Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
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Eye for color: Right plants can keep a garden bright all year long


Roses are red, violets are blue, how can your garden keep color, the whole season through?

Roses peak and then fade, violets lose their hue, but with some prosaic planning and researching, a garden, whether large or small, can stay attractive not only the whole summer, but throughout the year too.

“The garden changes through the seasons,” said Dan Plath of Plath Garden Services. “Nothing is ever static in the garden.”

But as garden centers fill with mounds of vibrant reds and oranges and blues, the novice and the master gardener alike may be driven into a buying frenzy. And then when it comes time to plant, Mr. Plath said, the results might be less than attractive.

“It’s more a matter of doing your homework,” he said. “The information is not hard to find.”

But, he said, make sure the research is up to date and reliable, going to websites of universities and the like.

While splashy pinks can be hard to resist, don’t forget that green is a color too.

“Some of the prettiest plants aren’t flowers,” Mr. Plath said.

After the blossoms fade and the morning glories lose their glory, the leaf can keep your garden attractive and interesting. Leaves have various shapes, sizes, textures, and contrasting shades of green. Trees can have attractive bark, an interesting architecture, and even the shape of the branches can add to look of the garden.

“We’re looking at stems, even winter interest, evergreens, all things you want to take the garden through four seasons of interest,” Mr. Plath said. “Plants like hydrangea, a woody shrub, bloom in the summer, but in the winter they turn a different color.”

Grasses too add interest, color, and even sound, he said.

When designing your garden, Mary Visco, horticultural technician for Metroparks Toledo, suggested using a bloom chart to help in the planning. But don’t forget to analyze your site. Sun or shade? Moisture needs? Type of soil? Size of the plot?

And when it comes to the plants, how tall are they going to get? When they grow, will they block your windows or doors or take over your other plants?

And when you think of color, do you really want pink flowers clashing with the orange-colored brick that makes up your house?

At the same time, Ms. Visco encouraged some thinking outside of the box, perhaps by planting a winding bed that will resemble a river when filled in with dazzling purples or blue flowers.

Also, with the constant changes made by hybridization, some plants once considered to receive full or partial shade, such as the impatiens, can flourish in the sun with a strain called sunpatiens, said Mr. Plath, though Ms. Visco suggested that the plant still will do better away from full sunshine.

“They’re happiest in partial shade,” she said.

The perennial question that arises annually is: Which is better to give you the maximum amount of color, perennials or annuals? Perrenials — plants such as hibiscus, morning glory, peonies, hyacinths, daylilies, black-eyed Susans, irises, crocus, and forget-me-nots — will come up year after year. Annuals — plants such as petunias, sweet peas, and zinnias — die in one season. Some plants, such as the daffodil, can be both.

So what are some plants that can make your garden pop with color and keep popping the whole season, if not the whole year, with vibrant hues?

Ms. Visco has some suggestions:

■ Tuck flowers such as daffodils between hostas.

■ Take a ghost fern, an upright plant with silver fronds, and pair it with a mounding plant, such as the Hakonechloa for a billowy mound of gold.

■ To get a “Crayola box of colors,” plant cora bells.

■ Plant the hosta kabitan and rhododendron, she says, and “whammo, you’ll have color all season long.”

■ The aralia sun king spikenard, she said, is a golden-spiked perennial that will “blow [color] all summer long.”

■ The fringed bleeding heart will give you delicate, nodding pink flowers, and it will bloom from the first sign of warm weather till the frost falls.

■ Zinnias are drought tolerant, and “they will bloom their heads off all season long. Old-fashioned zinnias are the hot new plants.”

■ The Agastache is another long blooming plant with flowers of golds, oranges, purples, and reds.

■ Add shrubs. They will give you foliage color all season long as well as flowers.

■ The fothergilla dwarf, or Witch Alder, or the fothergilla Mount Airy has leaves with a slight crinkle texture with bottle-brush flowers that can give you “screaming reds.”

■ The redbud Cercis is a deciduous tree or a large shrub. “This will give you oranges and yellows right up until Mother Nature tells it to stop. You can tuck this anywhere.”

■ Talking trees, Ms. Visco recommends the rock-hardy Tamukeyama Japanese maple, which takes full sun. “I can’t describe the red; it’s just a gorgeous Japanese maple.”

■ She also likes the serviceberry. “Birds just love them. It’s like a white cloud and it has autumn brilliance.

■ And, she said don’t forget the Louisa crabapple, because “looking at it in the winter is as pretty as when it is in bloom.”

■ And don’t forget the conifer.

■ She suggests the chamaecyparis, a cypress, which is a coniferous tree or shrub with golds, blues, or silvers.

■ The Curly Tops Sawara cypress has curly, silvery blue needles and is hardy.

■ The golden charm conifer has weeping needles and are “golden all season long.”

■ The Good Vibrations juniper “looks great on slopes.”

■ The Daub’s frosted juniper “rips frosted gold all season long.”

■ The bald-cypress is one of the few to lose its needles in the winter, but not before throwing out a russet-red color on the fall.

■ And the dwarf evergreen Arborvitae Franky Boy, great for small spaces, has unique foliage, and turns a bronzy orange and can resemble “Cousin It” from the old TV show The Addams Family, which became a film and a sequel in the 1990s.

However, Ms. Visco and Mr. Plath stress restraint when you walk into that garden center and your eyes are teased with those lush colors.

Poor planning and the wrong plants can turn your garden into a mish-mashed mess that will cost you money, time, and last but not least, enjoyment.

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