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If I had to pick one uncommon plant I recommend most, it would be seven son flower (Heptacodium miconioides, zones 5 to 9). This shrub or small tree is often likened to southern crape myrtle, but honestly I like it better.
Assets include: crisp, textural dark green foliage all season that turns to gold in fall; peeling white bark year-round; and, most important, fragrant white flowers just as summer turns to fall, followed by red-purple fruits (shown here) that are at least as pretty as the flowers. Seven son flower will grow 15 to 20 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide, but it’s easily pruned to a smaller size.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user VoDeTan2
I make no bones about the fact that I like plants that form colonies, and harlequin glory bower (Clerodendron trichotomum, zones 5/6 to 10) is one of my favorites. This shrub is glorious for a few reasons, the most prominent being its deliciously fragrant jasmine-scented white-over-magenta flowers so late in the season that give way to gorgeously weird fruit like bright blue BBs, also framed by a magenta mantle.
Give glory blower room (about 10 feet) to spread out, and you’ll be rewarded by a 10- to 15-foot-tall colony in time — shorter in colder zones, where it may die back to the ground in winter. Bonus: Its leaves smell like peanut butter.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Jean-Pol Grandmont
If it’s berries you’re after, you’d be hard pressed to do better than beauty berry (Callicarpa species and cultivars, zones 5/6 to 8). This beauty’s shiny, purplish fruit doesn’t really come into its own until September, and it hangs around even after the leaves have fallen. Give it sun and plant multiples for best fruiting. Beauty berry grows to 6 feet tall and wide, and in zone 5, where it may die back, it can be pruned hard to about 6 inches above the ground in late winter. A bit of late winter pruning is a good idea in all zones, because beauty berry blooms and fruits on new wood.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Sten