Rising like an island out of the north end of Elliott Bay, Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood has such a mild microclimate that local gardeners can experiment with subtropical ornamentals. At the Magnolia Garden Center (3213 W. Smith St., Seattle; 206/284-1161), owners Chuck and Margaret Flaherty offer subtropicals in addition to more hardy stock. As Margaret notes, "Because of where we are, we can push the envelope with plants that might not make it a few miles away." The following subtropicals are some of her favorites.
Australian mint bush (Prostanthera rotundifolia). "Big shrub covered with fragrant leaves and purple flowers," Margaret says.
Phormium 'Evening Glow'. "It has the reddest leaves of any New Zealand flax I've seen."
'Purple Picture' hebe. "Evergreen mound bears purple leaves and flowers that often bloom from July through Christmas."
'Wilma Goldcrest' Monterey cypress. This spire-shaped conifer with chartreuse foliage looks "great in pots."