Different seasons, almost the same color palette on this slope planted with annuals at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The first two pictures, taken Saturday, show a perfect fall planting scheme of yellow, orange, and red enlivened by blue.
The next two images use the same color scheme but were captured in a springtime visit to CBG. Here, only one flower — poppies — is used to provide the red/yellow/orange tones.
White is the contrasting color instead of blue this time, but provided by poppies rather than introducing a different shaped plant into the mix.
Recently I posted about painting the house. I noted that we painted the foundation on the front side to provide an uninterrupted background for the garden. Because that garden is set into the slope you are looking at plants at foundation level.
When I mentioned that bit of information, fellow gardener and blogger Lisa at Greenbow in Indiana was curious to see what that looked like. So this is for Lisa, who Mark and I met in 2009 at the Spring Fling in Chicago which brought together garden bloggers from across the country.
In this picture you can see where the house front changes from boards to cement blocks. Painting the foundation gave this area a more finished backdrop. When you come around the house past the big tree on the right, the foundation is not painted. But on this side, most visitors are looking down at plants. Moreover they are usually looking at the side away from the house where there is a dramatic rock group. On the back side of the house, the dense plantings obscure the foundation and on the last side is our work area which we left "au natural."
Recent visitors to the garden have all asked me "What is that red flower?" before they were close enough to realize it wasn't flowers covering this bush.
What they were seeing was a bumper crop of seedheads on my woodland peonies, Paeonia japonica and p. obvata var. alba.
They are making such a dramatic colorful statement in the garden that I bought a couple of red Salvias (Cherry Queen) to plant in the across the path from the peonies, along with some Japanese blood grass.
If you are not familiar with woodland peonies, they are different from traditional peonies. You can read more about them by clicking on Peonies in my category list.
The Traffic Island garden is having a blissfully blooming summer.
There is only one problem: everyone is doing too well. Look behind the allium flower at the bottom of the image below and you'll see a Pelargonium (with red leaves) that has been subsumed by its neighbors. Hasn't died but not flowering either.
The Nasturtiums, Alliums and self-seeded Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'are doing so well out here that I think I am going to forgo the Pelargoniums in the future.
Perhaps add more coleus and call it done. This garden is in the middle of the street so it needs to be bright to be noticed.
When I bought the Pelargonium pictured below I did not realize it was a trailing variety. Though it is bright enough to be seen from a passing car, this image suggests it's best enjoyed close-up.
When we bought our house — 20 years ago this month — it had just been freshly painted yellow to increase its curb appeal. If the house had been covered with yellow aluminum siding instead of clapboards, we would not have bought it. We are the type of gardeners who want our house to fade into the background so the garden can shine. Yellow paint doesn't do that.
When it was finally time to repaint, we picked a Sherwin Williams paint called 'Seal Beach Green." We kept a file of all the paint brands and names we had used, thinking we'd just redo the house the same way when it finally came time to paint it yet again. And that's exactly what we did.
But this time we hired someone else to do the job so Mark could concentrate on the tea house and other garden projects. It proved to be a wonderful idea and a great experience because we found the perfect craftsman for the job.
Our painter, Troy Guglielmina, was meticulous in prep as well as painting. He pointed out various sections of wood that needed replacing and let Mark decide if he wanted to do that job or let Troy do it. He was extremely careful around all of our plants that were near the house. Troy was quiet, pleasant to be around and greeted us every morning with a smile. He and his family only live a couple of blocks down our street and we were all on the same page politically as well. A bonus which made conversation easy!
Mark is a hard worker and very meticulous himself but he said a number of times that Troy was doing a much better and more thorough job than he would have done if he'd painted the house himself. I said it felt like we were on vacation to not have to do this huge job ourselves.
Hiring a professional also meant that Troy was up to the minute on types of paint, what specialties each company offered and what products would be best for our job.
That knowledge was put to good use because we did a couple of things differently this time. We decided to paint the foundation along the front of the house the same color as the body of the house. Years ago our friend, garden designer and blogger Julie Siegel, suggested we do this so the front garden had a solid backdrop for viewing. She was absolutely correct.
The other big change we made was the color of the front door. Our house is a split level ranch or raised ranch, not really sure what they call this design. But what it means is that our front entrance gets lost and needed to be made more visible from the street and driveway. Color seemed the obvious solution.
As you probably guessed, I had a big file of house color ideas for both inside and out. We narrowed it down to two concepts, one using purple and an acid green and one relying on red. The building below is a store called Wa, located in P-town, Mass. Jim Charlier of the Art of Gardening blog wrote about it on Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. I printed out a photo of it a month later and squirrelled it away for future reference because our house is such a similar dark color.
It took two tries but we're happy with our color choice: Sherwin Williams "Pompeii Red." Unlike our previous paint job, we went with one color for the door, the surround and and the window trim.
However, our old bench doesn't quite go with the new colors. And painting it means we'd need to keep re-painting it, so we haven't decided its fate. But it is great for setting groceries on when unlocking the front door etc. so I hate to give it up altogether.
A new color, of course, meant a new plant to put by the entrance. I picked up a bunch of Rainbow chard plants at an end of season sale and added a pot of ferns with red stems.
Next summer I think I will pot up a big clump of Japanese painted ferns to put by the door. Their pale color will draw your eye in and their red/green color combo will reflect the paint colors in a much more subtle way.
We are finally getting some rain on our garden. Seems like most rainstorms have missed us since early July. A good soaking will really perk up these foliage plants which have been suffering from the dryness.
The bright green plant in the center of this first image is bamboo. For the first time since we began growing Fargesia rufa 'Green Panda' in 2006, it completely died back to the ground after last winter. We've been meaning to cut it back so we did that this spring as well. Mark took a hatchet to the perimiter to get it back to a size that is in scale with our garden. This is a clumping bamboo and has been well-behaved. But it is clearly going to take some time for it to get its full 6 foot height back again. In the meantime it is functioning like a shrub while it regains it strength and its girth.
I'm not good at over-planting spring ephemerals like Primula sieboldii (see hole in the middle of the picture) with late summer blooming partners. When this Shiso (Perilla frutescens) started to come up a few weeks ago, I realized I just have to transplant a few seedling in the bare spot where the primroses were and the problem is solved. I love the fragrance of Shiso and the fresh look of it in the garden at this time of year. You can use it in cooking but I tend to favor its ornamental qualities.Let it go to seed and you've got it forever.
I tend to think of Sedum 'Autum Joy' as a foliage plant and use it that way. Sedums are a strong presence in the garden from the get go, so I put them where their leaves will add to the mix and where their flowers — when they finally appear — won't upset the balance.
The WHPS tour of Jeannette Golden's garden last month offered myriad ideas for plant pairings, including great use of Clematis. Jeannette and I both garden under black walnut trees. They dominate her shade garden (first two photos below), so I took particular note of what does well under her trees.
Though, I must admit, much of the color and drama was in Jeannette's sunnier gardens. I realize my garden tends to concentrate on perennials and woodies. I rarely add annuals or tropicals, but it is those additions that really raise Jeannette's plant combinations to another level. They offer unusual colors and dramatic foliage that can be hard to achieve otherwise.
While I am not a fan of all white gardens, I have just as much trouble with gardens filled with a riot of color. I love orange and hot pink (think Phlox and daylilies) or orange and blue, so it's not that I can't tolerate bright colors smashing up against each other. But oftentimes — especially with summer annuals — there are so many colors fighting for attention, that it's easy to get visually confused. The one time that never happens is when I'm looking at a garden of daylilies.
They can be different sizes, singles and doubles and ruffles, pale or bright and it all works. The reason: daylilies come in a limited color palette. There are no true blues and purples so the spectrum begins with primaries red and yellow and their child, orange. Then the flower colors move into tints and shades of those three: A restrained riot, as this planting at Epic Systems in Verona aptly demonstrates.