Check out this sweet Zinnia marylandica Double Zahara White (TM), which blends lime-green and cream into a 16-20″ mid-border or container option that won’t require staking.
Combined with the fountain grass- Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’ and a soft burgundy Alternanthera cultivar (another wonderful, under-utilized annual), it is a departure from my usual cacophany of color- a study in black and white.
Despite my past revulsion of the idea “gardening with children”, I think my granddaughters will dig the cute little seedheads on the grass. And, in a total 180 from my past self, that’s suddenly important to me! In fairness, when I began to garden it was my respite from caring for kids. Within reason, I am game to let my grandchildren in on the pleasures of having a garden.
One of my favorite parts of gardening is pairing plants and containers to create artsy compositions on my deck and at my front door. I choose flowers and foliage that complement the color or design of the pot, enhancing both. The same concept relates to cut flowers. I have a cupboard filled with vases- or vessels- as a good buddy refers to them. I fill them with flowers from my garden, the grocery store, or florist and try to always have fresh-cut flowers indoors.
Always the “flower snob”, a dear friend brought flowers from a great Pittsburgh florist after I had knee surgery. The bouquet was filled with cool colors- from the enormous blue hydrangeas to hot pink roses. On the color wheel these pinks, blues and purples lie side-by-side, or are “analogous”. Adding more interest was the contrasting mix of floral forms, from large spheres to the spikes of blue veronica and larkspur. While it looked really nice in the simple glass container, I pulled the entire arrangement out of the vase and plunked it into a blue transferware pitcher. This pitcher complements most anything from lilacs to sunflowers, but it perfectly echoed the lovely arrangement and made it distinctly mine!
A standard bit of advice is to head to the nursery, list in hand- specific to your garden, so you don’t return home with a carload of plants and no idea where to place them. BUT, if you’re planning to make broccoli yet you discover the stalks chilling in the produce section are pale and flabby, you must look to an alternative. Be open to plants that inspire and don’t cleave to that list at all costs. Like this pretty thing, found nowhere on my list: I have a terra-cotta pot in my garden that is always anchored by a lime cypress, which I typically surround with high contrast colors. This year a local grower had healthy specimens of Lavandula x intermedia Phenomenal™ (Phenomenal lavender). Offered by White Flower Farm at a hefty $21.95 per gallon, this soft gray lavender was loaded with buds and became a new accent for my old pot this year at a reasonable $7.99. I mean, if the broccoli sucks and the asparagus is fresh and crisp…toss the list!
Out went high contrast and I ended up with a monochromatic container of purples and gray. I combined the lavender with Calibrachoa Superbells® ‘Miss Lilac’ (million bells) and lacy Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost®
I’ve never embraced lavender because of its woody growth habit, but this cultivar has won accolades for strong performance from growers worldwide. After spending this season in a pot I will move it to a sunny spot in with the best drainage I can provide, hoping it will make a permanent home in my garden.
Purple. I don’t think it’s a color associated with being “tasteful”. Maybe it would be acceptable to the taste-police if combined with soft silver foliage, or some gentle pastels…but I love it paired with chartreuse. This portion of my garden would be considered “part-sun” to “part-shade” with some spots getting 4 hours of sun and others getting mostly dappled light in the early morning. Bottom left is Bletilla striata or Chinese ground orchid. It’s been happy in my USDA Zone 6 garden for over a decade, expanding happily in clay-loam which rarely dries out. The pops of chartreuse in this spot include the flowers of Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) as well as the arching blades of Hakonechloa macra aureola (Japanese forest grass). I’d like to also proudly point out the effective combination of the grass with an Acanthus (bear’s breeches)- species unknown-purchased 3 years ago and finally becoming a presence in the garden. The contrast between the two plants does not require any flower and will add interest to this spot from now until hard frost.
If you’ve never visited Chanticleer- a public garden in Wayne PA (just outside of Philadelphia)- you are missing a treat. The container combinations alone are worth the visit. Rather than displaying specimen after specimen of neatly labelled plants without any context for how to make them look awesome in your home garden, Chanticleer’s horticulturalists combine plants in inspiring vignettes. Loved this pairing of dusky purple Fritillaria persica and a buttery yellow tulip. Tulip time at Chanticleer is special. They added a frilly edging of spring green leaf lettuce. Tulips aren’t truly perennial, but with good drainage the Fritillaria is- albeit for years rather than decades (experience in my Zone 6 garden). In this formal courtyard the tulips will most likely be removed and, while the Fritillaria foliage ripens, a planting of annuals will take center stage for the remainder of the growing season.