Shades Of Green

DGW 2006_07_26 (31)The success of this window box has little to do with the flowers. The color of the foliage is the story. The blue green foliage makes the carmine purple petunias pop.  Though I have a big love for flowers, flowers come with green leaves standard issue..  As in pale green, medium green, dark green, yellow green, blue green, black green-you get the idea. Consider the leaf color when designing containers. A container garden is a landscape in miniature. When the spaces are small, every move you make matters.  Every choice makes waves.

DGW 2006_09_05 (10) This container has nothing to say about flowers either.  It has a lot to say about texture.  It has even more to say about a particular shade of green.  A great container is deliberate in exploring the relationships between all of the colors involved.

leaves (13)A succulent is not my most favorite plant. But this kind of green is available in few other plants.  Not every plant in a container has to be a favorite.  But every plant should be chosen for what it contributes to the mix.leaves (3)Grey foliaged plants can inform any color scheme.  I am a big fan of the Cirrus dusty miller.  The felted gray leaves look great with pink, yellow, purple , or white flowers. Gray green foliage in a container planting can cool off a hot color scheme.  Interested in a cool and serene scheme?  Choose cool green foliage over yellow green foliage.

leaves (16)I have never been so much a fan of gray in the landscape.  By itself, gray recalls rainy days, and not much else. But gray foliage in combination with other flower colors shines. Gray green foliage and white flowers-classic.  Gray green foliage and pale yellow-worth a look. Gray green foliage and red violet petunias-a happening.  Gray, white and cool green-a tri-color container color combination is rhythmic.

leaves (44)Medium green is a workhorse of a foliage color.

leaves (14)
Vinca vine is a most ordinary and widely available trailing container plant.  Give it another look.  This particular shade of green variegated with so pale cream yellow edges may endow your container planting with just the right shade of green.

polka-dot-plant.jpgdieffenbachia with white polka dot plant and lime licorice

leaves (36)Have a love for lime green?  This shade of green is electric. Should you have the idea to make a big splash, lime green foliage will make your hot pink and orange flowers glow.  An orange lantana standard will be lit from underneath, given an under planting of creeping jenny or lime licorice.  or this crazy corkscrew rush.

leaves (6)The new growth of almost every plant in the spring is one shade of lime green or another. If you have a mind to celebrate the opening of the garden all summer long, lime green plants are happy to oblige.

dieffenbachiapale green dieffenbachia will light up a shady spot.

leaves (54)lime green variegated potato vine sizzles.
leaves (42)lemon cypress

leaves (53)coprosma is a lime variegated plant grown for its glossy splashy foliage.  it grows 2-3 feet tall, and will do in sun and part sun.

leaves (24)This dark foliaged dahlia has brilliant orange flowers.

summer-planting.jpgSee what I mean about green?

Leaves With Largesse

My spring season has been notable for heavy and regular rains.  Every leaf seems twice its normal size, and twice as juicy.  As a result, I have been thinking about leaves with largesse-those leaves that reward a gardener’s eye with their generously scaled appearance.  Plants with big leaves always catch my eye; I love lush in a landscape. The Kong coleus series features big leaves.  But none of the series with color capture my heart like this green cultivar.  The leaves are like velvet-stunning.  

My photograph offers little in the way of scale, but these leaves are huge.  Bear in mind they are still growing in 4″ square pots-what will they do, given free range via an expanse of garden soil?  A case of 4″ pots takes up a lot of square footage-I think I will plant some of these coleus, somewhere.

Cannas have big blue green leaves.  This plant is a living sculpture-never mind the flowers.  They look dark green and juicy, even when the air temperature is close to 100 degrees.  This canna variety Orange Punch I planted in my roof boxes, and in the 6 pots in front of the shop.  I am intrigued by the color orange this year, but those big leaves will provide stature, volume, and scale appropriate to the size of the building.  The big green leaves of cannas-luxuriant. 

The heavy spring rains proved to be a big dose of multi-vitamins to my Sum and Substance hosta.  The leaves are so large this year they scrape the sides of my Suburban when I back out of the drive. Not so many plants that are hardy in my zone have that overscaled tropical look; large leaved hostas can grace large shady areas with hundreds of umbrella sized leaves.  All of these chartreuse umbrellas-looking good.

The coleus Rainbowe Festive Dance has extraordinary coloration.  Olive green, orange, hot pink-do you see the French blue green on the edges of those big leaves?  The coleus variety on the left side of this photograph has medium sized leaves, and muddy coloration.  This variety does not pique my interest nearly as much.  Big leaves, whether green or of color, are exclamatory statement in a garden.  I am talking about rhythm.  Big leaves slow down and engage the eye.  Use them where you want the eye to pause, absorb, and reflect, before moving on.  

My butterburrs-how I love them, and how I hate them.  The giant green leaves are a texture like no other in my garden.  The flip side-they are invasive, and impossible to eradicate.  Do not plant one, unless you have plans to live with it til death do you part.  I am forever chopping them out of places they do not belong.  Once I dug up this entire bed, and threw away every scrap of root I could find.  They came roaring back two weeks later.  I decided to go along with their program.  Early every spring Gary Bopp, the grower for Wiregand’s nursery, comes and digs out all of those plants that have wandered away from this bed.  He could easily come again-I see some popping up 20 feet away from this spot.  Their giant leaves make them worth having-just be prepared to do battle, regularly.     

The dracaena “Janet Craig” does not have giant leaves per se, but the width of these strappy leaves is considerable.  The chartreuse color makes it impossible to miss.  They are happy in deep shade; this makes them a very useful focal point in dark places. In fact, any sun whatsoever will burn the leaves.    

I have always planted caladiums in shady places.  Imagine my surprise seeing a municipal planting of this white leaved variety along a busy downtown street, in full sun.  They made such a strong statement in a visually confusing setting.  They were thriving-not a sunburn mark anywhere.  Some plants that ordinarily want some protection from sun can thrive in sunny spots, given sufficient water.    

Nicotiana mutabilis is one of my most favorite annual flowers.  I love that tall and airy look.  I usually pull off the giant leaves that growe at the bottom, so my underplantings can get some light.  This city of Birmingham pot I planted some years ago had no such maintenanace-and all for the better.  The giant leaves are as much a part of the beauty of this planting as the flowering stalks.   

Few plants have large leaves that could rival the beauty of this crested Farfugium Japonicum.  These giant, shiny and substantial leaves are an exciting visual study in big curves and flounces.  Would that they were hardy in my zone.  They are fairly easy to winter over indoors.  The yellow flowers, somewhat similar to their relative the ligularia, are not nearly so beautiful as the leaves.  Leaves such as these-a visual feast.

Favorite Greens

Though I posted last week at some length about my favorite greens, I was in fact telling a tale.  If I had to choose between lima beans and farfugium, I would gladly do without the lima beans. The vast majority of a garden is green-this makes picking favorites difficult.  But farfugium crispata has an especially gorgeous green leaf; large, undulating, and in this case, heavily ruffled. The trailing vinca maculatum has a thick glossy leaf, with both forest green and lime markings-but it is the habit of the plant that gets my attention.  This plant will send out runners all season long, and trail two stories, given the chance.  During the fall cleanups, I potted up every plant I had planted in containers in May.  They were still growing vigorously, the beginning of November. I am interested to see what they might go on to become next season. This green plant has it all over the traditional vinca vine one sees in container plantings. They would make a swell start for a hanging garden.     

Selaginella, or club moss, is a spreading green plant with tiny scale-like leaves.  They like moist shade, and will spread indefinitely if they are happy.  They make great container plants, in combination with upright growing plants that will not shade them out completely.  They are great in combination with begonias and tropical ferns.  This lime green version is especially handsome with a big leaved pepperomia.  The pepperomias-I cannot believe I left them off this list.  I like them all; the more the better.

Green and gold plectranthus is a vigorous and lax growing green planted, sporting large felted leaves.  They are related to coleus.  The plant can be pruned into shapes if pinched regularly-just like a coleus.  They grow large, so they need big company.  This zebra grass rises above the fray, as my friend Denise would say.   

Angelina is a succulent which is hardy for me. I have had it winter over in pots; I have had it stay green, wintering over in pots.  It trails just enough to make it good in any size pot. Any scrap of a piece that falls on the ground roots.  Willing, this plant. 

There are plenty of greens represented here-the panic grass is my urban version of a meadow.  The baltic ivy was here when I moved here, and it still going strong 15 years later.  I planted a few planted of lysimachia nummularia aurea-the lime version of creeping jenny, on the edge of this path.  2 years later it is holding its own with the ivy.  The combination of the two groundcovers is interesting.  Creeping jenny trails long in pots and window boxes.  It is equally at home in boggy locations, or at the water’s edge.  It will burn in full sun unless it has constant moisture.  The best lime color requires a part sun-part shade location. 

Polka dot plant, or hypoestes, has similar requirements. Popular as house plants, new cultivars such as pink splash, do well in containers in partially shaded locations. They can be made to grow in full sun locations, but you need be very mindful of the water. They make a great supporting cast plant for shade loving tropicals or caladiums.  As you can see, they mix well with lime licorice too. The white spots help lighten up a really shady location.     

Most places in my yard are green.  This large pot has a little white from a mandevillea and some petunias, but the lime nicotiana alata and gren and white plectranthus keeps the green dominant.  In a mostly green garden, the visual focus shifts to texture, shape, surface, volume and mass-all things that interest me.     

I do not miss seeing the concrete block wall that is completely obscured by this boston ivy.  600 square feet of concrete in the vertical plane-not so pretty.  This green plant securely attached itself to it, and grew without any attention from me. When it sheds its leaves, I can see that 15 years of attachment to this wall has not damaged it in the least bit.  I am sure I could write about good greens every week for years, and not get to the end of them.  This green part of gardening is great fun.