Color Scheming

ageratum-artist.jpgSome gardeners come to a scheme for planting annuals based on favorite colors, or color combinations.  Others like a certain style of planting.  Others focus on the size of the flowers, or the color of the leaves.  The best plantings involve scheming on as many different levels as possible.  I plant the annuals in front of the shop in a different way every year.  That way, sooner or later, everyone will see something they like.  This is the best part of planting annuals.  Every year, there is a chance to try something new.

annual-planting.jpgLast year’s scheme was all green.  I planted panicum grass inside the boxwood.  More than a few customers said it looked like we were going out of business, as we had not cut the grass.   Like I say, everyone has a different idea of beautiful.  I knew I wanted to do something with purple. The color of this ageratum artist is so luscious.  It is a light blue/purple that I call heliotrope blue.  Lots of blue with a big dose of lavender.  Dark purple has a way of turning dull, if it does not have lively companions.  The blue salvia mystic spires has gorgeous blue/purple flowers that are so striking up close.  Plant it in a garden, and the color sinks into the background.  In the mid and background of this picture, you can barely make out the purple angelonia.

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The planting needed some friends that would make that brooding dark purple more visually appealing.  We added both lime and white nicotiana to the purple angelonia.  This plant is airy growing, simple in flower, and sports big flat leaves.  This will contrast beautifully with the narrow leaves, smaller stature and flower spikes of the angelonia. So far, the planting has three colors in the mix.

tricolor-petunias.jpgMixing colors adds depth to a planting. Pictured above is a bedding petunia called “Great Lakes Mix”. The mix of white, medium blue/purple and dark purple petunias is a lively way to visually represent the idea of purple. A mass of white, or another light color can be quite striking.  A mass of dark purple can look dull and flat.  The value of the color purple, meaning its lightness or darkness, is very similar to the value of many greens in the landscape.  Dark purple blends with green, rather than standing out from it.  Determined to have lots of dark purple?  Underplant it with lime or white.   I dropped a floret of a red geranium onto this mix. This is a scheme I have planned for a client. The red will be all the more brilliant, given the purple mix.  The purple mix is even more lively, given the red.  Color in a garden is never about a color.  It is about the relationships that define every individual color in a strong way.

the dinnerplate dahlia fluerelSo far so good.  But this is a big planting bed, with boxwood that is over 3 feet tall.  The garden would need to be anchored by something.  A four foot tall dahlia would certainly provide a visual anchor to the garden.  This white dinnerplate dahlia called Fluerel has a pale yellow center, and pale yellow green buds.  This secondary color will relate to the lime nicotiana. The big flowers will be visible from a car driving by.  The nicotiana will soften the look of this stiffly growing upright plant. We will stake it securely, early on. We will do the same with the nicotiana.  The stakes are not the best look, but plants will completely disguise them in short order.  All there will be to do next is water and wait, and how the scheme is a good one. If the scheme is a good one, all the relationships will be both friendly and serious.   KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI saved the beginning of the story about this garden for last. I read the garden blog Gardenista almost every day.  Last winter they put up a post about a dinnerplate dahlia called “Cafe Au Lait”.  The story came from a the blog of a florist who features home grown flowers.  www.floretflowers.com, if you are interested. This dahlia features flowers the color of cafe au lait, naturally.  Some flowers are more pink.  Some are more towards the cream side.  I have always been reluctant to grow these dahlias.  They can be too tall, too stiff, and too ungainly.  The blog post was very detailed in how and when to pinch them.  The pinching early on results in more flowers with long stems.  But it was the astonishing color that made me ask Mark from Bogie Lake Greenhouse to order 30 of them for me, and bring them on.  The entire rest of the garden is an effort to feature these dahlias.
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Tomorrow we will add more ageratum to the edge.  I am after an 18″ wide rounded band of this color rolling down to the gravel to border the garden.  That low carpet of ageratum may not be prominent for long, but when it does fill in, it will lighten the look of all of the other plants.  There is a good while before the dahlias will have much to say. The ageratum border might be the best part of the garden, for a moment.  I am still thinking about what will go in the window boxes. Having and taking the time to look at a garden before proceeding is part of the pleasure of the process.

At A Glance: Favorite Annual Plants

janet-craig-dracaena.jpgPlanting the annuals and containers is a very exciting time-and an exhausting one.  So in lieu of writing, I thought to just post some pictures of my favorite annual plants.  What makes them a favorite?  This glowingly green Janet Craig dracaena will thrive in very low light.

vista-petunias.jpgThe Vista series of petunia is very vigorous, even long into the fall.

Sept 9 2012 035White mandevillea vines produce large showy flowers, and the foliage is glossy and disease resistant.

Sept 24 011Persian Shield is a color like no other, and will grow to a large size in a partially shaded spot.

green 023Euphorbia Diamond Frost is like having a thousand tiny white lights dancing over the surface of a container planting.  Cirrus dusty miller has a velvety surface, and a beautiful texture. Petunias smell like summer.

coleus.jpg coleus are prized for the unusual color of their foliage, as are the variegated dwarf dracaena pictured above.

orange-punch-canna.jpgCannas grow big and tall, and come in a whole range of colors. Canna Orange Punch blooms profusely.

dahlias.jpgDahlias are the show girls of the annual world. They sport huge flowers in every imaginable color except blue. They are at their showy best in September and October. silverberry-petunia.jpgSilverberry petunias bloom profusely, and do not need deadheading.

mocha-velvet-coleus.jpgVelvet mocha coleus is a beautiful orangy brown

nicotiana.jpgAll of the nicotiana varieties are charming, and beloved by hummingbirds.  I grow them all.

verbena-bonariensis.jpgVerbena bonariensis is tall growing, and imparts a meadow like look to any in ground annual planting.

DSC08283Solenia begonias are easy to grow.  Just go easy on the water.  Are these my only favorites. Oh no. I like them all really.  They all have something different to recommend about them. Choosing which ones to grow depends somewhat on what you need from them.

 

 

The Window Box

Detroit-Garden-Works.jpgI cannot remember what summer it was that I broke my leg, but I do remember being happy that it came after I planted the garden in front of the shop. In fact, I could have planted the window boxes dealing with a broken leg.  Window boxes are at an easy height to plant, and of a scale to encourage and support any planting idea. The shop garden is not so complicated.  A boxwood parterre, lots of gravel, and three big window boxes.  The big window boxes are the star of the summer show.  How I love planting those window boxes!   I am a big fan of generously scaled window boxes.  The planting is at counter height. Easy to plant.   A window box is a cross between a container planting, and an in ground planting.  There is more room and opportunity for a detailed expression in a window box than a container.  A window box can be filled with the most compost rich and friable soil.  I like planting with my fingers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlanting annual beds in ground requires a lot of digging  and turning with a shovel.  The work of this is daunting.  Real work.  Sometimes annuals planted in ground at grade do poorly.  Heavy clay soil, or sandy soil, can contribute to a poor show.  I like bedding out for the summer with my choice of soil, great drainage, and a place to work that is elbow level.  Planting in ground comes with a whole host of trouble.  I like minimizing the trouble, and maximizing the opportunity.   Big window boxes are my idea of a venue that affords lots of expression with not so much digging. I have seen plenty of window boxes that are 8″ wide, 4″ deep, and 18″ long.  What does one plant in a box of that edited a dimension?  Succulents are a good choice.  But if succulents are not your style, make bigger boxes.  I like window boxes that are wider than the window, deep enough to hold moisture for 2 days, and wide enough to plant plenty of plants.

mandevillea 2012 014Most commercially manufactured window boxes are made to sizes that fit UPS shipping requirements.  What gardener wants to be limited by those dimensions?  An investment in a custom sized window box will result in a lifetime of planting pleasure. The boxes at my shop are roomy.  I would suggest that if you have a mind to invest in window boxes, go for roomy.  Plants need a place to live.  They do not so much mind being crowded by a neighbor.  But they do need some space to put down their own roots.

DGW13You can see from this picture that my window boxes are wider than my windows.  And wider than my shutters.  In my opinion, whatever element is closest to the ground needs to be the widest and most visually sturdy element. A window box is a foundation which complements the window.  Any planting box framing a window is an empire.  Size those boxes accordingly.

DSC09624The window boxes at the shop are of a size that enables me to explore an idea about color.  A story about texture.  These boxes, which have been my pleasure to plant for summer once a year, for 18 years, are little cities.  The have a style.  A language all their own. A particular set of rules.  A commentary on design. A look.  The day I plant them is a good day indeed.

gleason0The window boxes take on a life of their own, once I have planted them.  They grow out, however they will.  The best part of any planting is seeing how nature responds to my ideas.  The big idea is to give every voice a chance.  And chance what you will. A properly scaled window box means you have room to explore.

 

Opperer 2011 042Shade window box

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shop boxes

Picture 006shop box

 

DSC_2670window boxes made to fit on a wall

Derda (3)window box planting

Celani 8-07 (42)roof boxes

Sept 16, 2012 043The roof boxes at the shop last year were as good as I could make them.  All of my boxes provide me with a chance to grow a community of plants on to a greater visual good.  Thinking about window boxes?  Go long and deep.  You won’t regret it.

 

Shades Of Green

DGW 2006_07_26 (31)The success of this window box has little to do with the flowers. The color of the foliage is the story. The blue green foliage makes the carmine purple petunias pop.  Though I have a big love for flowers, flowers come with green leaves standard issue..  As in pale green, medium green, dark green, yellow green, blue green, black green-you get the idea. Consider the leaf color when designing containers. A container garden is a landscape in miniature. When the spaces are small, every move you make matters.  Every choice makes waves.

DGW 2006_09_05 (10) This container has nothing to say about flowers either.  It has a lot to say about texture.  It has even more to say about a particular shade of green.  A great container is deliberate in exploring the relationships between all of the colors involved.

leaves (13)A succulent is not my most favorite plant. But this kind of green is available in few other plants.  Not every plant in a container has to be a favorite.  But every plant should be chosen for what it contributes to the mix.leaves (3)Grey foliaged plants can inform any color scheme.  I am a big fan of the Cirrus dusty miller.  The felted gray leaves look great with pink, yellow, purple , or white flowers. Gray green foliage in a container planting can cool off a hot color scheme.  Interested in a cool and serene scheme?  Choose cool green foliage over yellow green foliage.

leaves (16)I have never been so much a fan of gray in the landscape.  By itself, gray recalls rainy days, and not much else. But gray foliage in combination with other flower colors shines. Gray green foliage and white flowers-classic.  Gray green foliage and pale yellow-worth a look. Gray green foliage and red violet petunias-a happening.  Gray, white and cool green-a tri-color container color combination is rhythmic.

leaves (44)Medium green is a workhorse of a foliage color.

leaves (14)
Vinca vine is a most ordinary and widely available trailing container plant.  Give it another look.  This particular shade of green variegated with so pale cream yellow edges may endow your container planting with just the right shade of green.

polka-dot-plant.jpgdieffenbachia with white polka dot plant and lime licorice

leaves (36)Have a love for lime green?  This shade of green is electric. Should you have the idea to make a big splash, lime green foliage will make your hot pink and orange flowers glow.  An orange lantana standard will be lit from underneath, given an under planting of creeping jenny or lime licorice.  or this crazy corkscrew rush.

leaves (6)The new growth of almost every plant in the spring is one shade of lime green or another. If you have a mind to celebrate the opening of the garden all summer long, lime green plants are happy to oblige.

dieffenbachiapale green dieffenbachia will light up a shady spot.

leaves (54)lime green variegated potato vine sizzles.
leaves (42)lemon cypress

leaves (53)coprosma is a lime variegated plant grown for its glossy splashy foliage.  it grows 2-3 feet tall, and will do in sun and part sun.

leaves (24)This dark foliaged dahlia has brilliant orange flowers.

summer-planting.jpgSee what I mean about green?