures. Single type Intermediates include 'White Wonder', 'Black Prince', with dark purple leaves, and 'Rembrandt', which has gorgeous red and yellow bicolored flowers. 'Coronette', a mixture in the Intermediate group, is said to be especially tolerant of poor growing conditions. Popular Short snapdragons include the mixtures 'Tom Thumb' and 'Floral Carpet', and the bicolored 'Peaches and Cream'. 'Magic Carpet' and 'Little Gem' are popular Dwarf mixtures.
There are some 80 species and hundreds of hybrids and cultivars in the genus Crocus, all of which are small, clump forming perennials that grow from corms (bulblike underground swollen stems). A crocus flower is shaped like a wine glass, with six tepals forming a goblet atop a long perianth tube that originates beneath the soil surface. Crocus flowers come in a wide range of intense colors, many with stripes or different colors inside and outside the tepals. Some crocus flowers are quite fragrant. A corm may produce one to five flowers, depending on the variety. Crocuses are small: The tepals may be 1 - 2 in (2.5 5 cm) long and the tube up to 6 in (15 cm) long. The leaves are grasslike. Crocuses are classified as either spring blooming, with flowers produced before the leaves in early spring; or fall blooming, with flowers produced in fall, usually on plants in full leaf. However, among the hundreds of crocuses in cultivation, there is really a continuum of flowering such that some cultivar or another may be blooming anytime from late summer through late spring. The table lists popular cultivated crocuses and their adaptability, flower color and height. Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) is not a crocus at all, but a member of the lily family.
The Mexican petunia is a tender evergreen perennial that forms colonies of stemmy stalks standing 3 ft (0.9 m) in height and of indeterminate width. The strong semi-woody stalks are distinctly vertical in aspect and hold attractive dark green, leaves oppositely at the nodes. The lance-shaped leaves are to 6-12 in (15.2-30.5 cm) in length and 1/2-3/4 in (1.3-1.9 cm) wide. When grown under hot sunny conditions the foliage assumes a metallic bluish cast that creates the perfect backdrop for the the scores of vibrant blue flowers that appear with the onslaught of hot summer weather. The blossoms are trumpet shaped and about 1.5-2 in (3.8-5.1 cm) in diameter and are borne at the tips of the stems. Varieties with white, pink, and many shades of blue are available, as are dwarf versions that form clumps that are about 8-12 in (20.3-25.4 cm) in height. Mexican petunia is very showy when in full bloom due to the clouds of admiring butterflies that swarm about the plants.
Moss rose is a prostrate, trailing, multi-branched annual with semisucculent stems and leaves. It reaches about 6 in (15 cm) tall with a spread of 12 in (30.5 cm). The reddish stems and the bright green leaves are thick and soft and juicy. The leaves are cylindrical, about an inch long, and pointed on the tips. The roselike flowers are about an inch across and come in bright colors like rose pink, red, yellow, white, and orange. Some are striped or spotted with contrasting colors. The flowers are borne on the stem tips, and they open only during bright sunlight, closing at night and on cloudy days.
There are several strains, cultivars and mixes available. Many have double flowers and some are up to 3 in (7.6 cm) across. 'Sundance' has double flowers to 2 in (5 cm) across. The Sundial series cultivars bloom in cooler and cloudier weather with double flowers in a wide variety of colors. 'Afternoon Delight' stays open longer in the afternoon.
Liriope, also commonly called border grass is not actually a grass but a member of the lily family, a fact that inspires another of its common names, lilyturf. The dark green, ribbonlike foliage grows in length from 10 to 18 in (25-46 cm) and then recurves toward the ground to form rounded clumps. As the clumps mature they merge into a continuous carpet that resembles a plot of shaggy lawn grass. In summer, spikes of small purple, violet or white flowers rise from the center of clumps. Flowers are followed by pea-sized black or white berries in autumn. Liriope spreads quite fast in reasonable soil, creating a substantial tuberous root mass. The plant itself is similar in appearance and landscape use to mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) which has finer textured foliage and bears its flowers within the clumps rather than above it like liriope.
Liriope is available in several varieties including some with white and yellow variegation. 'Monroe White' has white flowers while 'Big Blue' has intense violet-blue blossoms.
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