My Favorite Plants

Dan Vierra lists his 10 favorite blooms.

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Infatuation is fleeting, especially with plants. One day we're salivating over salvia, the next we're courting coreopsis. Yesterday's favorite plants are today's compost.

Nurseries savor our fickle ways. Tired of dahlias, we replace them with gladiolus. A new, irresistible azalea signals the end of the once-loved spiraea.

After much soul-searching, bloom-sniffing and scrutiny, I've assembled my 10 personal favorites. Tomorrow I might compile a different list, but for now, here goes.

  1. Japanese maple (Acer palmatum): Ornate shrubs or small trees, some spread wider than their height. Gorgeous to gaze upon. Many have both spring and fall color. Location is everything in keeping them happy. Japanese maples appreciate afternoon shade or the partial shade of taller trees. Direct afternoon sunlight often will burn leaves. Treat them right and the rewards are great.

  2. Heuchera hybrids: Incredible plants in an assortment of wild foliage colors to supercharge beds or spacious containers. Flowers, which grow on flowering stems, are often insignificant and overshadowed by leaf colors -- gold, orange, shades of green, plum, purple streaked with silver, etc. Choosing a favorite is difficult. Geisha's Fan, Stormy Seas, Amethyst Myst and Florist's Choice are tied for first with several others right behind. Heucheras are big favorites of hummingbirds

  3. Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa) The Pearl: Intoxicating, sweet fragrance hardly describes the sensory rush. Its scent is treasured for the best French perfumes. Milky-white, double flowers are borne on 2-to 3-foot spikes that emerge from grass-like foliage. Container plantings situated near patio doors take best advantage of its powerful aroma. Sniff away.

  4. Memorial Day rose: Huge "wow" factor for this hybrid tea's fragrance (classic damask) and elegant lavender blooms. Fends off summer heat; fast rebloomer when promptly deadheaded. Excellent cut flower. The foliage is mundane, but Memorial Day's blooms and scent make it easy to love. One of three All-America Rose Selections for 2004.

  5. Miscanthus sinenis Morning Light: Morning or evening light, it doesn't matter. When backlit by sunlight this ornamental grass shimmers in the landscape. Green, white and silver leaves rattle in the wind, and copper-colored plumes arise in late fall. Easily divided and virtually indestructible, except for cats chewing on the lower foliage. To a cat, it's salad.

  6. Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) Dynamite: True red-flowering crape myrtle is spectacular. New growth is crimson and leaves turn orange in fall. Mine basks in full sun all day. Crape myrtle's root system behaves when planted near foundations, driveways and walkways. A specimen tree to be admired.

  7. Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) Blue Spire: An extrovert that attracts loads of attention. Lavender-blue blossoms along stalks that resemble oversize pipe cleaners. The perennial has a long summer blooming period (months) and demands scant water once established. A bee magnet and relatively tall (4 feet), it's best planted in the back of beds.

  8. Calibrachoa hybrids, Superbells series: Remarkable container plants that quickly trail over for a colorful waterfall of blooms. Containers can disappear under Calibrachoa, available in several colors. Flowers all summer. Generally considered an annual, but a white Superbells survived in its container last winter to bloom a second year.

  9. Gazania splendens Golden Flame: From the Kiss Series, this cheery, daisy-like flower has orange petals with yellow edges or margins. Golden Flame has re-energized the tough, little perennial from its sinking status as a common gas-station plant. It will brighten any bed, border or container.

  10. Coreopsis rosea Sweet Dreams: A sea of raspberry and cream-colored flowers. Three or four of these will fill out a bed with color. Foliage is narrow, needlelike and bright green. Will sprawl when full of flowers, so some may want to tie Sweet Dreams to stakes or other supports to keep it upright. A good shearing after the first bloom period will encourage another before winter. Attracts butterflies and bees.

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