It’s hot outside. Gardeners can escape summer’s heat by retreating to the air-conditioning or a shady porch, but garden plants... Read more »
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The first time you try our PowerGear® Pruner, you’ll be amazed — but it’s not magic, it’s gears. Our patented gear technology m... Read more »
Specifically designed to reduce the effort required to cut tough tree and shrub branches, this durable pruner includes an easy-... Read more »
This pro-style pruner features adjustable blade tension to fit your hand strength and the toughness of the material you’re cutt... Read more »
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Perfect for a wide range of sewing and quilting tasks, our Amplify® RazorEdge™ Fabric Shears sense blade separation and force t... Read more »
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Taking a photo of your children on their first day back at school after a long summer is a tradition in many families. Read more »
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“Painting” with tissue paper is not only fun but beautiful! Read more »
Our Preschool Training Scissors features a special training lever that opens the blades after each cut, helping children learn... Read more »
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Infused with avant-garde Scandinavian style, our Quantum™ Pruner integrates only the highest-grade materials with Scandinavian... Read more »
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Consider Tropicanna® cannas as your guide to this spicy mix. The original orange and pink leaf dances to a Latin beat, but now there are black and gold introductions to tempt you too.
Next to cannas, place Solenostemon scutellarioides (syn. Plectranthus for some types), coleus. Coleus are grown as annuals throughout most of the U.S. because they originally hail from Africa, southeast Asia, India and Australia. Square stems tell you they are part of the mint family, and as diverse and spicy as Indian curry. In the beginning, coleus were only grown in the shade. Now, sun coleus are part of every greenhouse arsenal. Some like Big Red Judy® grow to enormous heights while others are quite small.
Another group of tropical foliage plants back in vogue is the genus Alternanthera, Joseph’s coat. Only a few years ago, you rarely saw them, but different selections are now for sale everywhere. Some alternantheras have delicate structure while others are big and bold. While most are grown from cuttings, ‘Purple Knight’ grows true from seed. Alternantheras can be planted in a sunny border, but you will likely see some leaf burn in a sizzling summer.
Acalypha, copperleaf plant, is another diverse genus. Even though it isn’t as common as coleus, it is grown as a shrub in Florida and further south. Where copperleaf is a tender tropical, it still makes a bold statement in the summer border, or as the centerpiece in a container. A. wilkesiana ‘Kona Gold’ is shown below.
Don’t neglect old standards like Strobilanthes dyerianus, Persian shield, Iresine herbstii, chicken gizzard plant, and Setcreasea pallida, purple heart, all which grow better and better the hotter summer gets. Purple heart also has a variegated form with hot pink stripes, a twist on an old favorite.
Cordylines were once considered only houseplants north of Florida. Now, however, they adorn containers and borders throughout the South. Rhoeo spathacea, oyster plant, is another great tropical foliage plant for the front of the border.
Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon,’ above, is an easy plant with beautiful variegated foliage. This cultivar is considered sterile and does not spread by stoloniferous roots like others in its genus.
Fantastic foliage isn’t limited to tropical plants. Japanese maples and perennials can be combined like this red selection and the variegated wand flower below.
As for shrubs, there are so many diverse ones on the market now. Variegated Abelia x grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’ mixes beautifully with solid green plants. For dark beauties, try Black Lace® Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’ (elderberry), or purple Cotinus (smokebush). Smokebush can be grow as a small tree or medium shrub.
Foliage can take your garden from a dull and difficult summer to one that shimmies with the heat. Try something different this year, and you too will become a foliage fan. Believe me . . . once you stroll over to the spicy side, you’ll never go back.