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Published: Thursday, 7/6/2006

The Secret To Easy Colorful Gardens

If you dream of a beautiful garden with rich waves of colorful flowers, you may want to nurture your knowledge of flowering shrubs with distinctive foliage.

Gardening expert and author Tim Wood suggests thinking of flowering shrubs as perennials that don't have to be divided or staked, and that stay where you plant them.

"They're easy to grow and require little pruning or dividing. Varieties with colorful foliage look great all season long. Flowers are just icing on the cake," he says.

Dark, Rich Foliage

Because purple is a highly desirable color in the garden, Wine & Roses Weigela, a wonderful medium sized shrub, is prized for its dark burgundy leaves. It combines easily with yellow or silver leafed plants, and shines when planted with pink petunias. In the spring it is covered with vivid pink blooms.

Midnight Wine is a dwarf weigela that's only 12 inches tall. Planted in drifts of five, its dark purple foliage contrasts nicely with perennials such as yellow Creeping Jenny or Silver Mound Artemesia.

Summer Wine is a new compact ninebark with dark burgundy foliage. Extremely hardy and easy to grow, in midsummer it's dotted with white button-like blooms.

For a bold look, consider Black Beauty elderberry's dramatic purple foliage. Durable and easy to grow, it has large pink blooms in late spring.

Coming soon is Black Lace elderberry with all great attributes of Black Beauty, but with finely cut, lacy leaves resembling an exotic Japanese maple.

Bright, Sunny Foliage

Yellow foliage brightens up the garden. Sunshine Blue Caryopteris is a great example of this with its rays of bright yellow leaves. In late summer, the foliage on this three- to four-foot tall, mounded shrub contrasts with sprays of misty blue flowers.

Another great yellow leafed plant is Chardonnay Pearls Deutzia. In the spring it sends up flower spikes of white, pearl-like buds that burst into star-like flowers.

Two colorful evergreen shrubs are Blondy and Gold Splash Wintercreeper. These low, mounded plants have green and yellow variegated leaves. Blondy has bright yellow leaves with a thin green margin; Gold Splash's large gold leaves have a green center. For the best effect, plant them next to dark green plants or with long blooming Stella d'Ora daylilies.

Shrubs with colorful foliage are also great for container gardens, and Golden Lanterns Pheasant Berry has heart-shaped, lemon-lime colored leaves that combine wonderfully with Blue Wonder Scaevola or Purple-leafed Fountain Grass. In late summer Golden Lanterns is graced with pendulous burgundy blooms and dark purple berries.

Creating a beautiful, all-season garden is not difficult if you select the right plants. Look beyond the bloom to see what a plant will do all season long. Foliage and berries can be even more beautiful and long lasting than flowers, and are often found on plants that require little or no maintenance.

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