By Rhea Hamilton-Seeger
I have to admit that I am a wee bit envious of those gardeners who methodically plan out a colour scheme for their garden, and even more so of those who instinctively choose plants and colours that simply sparkle.
Years ago I suffered from ‘colour fear’. I hated to put any art or sculpture in the garden that was not white or black. Imagine my surprise when I went out on a limb and painted a bird bath hot yellow. I have not looked back. I have hits of yellow and fire engine red in my garden to bring out and enhance the colours of the plants.
The same goes for the selection of plants. Bunches of Lemon Ricky heuchera or coral bells are planted along the border that the eye follows until it hits the yellow birdbath tucked in under the redbud tree. Flowing back from this edge are hostas highlighted with a bit of yellow in their leaves and then shots of blue with plantings of salvia and balloon flowers. It works. I cannot believe it has taken me so long to experiment with a more planned colour pallet. Mind you the front garden is a free for all. Nature takes over. The bright pinks and snowy whites of peonies give way to blue salvia, purple iris, and grey lamb ears and then the day lilies take over with their hot blends of yellow and orange and bit of cinnamon red thrown in. They are backed up with coreopsis yellows and wonderful crusty heads of Coronation Gold yarrow. I am considering adding yarrow aptly called Paprika to the mix.
This year being Canada’s 150th birthday, it is easy to simply select from the assorted red and white annuals the growers are popping out and plan a Canada Day party.
I was reading the London Free Press before I sat to pen this column and was a bit intrigued by the story that some of the much admired red and white tulips that were planted last fall were now coming up in shades of orange and pink. I am sure the poor sales people were on the line to the Netherland bulb supplier to solve the problem. Nothing can be done at this point but to sit back and enjoy the wonderful display of colour.
Here in Huron County we also have the International Plowing Match in September to look forward to and their colours are yellow, orange, blue and green. That covers a lot of plants. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these colours whether all together or just the yellow and orange. Every plant has a bit of green on it. If you refer to the colour wheel you will see that blue and orange are complimentary. If you are combining orange and yellow then you are planning an analogous scheme.
The first hard working annual that springs to mind is the marigold. They come in all shades of yellow, orange and bronze and varying heights. Pop in a row of blue salvia and I think you will have your IPM garden all set.
I would love to recommend perennials to create this look that you can enjoy again next year, but the majority of perennials have already bloomed by mid September and are so dependent on weather to determine both the timing of their bloom and the length of time they are showy. Annuals can be trimmed, fertilized and will continue to bloom for you until frost.
Also on the list of plants for 2017 is the perennial for the season, Asclepias tuberosa or butterfly weed. Cousin to our common milkweed it is enjoyed by a lot of our pollinators. Its bright orange blooms brighten any garden. While slow to get started it grows best in well-drained soils and it is drought tolerant. Sounds like my kind of plant. They don’t like to be transplanted so best to plant seed to establish a patch in your garden. It develops a taproot, making it hard to move, and will develop, over time, side stems to give it a more bushy appearance. It is a prairie native and does well in meadow settings. Do remember that the larvae of our lovely butterflies will feast on the leaves. Please share to keep the circle of life intact.
By the time you read this I hope to have moved the last of the thornless blackberries to a new spot. I have been sharing these wonderful plants and have relocated one row to along the old barn foundation. But the winter is hard on the old stone and ice has helped pop some stones onto the plants forcing me to rethink the location. I don’t mind the digging and relocating the plants but I do hate digging unbroken old lawn to start a new bed. But that is the joy of gardening, the constant moving and shuffling, the excitement with new plans and of course the simple pleasure of just gazing over the garden.
On a final note. I was rooting around in the garden this spring looking for the cotton underwear I planted last spring to gauge the health of the soil. With the greatest of confidence I popped them in front of a new clematis, easy to find. Then I added a variegated weigelia and some perennial hibiscus. Now not so easy to find. After a bit of careful rooting around, I decided they could have all been decayed indicating healthy soil full of microbes that can break down materials. But it may be that I just cannot easily locate them. So back to the basket and a ‘new’ pair of cotton underwear. This time there will be a stake with a flag! I think digging them up in the fall may be a better approach then waiting till spring. ◊
Rhea Hamilton-Seeger and her husband live near Auburn. She is a skilled cook and gardener.