Canary-yellow flowers appear with leaves when this magnolia bursts into bloom. Blossoms are roughly 3 inches and stage an eye-catching show when a tree is in full flower. Introduced by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in 1981, ‘Yellow Bird’ makes an ideal specimen or shade tree in a yard. The shape is strongly pyramidal, and the branch form is attractive in winter. Site this magnolia in full sun to part shade, providing mulch over the root zone to help soil retain moisture. This is a large tree, growing 20 to 30 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
Wicker is my go-to item for an outdoor party. If you can’t afford to buy a new set of wicker lounge furniture, a wicker plate charger is all you need. By planning ahead and buying in the winter months, you can always find a deal at a local showroom or thrift store. With this classic base, be sure to add character with a favorite plate that matches the personality of your guests. No matter if you choose a modern square plate or gold-rimmed china, your wicker charger will add the right element of relaxed style to your party.
Rewarding and easy to grow, Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyeri) is prized by chefs for its intense flavor. It adapts well to growing in pots. In cold regions, shift containers indoors for winter. Keep plants in a too-small rather than a too-large pot for best growth. Most importantly, allow soil to dry out between waterings to avoid root problems. Meyer lemons offer a sweeter juice, less acid and a thinner peel than other lemons. Use it for lemonade, dropped into water or to season the rims of glasses.
Blanket flowers make an ideal addition to wildlife gardens, because the flowers never stop. The blooms beckon all kinds of pollinators, including bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Seed heads on plants are a winter favorite of seed-eating birds like goldfinches and native finches. Blanket flowers are versatile in the garden, working well in many theme gardens, including cutting, low water-use and native plant gardens. This blanket flower variety is Mesa Yellow. The Mesa varieties all grow well from seed. Plants grow 14 to 16 inches tall and 20 to 22 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
Hyacinths fill the spring garden with an intoxicating perfume. Start your bulbs in the fall, planting them 7-8” deep in soil mixed with lots of good organic matter. The planting site should drain easily, so the bulbs won’t rot in soggy soil or standing water. Mulch them if you live where the winters are very cold, or where the ground might freeze in spring. As with other bulbs, don’t remove the foliage when the flowers fade. Let it grow until it dies naturally, so it can store energy up for the next season’s flowers. Shown here: Hyacinth Blend 'Etouffee.'
Candytuft often attracts butterflies with its spring blooms, which can last for weeks. Give your plants a spot in full sun, and avoid heavy soils that stay wet during the winter. The plants grow about 6-12" tall and will slowly spread to make a pretty groundcover (but don't walk on them). Use this evergreen as a border, in a rock garden or let it spill over a wall or from a windowbox. After the flowers die, give the plants, which are hardy in zones 5-9, a light shearing to keep them bushy. 'Lavish,' shown here, has beautiful, deep lavender flowers.
Fill your garden with the spicy clove fragrance of ‘First Love’ dianthus. Also known as cheddar pink, dianthus is a strong garden performer, unfurling flowers from mid-spring until fall frost. Removing spent blooms on plants ensures a steady, season-long flower show. Like other dianthus, ‘First Love’ is a short-lived perennial, lasting just a few years in the garden. Flowers open pure white and fade to bright rose. In winter, evergreen leaves add color to the garden in warmer regions. Plants grow 14 to 20 inches tall and 12 to 16 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
Violet to brown tinted centers on these clematis flowers contrast strikingly with pure white petals. The largest blossoms appear on plants in early summer, followed by smaller flowers on new stems in midsummer to early fall. Gardeners often grow ‘Henryi’ as a trailing clematis at ground level, letting stems tumble along and cascade over rock walls. For best flowering, prune stems in late winter or early spring, cutting stems back to 6 to 9 inches above a pair of fat buds. Vines grow 6 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 6 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Chokecherrry is a beloved native tree known for its black cherries that beckon birds—and make good jelly, too. Goldspur amur chokecherry (Prunus maackii ‘Jefspur’) is a dwarf form of the classic native, bringing the multi-season beauty of this tree to a size that fits any yard. White flowers appear in spring, followed by black cherry fruits in summer. Leaves shift to yellow tones in autumn, but the best show occurs in winter, when the gold peeling bark is visible. Size: 10 to 15 feet tall by 6 to 9 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 2-9.
Give your yard some springtime drama with the deep black-purple blooms of Black Tulip magnolia (Magnolia ‘JURmag1’). This stunner boasts perfumed, goblet-type flowers that measure 6 inches across. Black Tulip is one of the darkest magnolias on the market, with flowers appearing before green leaves emerge. Trees bloom at a young age and have an attractive branch structure in winter. This is a small tree, reaching 10 feet in 10 years. Use it in a dooryard garden so you can savor the fragrance each spring. Plants grow 10 to 15 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
Large, bright pink flowers with a lemony fragrance cover ‘Rose Marie’ magnolia in spring. The flowering window is luxuriously long, lasting up to six weeks. Created by a plant breeder in Wisconsin, ‘Rose Marie’ has good winter hardiness. It flowers about four weeks later than other magnolia varieties, which helps reduce the likelihood of frost damaging blooms. Unlike other saucer magnolias, bright green leaves are present when flowers unfurl, creating a striking color contrast. This is a small tree, growing 10 to 12 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Keep magnolias mulched beneath the drip line to help insulate fleshy roots. Hardy in Zones 5-8.
When most people think of clematis, they picture something like the luxurious, deep purple blooms of ‘The President.’ This beauty is a traditional clematis vine, happy to clamber up a trellis or blanket a fence. ‘The President’ opens its first flush of flowers in late spring to early summer, followed by a second blooming with smaller flowers in early autumn. Prune in late winter or early spring, cutting vines back to 6 to 9 inches tall. Place cuts just above a pair of strong buds. These deer- and rabbit-resistant plants grow 8 to 12 feet tall by 3 to 4 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Blanket flower adds a punch of color to garden beds. Because it’s a short-lived perennial, many gardeners dig and divide plants every two to three years to keep the plants growing strongly. When working with blanket flower, it’s a good idea to wear gloves. The hairy leaves contain compounds known as lactones that can cause contact dermatitis—a red, itchy rash—in susceptible individuals. In colder zones, cut plants back to 6 inches in late summer to help them survive winter. This blanket flower is ‘Sun Devil’ (Gaillardia x grandiflora), which grows 8 inches tall (14 inches with flowers) and 12 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
As winter approaches and your potted plants start to migrate indoors, consider adorning them with these adorable pine cone snails. To create the body you will need to cut the snail shape out of the fabric of your choice. Think of the shape as an "s"with a short top curve and an extra long bottom curve to create your snail's head and tail. Cut two pieces, sew them together and stuff them. Stitch a pine cone to your snail's back to create the shell and thread a bit of string through the head to create antennae.
Need an ornamental grass for a spot with light shade? Check out autumn moor grass (Sesleria autumnalis). This non-native grass gets its name from the show it stages in autumn. That’s when tan seedheads appear, standing well above the clump of bright green leaves. Drought-tolerant and easy to grow, autumn moor grass holds its own in a mixed planting bed, adapts well to containers and makes an eye-catching planting en masse. Cut clumps to the ground in winter or very early spring. Plants grow 1 to 2 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
If you’re looking for an ornamental grass that delivers fall interest, check out Korean feather reed grass (Calamagrostis brachytricha). Large, foot-long seedhead plumes soar above leaves in late summer, donning a pink tinge that matures to tan. Seedheads dry well and make a nice addition to dried arrangements, or let them age naturally in the garden where they’ll add interest all winter long. Korean feather reed grass likes moist soil and tolerates heavy clay soil. Cut plants to the ground in early spring. Leaves grow 36 inches tall and 20 to 24 inches wide. Seedheads stand 12 inches above leaves. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
For the longest time, seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) has been a plant grown by garden geeks, but it’s now entering the common marketplace. It’s about time. This stunning small tree offers strong four-season interest. Leaves are beautiful as they emerge in spring and develop a twisting appearance in summer. White flowers appear in late summer, beckoning hummingbirds. Blossoms fade to reveal deep rose bracts that linger on the plant well into autumn. Winter showcases peeling, tan bark on the multiple trunks. This is a great choice for a specimen front yard tree or an addition to a planting bed. Size: 6-10 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
A huge value with heirlooms is their ability to grow well in different soils and climates. Dark blue-green Lacinato kale, sometimes called “dinosaur” kale for its bumpy leaf texture, is not only beautiful and sweet but also withstands hard freezes, making it a great fall and mild-winter favorite. It is also known as Tuscan kale because it has been grown for centuries in Tuscany as a traditional ingredient of traditional minestrone. Collect seeds in the spring after the yellow flowers have fallen off.