|Abutilons are called "Flowering Maples" or "Parlour Maples" because most have maple-like leaves, but they're not closely related. These South American shrubs will do well in your parlour if you have one, but most are tender. A. megapotamicum is the hardiest, to zone 8b. Large, colorful flowers over a long season make them worth bringing in for the winter.|
Abutilon megapotamicum is one of the showiest, but also the hardiest of the genus. The species name means "from the big river", Brazil's Rio Grande. This is a shrub with aspirations to be a vine, with long, slender, arching branches that may be trained against a wall or fence. The leaves are lance-shaped, not maple-like, and may be evergreen or semi-evergreen in warmer climates, but is usually deciduous in zone 8, the bottom of its range. The pendant flowers are in evidence for a long season, and are very eyecatching. The calyx is red and closed, like a Bleeding Heart, and the yellow petals hang from the bottom like full yellow skirts. Easy and fast to grow, prefers morning sun but shade in the hot afternoon, and may benefit from pruning to make it more compact.
Abutilon 'Vesuvius' is a hybrid of A. megapotamicum, above, but with a maroon calyx and orange-scarlet and gold, deep red-veined flowers that are not flared. Deep green leaves have purple veins. An upright, fast-growing shrub. Zones 9&10.
Acacia pravissima -- Ovens Wattle -- Triangular phyllodes (what passes for leaves on Acacias) and a semi-weeping habit give this 12' shrub a unique appearance. It is also covered with bronze buds in the winter and sweet-scented bright yellow flowers in spring when it's old enough to bloom. Needs sun and good drainage, resists drought. Zones 8b-10. We know of one being grown in a slightly colder zone that froze back to the ground last year, and is now coming back in several new locations! It doesn't normally spread, though.
Acca (Feijoa) sellowiana -- Pineapple Guava -- A bushy South American shrub grown for its attractive and interesting red and white flowers with long red stamens, and for its grey-green foliage. It's also grown for its tasty fruit in warm climates; however,although the plant is hardy in zones 8-10, early fall frosts can damage fruits in zone 8. Grow in a cool greenhouse for fruit in that zone; it's good as a potted plant. Wider than tall, the shrub will grow to about 6'x8', so makes a good hedge. It is also tolerant of drought and salt, and so an excellent choice for coastal areas.
Acer palmatum -- Japanese Maple -- We have a special section for these colorful and versatile small trees.
Aesculus pavia -- Red Buckeye -- An attractive North American native shrub or small tree to 10-20' that bears up to 10"-long panicles of red-orange flowers in spring, attracting hummingbirds. The palmately compound leaves open with tan tones, then change to dark green. In fall, the flowers give rise to shiny seeds that are called Horse Chestnuts on European species, but Buckeyes on American ones.
Allium senescens var. glaucum has a rather typical globular, pale lavender onion flower, but is distinguished by its gracefully twisted blue foliage that grows in short, ground-hugging spirals. Zones 4-9.