I wasn't quite sure what to expect from my garden in August. All gardens seem to look great in June and into July--and I love mine in September, when it starts to show the beginnings of fall color--but August seems like a rather tough time of the year. Many perennials have finished blooming, annuals are getting scraggly and need to be cut back, and plants in general always look a little worse for the wear in our typical August heat and humidity.
Maybe that's why I love my 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth so much. This stuff looks good all season long, with just the occasional hard chop. That it pairs just as nicely with the cool purple of Russian sage as it does with the warm oranges and reds of canna lilies doesn't hurt, either. In the second picture you can see the amaranth on either side of the lemony-striped Miscanthus (either 'Zebrinus' or 'Strictus,' my aunt and uncle didn't keep the tag) and the purple-tinged foliage of the 'Ichiban' eggplant. I think I'll cut it back a bit more, though, since it's looming a little ominously over the zebra grass!
Similarly, I appreciate the carefree nature of snapdragons. These annuals sometimes overwinter for me, and I really like the taller varieties, but this year the only reds I could find at the garden center were short. I think that next year I'm going to start some old-fashioned ones from seed--and for this, I blame Elizabeth.
I like my red snaps next to the glaucous leaves of sea kale, and in another part of the garden I have some snuggling up between blue-tinged hellebores with red veins, and golden oregano. The latter looks more chartreuse than golden at this point of the summer, but it still compliments the yellow throat on these snaps in a good way.
I have read several times (but first in a Tracy diSabato-Aust book) that one should keep the entire color spectrum in mind when placing plants together. The idea is that you get the most pleasing effect when colors from the far end are a darker shade than those at the near end. I believe that Tracy's example was that apricot goes well with dark blue but dark orange doesn't go so well with light blue.
She would not like my snapdragon and sea kale combo above, nor would she like the 'Orange Carpet' zauschneria garettii (aka hardy or California fuchsia) cozying up to the Russian sage here, but I do! I understand the concept and agree with it for the most part... but I also wholeheartedly believe in bending the "design rules" when it makes you happy.
I do NOT always like it when plants decide to bend design rules for me, as is the case with the orange cosmos and dark-leaf canna here. The cosmos was supposed to be a little bit taller, and the canna was supposed to stay a little more dwarf. Instead, there is quite a large visual step down between the two.
I guess that I have been the recipient of many happy accidents in the garden, however, so I can't complain too much. And my orange cosmos does look nice between the canna and the 'Fuldaglut' sedum spurium that has spread nicely at the edge of the bed. (Kylee... click the picture to enlarge. Do these cosmos look like your marigolds or what?)
Shade is at a premium in my garden, especially since the neighbor limbed up his beautiful beech tree last week, but there are a few interesting things blooming in the more light-challenged areas. Here, one toad lily bloom jumps in front of the dark foliage of 'Hillside Black Beauty' cimicifuga/actaea and the gold-flecked foliage of a different toad lily. Both toad lilies are still in their nursery pots, as I am "trying them out" here next to the bugbane... but I think this is a fun combination, especially with the shiny European ginger at their feet and a large 'Frances Williams' hosta next door.
I have decided that New Guinea impatiens are probably too fussy for me to bother with next year unless I keep them in pots where they will be easier to remember to water. That said, I love the dark foliage on these (Something-Cherry is the name) and they look great next to hakonechloa macra 'aureola.' The variegated Japanese forest grass is sprouting its own airy inflourescences, and the blooms on the New Guineas help pick up the beginnings of the pink fall tinge on the grass blades.
Overall, I would have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see so much in bloom here in August.... especially since foliage, not flowers, always seems to carry my garden. Here's the rest of today's lists:
In Bloom - 'Paprika' achillea, 'White Swan' echinacea, purple emporer sedum, 'Koralle' european upright fuchsia, silene maritima (aka Catchfly), 'Purple Knockout' salvia lyrata, chasmantium latifolium, 'Dortmund' climbing rose, bronze fennel, 'Ozark' alpine strawberries, 'Whiskey' wax begonias, 'Dawn' miniature hosta, 'Regina' heuchera, 'Samobor' geranium phaeum (sparse rebloom), 'Caradonna' salvia, 'Voodoo' sedum, common chives, yellow lantana, various peppers/tomatoes/eggplants, zauschneria latifolia v. etteri, pennisetum rubrum, 'Hameln' pennisetum
In Bud and Highly Anticipated - 'Hillside Black Beauty' cimicifuga/actaea, 'Blanche Sandman' lonicera sempervirens, various Japanese anemone
*Edited to add the pennisetums in bloom and change the subject to the CORRECT month--thanks, Chuck! Can you all tell I'm feeling like the summer is getting away from me here?! :)