Want your bouquet to really pack a punch? How about a fiery red-and-yellow dinner-plate dahlia up to 11 inches across! Dahlias can take a little effort (staking, pinching, storing tubers over the winter in cooler zones), but the results are worth it, and anyone who loves to make floral arrangements has them on the list of must-haves. ‘Bodacious’ can produce flowers midsummer into fall. dahlias.com, dutchbulbs.com
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.
Hydrangeas are classic big, pretty flowers, and the reblooming Let’s Dance series from Spring Meadow Nursery takes it to the next level, with saturated colors and lush plants. ‘Moonlight’ is a mophead form in rich pink that ages to chartreuse; in acidic soils the flowers are blue. Hardy to Zone 5. gardencrossings.com, springmeadownursery.com, stargazerperennialscatalog.com
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.
A hybrid between Aloe and close kin Gasteria, this retro succulent from Proven Winners is multipurpose indeed-a perennial in Zones 8-11, an annual in cooler zones and a great houseplant everywhere. Rosettes of red-tinged, narrow leaves are crowned by orange flowers in winter and spring.
Ornamental peppers have become popular summer annuals, and surprise, surprise, they're happy indoors as well. 'Sangria' is a new introduction from PanAmerican Seed with a continuous full complement of red and purple peppers that are not hot (so they're child-friendly).