Thursday, February 28

Color in the Garden: Chameleon Color

My previous post showcases the brilliant shades of color that Northeast Ohio experiences during the winter: White, gray-white, bluish white, light yellow, a few shades of brown, and so on. All joking aside, it's actually nice to be able to appreciate subtle color variations during the winter time. An admitted design eclectic, I occasionally have a yen (especially in the wintertime) for a clean, light, Scandanavian-inspired design, and NE Ohio winters give me that fix.

But at this point in the season, I want color. And so I've been avidly following along with the February Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop posts on Color, brought to life by the wonderful folks over at Gardening Gone Wild. I've been wanting to "play along," so to speak, but don't particularly have an overriding color theme in my gardens. So I scrolled through photos, hoping for a post topic to come up and hit me right between the eyes.

And as I looked through the many pictures of my favorite area of the garden, which I think of as "the rhododendron bed," it hit me: This area is probably my favorite because it's always changing colors and textures throughout the season. Check out the first photo, where you see the green spring foliage of Russian sage mingling with an unnamed blue hosta and emerging leaves leaves on the 'Diablo' purple ninebark. The color combo is very fresh and modern.

Now look at the second picture of that same area, after the garlic has been harvested. The Russian sage has turned silvery blue and the dark 'Chocolate Chip' ajuga winds below the hosta.

The 'Hopi Red Dye' amaranth seedlings were allowed to grow wherever they wanted, With 'The Watchman' black hollyhock providing even more dark color, this area looks positively moody.

(Never fear: Just in front of this area was a nice grouping of brussels sprouts rosettes to take the edge off... and behind it, 'All Gold' hakonechloa and a grouping of ferns brighten my view from the window!)

On the driveway side of this bed, other amaranth seedlings take on warm hues when backlit and surrounded by fading goatsbeard flowers, the brilliant orange blooms of canna 'Wyoming' and the warm purplish green of bronze fennel.

Later in the summer, orange cosmos, more 'Hopi Red Dye' seedlings, and the red-orange flowers of zauschneria latifolia--along with 'Yubi Red' and a smaller-flowered yellow portulaca--help keep this area nice and warm.

Turn the corner, though, and some of these same plants form a cooler palette with their faces in the sun. The addition of the gray/green /red foliage of 'Voodoo' sedum, fresh lady's mantle foliage (from a post-flowering cutback), more Russian sage, 'Morning Light' miscanthus and 'The Blues' little bluestem grasses frame the hotter foliage and flower colors in an interesting way.

This is not a view that I'll enjoy this year, however, as the miscanthus was in a nursery pot on the driveway and has been moved to a more permanent location. (After viewing the picture I kind of think that's a shame!)

The examples above are kind of extreme in their scope... but there are smaller little vignettes that amuse me with seasonal color changes as well. Here's a picture showing my beloved 'Caradonna' salvia (look at those gorgeous dark purple flower stems!) in May on an overcast day.

The 'Fuldaglut' sedum is showing fresh green foliage with red tinges, white flowers arch over the rock garden from my rather exhuberant blackberry, and in the background you see the flowers from perennial geraniums and an inherited peony mingling. They all cool down the picture.

Contrast that with late July, when the sun is blazing overhead and the white and blue background flowers have been replaced with blazing sedum flowerheads and yellow-edged hosta foliage.

Fading salvia flowers echo the sedum foliage color-wise, and to the right (just out of camera view) is a silver culinary sage that contributes to the hot dry beauty of this combo.

Since I like so many colors (just not... you know... pink) in the garden, I guess it should be no surprise that I tend to go for plants that offer me more than one "look" throughout the season. After all, in small urban gardens like mine, every plant has to earn its place through a mixture of beauty and utility--and chameleon plants earn pretty high marks in the former subject!


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I love your colors Kim. The Blues grass is really great. I might have a place for something like that now. Amaranth is such a tough plant and so striking in the garden. You have just stirred up so many thoughts for my garden planting ideas.

Sue Swift said...

I love the deep reds and the way they contrast.My balcony is full for this year, but you're already giving me ideas for next!

Anonymous said...

That bed with the burgundy and silver pairings is fantastic, Kim! And I'm with you in liking plants that change their look through the seasons, especially in small spaces where every plant has to earn its keep.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Well another fine post. If plants can't be interesting ALL YEAR long, I agree, out they go. Change is good (I sound like I'm campaigning). I've been looking for a salvia, and most don't like my "cold" zone 5, but some do. Maybe I'll try yours.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Variety is a good thing - you'll never get bored looking at your garden. Color consistency is the hobgoblin of small minded gardeners? Your photos of the Amaranth are tempting me to give that a try this year - once I figure out where to stuff it.

Anonymous said...

You are killing me with color. My world is WHITE and GREY and I can't get past it easily. This "retrospective" is a GREAT idea (you've done it before)... but I don't think I could take "doing" it.


joey said...

I'm impressed, Kim ... very well done and though out with great photos. You're a gem :)

Unknown said...

You have such a GREAT sense of colour, Kim...I love these planting combinations, fresh and interesting.

Ottawa Gardener said...

I know I've told you before but I love the colours of your garden. The hopi red amaranth is a glorious glory and contrasts magnificantly with the silvery white 'salvia?'. Anyhow, you are an inspiration to me in many areas, especially foliage which you seem to have an eye for.

Shady Gardener said...

You have some beautiful contrast there! I'm getting excited for Spring to arrive before long! :-)

Anonymous said...

Not just color but so much texture! This is what I love about perennial gardening. Nothing stays the same and there is little time for boredom except at this time of year but then you see the winter landscape as a respite from the seasonal changes. I will try to adjust my perspective!

lisa said...

I'm with everone else-your taste is impeccable!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Greenbow Lisa! I bet you do have a spot for the bluestem now--3 of mine only get sunlight until about 2pm, and the other 3 until about 3pm, and they both do just fine.

Sue Swift, I like the deep reds, too. Much more than I ever thought I would, truth be told. (And I can't wait to see what your balcony is full of this year.)

Nan Ondra, thank you! I keep looking at all of your luscious foliage pairings and trying to channel some of your panache with color into my plans for this year.

Benjamin, I think that a few of these might do okay in your "cold" zone 5. My parents live in a rather medium zone 5 and gardeners around there have no problems with some of these guys. (If I can vote, I'd pick 'Caradonna' over 'Mainacht,' though. I have grown both, and these dark purple stems really add to the wow factor for me.)

Mr. McGregor's Daughter, just put the amaranth any old place... next year it will come up in a few new places, some of which you never would have thought of but seem absolutely brilliant in the midst of spring. *grin*

Hank, my world is white and grey right now, too... but you know how lovely Digitalistan is going to look in June! You will put us all to shame then, methinks. :)

Joey, thanks. I don't think I've ever been called a gem before!

Jodi, wow. "Fresh and interesting" is pretty much the best that I can ever hope for... I'll have to keep trying to live up to that.

Ottawa Gardener, sorry for the confusion. The silvery in that picture is Russian sage, perovskia atriplicifolia. (Neither Russian in origin, nor sage!) The salvia is the purple spires in the lower pictures. And yes, the 'Hopi Red' amaranth is definitely a "glorious glory!" I couldn't say it better myself.

Shady Gardener, me too! It will be fun to see where my self-seeders decide to come up this year. :)

Layanee, it almost is kind of overload, isn't it? Maybe this is why we have winter, to kind of cleanse our gardening palate for another onslaught? ;)

lol, Lisa! "Impeccable taste" is not something I'm used to being accused of... but I like it. *grin* Thanks!

Annie in Austin said...

I like your succession of shapes and colors, Kim - with our long growing season and access to a variety of evergreens, many people here in Austin have gardens that use bold color but are static. If something dares to grow and change the outline from a bun to a drift - it's chopper time!

Maybe it isn't just your bold color choices that make your border distinctive... you also allow your garden to grow and change.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Unknown said...

Annie, thank you for saying my borders are distinctive! ("Distinctive," "interesting"... all wonderful words that I strive to achieve, and never am quite sure that I hit.)

I didn't notice the changes in the garden so much at my other house, where I had lots of space. I wonder if this desire for lots of change is some kind of an unconscious reaction to all of the immutable hardscaping that makes up the urban landscape? Hmm.

Rosemarie said...

I think your color combinations are wonderful - they don't seem "classic" but modern. Does that make sense?

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