A glowing combination of blue-green and butter-yellow, with a tantalizing blush of pink on older plants and in cool weather. Bright Star (officially named Yucca gloriosa ‘Walbristar’) forms a spiky crown of flexible swordlike leaves. Slow growing, it eventually forms a short woody trunk similar to some agaves. Perennial. Zones 7 to 10. heronswood.com, plantdelights.com
With the tongue-twisting official name of Euphorbia martini ‘Waleutiny’, it’s no wonder this cushion spurge has acquired a much cuter appellation. Looking like a Koosh Ball, ‘Tiny Tim” forms a perfect 1-foot dome of narrow blue-green leaves and a cloud of greenish-yellow bracts cupped under little red flowers. Unlike many spurges, this one continues to bloom throughout the season. Zones 6-8.
Discovered as a seedling of Euphorbia characias in a garden in Tasmania, this phenomenal spurge has both variegated leaves and flowers, combining blue-green with creamy white. Upright stems are a forest of linear leaves, forming a dense shrubby mound. In spring through early summer, large heads of flowers hover on 2- to 3-foot stems, pale yellow and cream, with small green bow-tie centers. Evergreen where winters are mild. Zones 6-9.
Sea holly is a powerful texture for the vase, whether fresh-cut or dried as an everlasting. Eryngium planum ‘Blue Glitter’ has shimmering blue pincushion flowers perched on spiny ruffs, produced in abundance on pewter-colored stems. It also makes a sparkling perennial for the border.
It is an electric moment to be shaken from musing over the usual offerings at a local garden center by a plant I’ve never heard of before. It’s like hiking in familiar woods and having the compass needle go haywire. In this case, the plant tag combined the words “succulent,” “African” and “hosta” — I had to have it.
The Bloomingdale series of Ranunculus from Sakata Seed America sets the standard for Persian buttercups, the luminous tightly packed petals reminiscent of the tissue-paper flowers everyone makes in grade school. Their dainty looks are deceiving, though, as these flowers are durable and long lasting. I saw them during Pack Trials in Northern California, holding their own in gale-force winds.
This perennial hibiscus, a spectacular culmination of the rose-mallow breeding program of Walters Gardens nursery and selected from among thousands of seedlings, has enormous 9-inch-wide ruffled blooms of deep magenta with a red eye. Sturdy, full plants make a striking specimen in the garden from midsummer through early fall. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
A winner of the highest honor for daylilies, the American Hemerocallis Society Stout Silver Medal, this luscious early to midseason bloomer has big, 5.5-inch flowers of glowing golden yellow centered with dark red and a matching red picotee edge. Strong 2-foot stems make this a versatile midsize daylily good for large or small beds and borders.
We gardeners are always on the lookout for the next great plant. White candles (Whitfieldia elongata) may be just that. It is a perfect flowering shrub: broad-leaved evergreen foliage and plentiful white-flower spikes, 8 inches tall, blooming almost continuously. Sure, it's tender, best as an outdoor shrub for Zones 9+ or as an evergreen conservatory plant or houseplant in cooler climates. Or use it in mixed flower containers for spring-fall performance in Zones 5-8.