Cool Colorful Plants

These versatile annuals have exploded in popularity in recent years producing months of color from summer into fall. Take a look at some winners for your garden.

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Echinacea 'Raspberry Tart'

—image courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries

'Raspberry Tart'

Echinacea purpurea 'Raspberry Tart'. Masses of scented electric magenta blooms appear from midsummer into fall. Does best in full sun and well-drained soil. This dwarf perennial coneflower measures just 24 inches tall and 15 inches wide. Good for mixed borders and as cut flowers. USDA Zones 4-9. Terra Nova Nurseries.

'Pink Octopus'

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Campanula 'Pink Octopus'

—image courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries

Campanula punctata 'Pink Octopus'. The flowers on this long-blooming perennial are completely different than other bellflowers. Japanese lantern-shaped buds open into slender pink tentacles resembling an octopus. Prefers full sun to part shade and average, well-drained soil. At 10 inches high and 18 inches wide, it's the perfect choice for containers, edging or as a groundcover. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9. Introduced by Terra Nova Nurseries.

'Rainbow Knockout'

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Rose 'Rainbow Knockout'

—image courtesy of All America Rose Selections

Rose 'Rainbow Knock Out'. The latest in the popular 'Knock Out' series. Coral buds open into single orange and pink blooms, fading into a dreamy rainbow of pink, salmon and yellow hues. Bright orange hips persist well into fall. Bushy, compact plants reach three feet tall and wide. This tough, disease-resistant landscape rose reblooms all season long. Great for small spaces, hedges or mixed borders. 2007 All-American Rose Selection (AARS) winner. USDA Zones 4-9.

Angelonia angustifolia 'Serena White'. Snowy white flower spikes bloom nonstop all summer and need no deadheading. This delightful annual remains compact (12 inches high and wide) and exhibits strong branching without pinching. Tolerates heat, drought and humidity. Excellent in containers and mixed beds.

'Pinky Winky'

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Hydrangea 'Pinky Winky'

—image courtesy of Proven Winners

Oakleaf hydrangea 'Pinky Winky' (Hydrangea paniculata 'Pinky Winky'). Named after a character on the popular "Teletubbies" children's show, this deciduous shrub produces two-toned panicles of white and pink from mid-summer into fall. Strong, upright red stems bear impressive 16-inch long flower heads without drooping. Can be pruned to stay small or allowed to reach its mature size of eight feet tall and wide. Tolerant of many climate and soil conditions. USDA Zones 3 to 7.

'Royal Raindrops' crabapple (Malus 'Royal Raindrops'). Profuse clusters of bright rose-pink blossoms appear in mid-spring. The deep purple cut leaf foliage holds its color in summer better than any other crimson-leafed crabapple. Fall color is brilliant orange-red, and the tiny red fruits persist well into winter. Maturing at just 20 feet tall, this deciduous tree is great for small yards. USDA Zones 4-8.

'Pinwheel'

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'Pinwheel' coreopsis

—image courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries

Coreopsis 'Pinwheel'. Unusual quilled lemony yellow flowers bloom in profusion against the lacy, bluish-green foliage. Spreads 24 inches tall and 32 inches wide. Plant this tough, long-flowering perennial in a sunny border or cottage garden. USDA Zones 5-9. Terra Nova Nurseries.

'Strike It Rich'

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Rose 'Strike It Rich'

—image courtesy of Gene Sasse/Weeks Roses

Rose 'Strike It Rich'. Prolific, spicy-scented blooms are rich golden yellow infused with a hint of red. This medium sized grandiflora (5 to 6 feet tall and wide) is bushy and well-branched, producing new flowers over a long period. With exceptional disease-resistance and vigor, the deep green foliage stays clean all season long. The long red stems are great in cut bouquets. 2007 AARS winner. USDA Zones 5-9.

'Fusion Peach Frost'

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'Fusion Peach Frost' impatiens

—image courtesy of Simply Beautiful

Impatients Fusion 'Peach Frost'. There are few annuals that give you more bang for your buck than Fusion impatients. Uniquely shaped flowers bloom nonstop all summer until frost on vigorous plants that reach 10 to 16 inches tall and wide. 'Peach Frost' is the first in the series to have variegated foliage, a striking backdrop to the soft coral-peach flowers. Heat tolerant; needs no deadheading. Protect from hot afternoon sun. Great in containers, hanging baskets or beds. Simply Beautiful.

'Razzmatazz'

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Echinacea 'Razzmatazz'

—image courtesy of Wayside Gardens

Echinacea purpurea 'Razzmatazz'. This first-ever double coneflower boasts showy pink pompoms framed by deep magenta daisy petals. The fragrant 4-inch blooms on this reliable perennial are borne on long, sturdy stems and will last two weeks in a vase. Grows 35 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. USDA Zones 3-9.

'Mindor'

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'Mindor' forsythia

—image courtesy of Proven Winners

Lantana 'Citrus Blend'. These versatile annuals have exploded in popularity in recent years with the introduction of many new varieties. The blooms on 'Citrus Blend' come in vibrant hues of red, orange and yellow, producing months of color from summer into fall. Great in planter combinations, window boxes and borders. Proven Winner

Forsythia x intermedia 'Show Off' (syn. 'Mindor'). The cheerful bright yellow flowers on this petite deciduous shrub are a welcome sight in the early spring garden. Exceptionally large blooms appear all up and down the stem. Because it grows to just 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, 'Show Off' needs little pruning and is great for small spaces. Use in a mixed border, hedge or woodland setting. USDA Zones 4-8. Proven Winners.

'Intensia Star Brite'

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'Intensia Star Brite' phlox

— image courtesy of Proven Winners

Phlox 'Intensia Star Brite'. Pinwheel striping of purple-pink and white makes the large, lightly fragrant flowers really stand out. Mildew and heat resistant. This long-blooming annual grows 8 to12 inches high and wide, making it a good choice for containers, hanging baskets and border combinations. Proven Winners.

'Crimson Pointe'

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Prunus 'Crimson Pointe'

—image courtesy of Monrovia Nursery

Prunus cerasifera 'Crimson Pointe' Plum. The first and only columnar ornamental plum, with branches growing upright and nearly parallel to the main trunk. Showy white flowers bloom in profusion in early spring. Glossy new bronze foliage matures to dark maroon. Reaching 25 to 30 feet tall and 10 feet wide, it's a good alternative for narrow spaces or curbside. USDA Zones 4 to 9. Monrovia.

'Happy Chappy'

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'Happy Chappy' rose

—image courtesy of Jackson & Perkins

Rose 'Happy Chappy'. Large clusters of single blooms in shades of yellow, apricot and pink envelop this sturdy groundcover rose. Easy to care for, vigorous and disease-resistant. Good in landscapes, containers, hedges and borders. Mature size is two feet tall and three feet wide. Hardy to USDA Zone 5. Introduced by Jackson & Perkins.

Janet Loughrey is a horticulture photographer and writer who lives and gardens in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Better Homes and Gardens and Country Living Gardener. Her book Gardens Adirondack Style was published in 2005 by Down East Books.

For gardeners, discovering new plants each spring is even better than attending the grand opening of a blockbuster movie. While some of the latest varieties are improved versions of existing cultivars, many introductions are so unique they will surprise and delight even the most seasoned gardener. Look for these in your favorite mail-order catalog or local garden center.

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