17 November 2009
Colour in the Garden: Orange You Fond of orange?
Being as how NOvember is living up to its reputation as being a long, grey month (at least the cloudy days seem interminiable), I thought it was time to have fun with colour again. The colour du jour: Orange, in its various manifestations.
Orange: It’s a mixture of yellow and red, a secondary colour, named after the fruit by the same name. It’s a curious colour, because it’s been my experience that people either love it or hate it. I’m firmly in both camps. I wouldn’t paint my house that colour, or buy a burnt orange car (like my longsuffering did with a muscle car he had in his youth), and the only orange I willingly wear is blaze orange during the very occasional day during hunting season when I’m out riding my horse.
But in the garden!? Oh, jubilation. From the arrival of those yellow-orange crocus in spring (and that unique coral hyacinth, ‘Gypsy Queen), through the tulips and azaleas to the annuals and perennials that dance through the season, I have yet to find an orange I don’t like. Granted, I don't grow orange marigolds, dahlias or canna lilies, but only because I don't choose to grow those plants in any colour. There's only room for so much, after all. Even in my jungle.
I fell in love with Euphorbia 'Fireglow' the first time I saw it, down at Bayport Plant Farm, and had to have it. It does roam a bit but nothing like other rhizome-bearing plants. The bracts just get more and more spectacular in colour, and often we'll find a second production of flowers and bracts later in the season, possibly because I do let this plant spread in a controlled manner.
One of the new annuals I field tested this year was Proven Winners 'Flirtation Orange' diascia. It has been a fabulous annual, flowering its head off profusely all season. I remembered to shear it back a couple of times when it was getting a little scraggly, as they do, but this one stayed much more compact and floriferous than older cultivars. Plus I love the colour, of course. So in my books, we have a winner!
Because of course as with any colour, there are variations on the shade of orange. Amber, peach, pumpkin, carrot, coral, salmon, rust, vermillion…some have pink in them, some yellow, and all work amazingly with the opposite colour on the wheel, blue. The rich orange of this Mimulus aurantiacus, Orange monkey flower, with a blue lobelia hovering nearby, was a star all summer.
I love the colours blue and orange together;they bring out the best in each other, I find. Again, what I do in the garden I wouldn't necessarily do in putting clothing colours together, or painting my house, but the garden colours just work for me.
I was besotted by lantana years ago, and plant breeders just keep considerately creating more new, delicious colour variations. These plants aren't a problem here because they're only annuals; they don't selfseed, and the first real frost will take them out. But they are glorious while they're blooming, and butterflies flock to them despite the (to us) unpleasant smell of foliage and flowers.
The top one is Cherry Sunrise, and this is Tropical Fruit. I think.
Another plant that has entranced me in recent years is the Geum, with its blaze of yellow, scarlet, red, and orange flowers on various varieties. The plant at the top of this post is my favourite 'Cooky', while this 'Mango Lassy' comes in a close second. Both of my clumps have put up occasional sprigs of flowers since the main season passed, and 'Cooky' even obliged me with a few flowers as late as a couple of weeks ago.
This is a flower stalk from the well named 'Hummingbird Mint, Agastache 'Acapulco'. Everything about this plant makes me happy too--the way hummingbirds, bees and butterflies flock to it; the incredibly floriferous nature of the plant; the lovely lemony-minty fragrance, and oh yes, the fact that I overwinter the plant indoors so I'll have it up and blooming first thing in the spring.
As some of my readers know (I'm looking at you, Anna! ) I'm not crazy about petunias, but I love callibrachoas, or million-bells. They flower their heads off all summer, don't need deadheading, hummers love them, their colours are brilliant...is that enough reasons? This is 'Terra Cotta', which also comes now in a Super-Cal, a larger than callie, smaller than petunia, hybrid.
Meet 'Fireball' azalea, which stopped me dead in my tracks at a local nursery and demanded I bring it home with me. I can't argue with plants when they talk to me like that, and now it's out front near the echinacea collection, and with 'Kent Belle' Bellflower nearby to provide a punch of royal purple to the display.
Asiatic lilies have no fragrance, but they sure have brilliant colour. This is 'Cancun', which has been flowering carefree in our garden since the first year we moved to our house. I have another variety, currently without name, that is deep orange without spots, and another that is melon-orange; all of them are eyecatchingly lovely, especially planted near Purple ninebark (Diabolo) or deep blue delphinium.
That's probably enough for this post. Speaking of blue delphinium, there's a solitary, scraggly spike of sky blue delphinium blooming valiantly in the back yard, but it's too cold, grey and windy for this fair-weather gardener to go outside and photograph it today. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.