Green

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Green is a secondary color, made from a mix of the primary colors, yellow and blue.  Greens made from lots of yellow, and only a dash of blue, we call lime green, or chartreuse.  Yellow and green mixed in equal parts I call true green; I cannot spot a yellow, or a blue cast.  Greens made from lots of blue and a dollop of yellow-the blue greens. But to a gardener, green is about much more than a mixing formula.  Green is the color of life. 

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I have never seen a landscape or a garden that did not have green as its dominant color. Why would I? Chlorophyll enables plants to live, be nourished, and grow.  Any experienced greenhouse grower can tell if a plant lacks for something a block away, by assessing its green.  A plant needing water goes greyish; a starving plant, and an overwatered plant will take on a sallow, yellowish appearance. Healthy, robust plants are robustly green.

DSC_0004Judging from the numbers of people I try to help grow healthy yews who cannot spot that yellow/green yews indicate a water or drainage problem, I think green is so pervasive in a landscape, people stop seeing it. If you are not tuned in to green, you are missing a good portion of the pleasure and satisfaction of a landscape. Designing with green in mind-don’t miss this.  

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My helleborus angustifolia suffers at the hands of our rough Michigan winters. The foliage is ratty and tattered by spring. But their green flowers make my heart pound, and the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Though my yews, so black green in winter weather, warm in the sun and turn juicy green, the hellebores are my first flowers.  Fresh green, they are. They are a sure sign of life in my garden. 

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I like color.  This means I like the green as well as the red, pink, orange, brown, blue, orange and yellow.  This all green planting I like as well as a great stand of echinacea. Green enchants me as much as any other color.  By the way, that stand of echinacea will be all the more striking if it is companion planted with a blue green panic grass. The blue/red, or magenta flowers look so beautiful with blue/green grass.  A garden is about much more than the flowers blooming. 

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White Christmas caladiums light up a shady area.  The variegation is not really white; it is a very pale green. Depending on the light at any given moment, they can be a lively visual discussion about the beauty of green.  These leaves are very thin.  Substance in any natural material refers to its thickness.  Thin substanced leaves transmit light well, and glow.  

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Many shades of green are represented in this pot.  Variegated licorice has a decidedly blue cast; pair it with Dallas Blues panic grass-subtle and gorgeous. The trailing Kent Beauty oregano is blue green as well-the nicotiana alata lime is the center of interest in this pot as it stands out, as it is the only yellow green element. Design is very much about deliberate.

2007 Birmingham Pots 9-5-07 (14)
Green can be dark and moody.  Inky fingers coleus, and black calocasia are black greens.  The dark medium green borders on the Inky Fingers are just light enough to describe the dancing form of the coleus.  The dash of lime licorice-an exclamation point. 

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Lime green is so fresh, it speaks to spring.  New growth is this color-on yews, the flowers on the maple trees, the willow trees whose branches tell the story of the spring sap rising. Growing green is pale green. Lime green in the summer landscape can provide juicy definition to a shady area.  It can provide punch every bit as good as a blooming plant.  Lime green is fresh respite-plant it where you need this.

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Nero di Toscano, the Tuscan blue kale, is distinctively blue green.  I hear people eat this-but I just want to look at it.  It gives great companionship to this blue columnar juniper; the delicate blue green variegated licorice and showy oregano are like a frothy slip at the base. This design is much about proper scale for the planter, and contrasting textures, mass and shape, line and direction, rhythm-but it is so very much about the color green.     

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Were I pressed, I would have to say Nicotiana Alata Lime is my favorite flower.  Everything about it delights me-the simple shape, the nodding habit-but most of all that lime green.  I never tire of them. My taste in garden and landscape plants has evolved over the years. My intent to design with  the greens in mind did not come to me my first day gardening-I was very busy trying to get some decent horticultural practices in place-among a thousand other things.  The fact that gardening still energizes and enchants me after all these years-I chalk that up to the greens.

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