Everyday Gardeners

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You may have heard by now that the Pantone fashion color report has designated Tangerine Tango as the must-have color for 2012. This reddish orange tone is not for the timid! The vibrant hue makes a bold fashion statement, whether you use it in home decor or in the landscape. It’s a festive color that infuses a happy mood. But it can be difficult to use in combination with other colors. Try it with blues and purples, which are complementary colors. Or go with reds and yellows, which cluster with orange on the color wheel.

If you’d like to inject some fashionable color in your yard in 2012, here are some suggestions for flowers that provide a punch of orange.

Row 1 (left to right): 'Sunset' daylily, 'Nonstop Apricot' tuberous begonia, Oriental poppy; Row 2: 'Safari Tangerine' French marigold, 'Sunny Susy Orange' thunbergia, 'Sunpatiens Compact Orange' impatiens; Row 3: 'Vavoom' rose, 'Warm Igloo' chrysanthemum, 'Zahara Double Fire' zinnia

Row 1 (left to right): Butterfly milkweed, 'Dreamsicle' calibrachoa, California poppy; Row 2: Clivia, 'Campfire' crassula, 'Mystic Haze' dahlia; Row 3: Crown imperial fritillaria, 'Intrigue' canna, 'Landmark Citrus' lantana

The following is a guest blog post from Chris Tidrick a gardener, writer and photographer.

Although we’re only a short way into the summer calendar, I have a good idea which plants are going to be the highlights in my gardens. Summer perennials are lush with foliage and starting to bloom, while the annuals planted in containers and garden beds no longer resemble those tiny plants I purchased in flats just a few weeks ago. There’s so much competing for attention in the summer landscape, it often takes the unique plant or combination of plants to truly grab our attention.

This year, a handful of new plants and a couple of garden veterans are stealing the show in my garden.

Solenostemon ‘Twist and Twirl’

I grow a lot of coleus (Solenostemon), but the one variety that stands out is ‘Twist and Twirl’. True to its name, its burgundy, yellow, and green, deeply lobed foliage appears to dance up the main stem. More upright and narrow than most coleus, ‘Twist and Twirl’ makes an excellent choice for a vertical element in containers. I have found that it combines best with other burgundy and green coleus, as the bright yellow isn’t the most complementary color with other hues.

Heuchera ‘Cherry Cola’

Heuchera has taken garden centers by storm in the past few years, but I have to admit that I still waver when asked my opinion on this diverse group of foliage perennials. Perhaps I haven’t given them the proper growing conditions, but most Heuchera I’ve planted seem to simply survive rather than flourish in my garden. I’d slowly been giving up on them, until planted H. ‘Cherry Cola’, a cultivar whose new growth emerges a deep cherry red and slowly fades to a darker brown-red as it ages. When backlit, the plant appears to have glowing embers under the foliage. The foliage color, combined with an above average vigor, definitely places ‘Cherry Cola’ on the short list of attention grabbers this summer.

Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’

From Rudbeckia to Leucanthemum and many genus in between, the choices for summer-flowering, daisy-type flowers seem endless. One plant that is often overlooked is Helenium, or Helen’s flower. A number of cultivars are available, ranging from yellow to orange to red. In my garden, ‘Mardi Gras’ is the cultivar of choice. Standing 30-36 inches tall, it is covered in yellow-orange blooms from June through September.

Salvia ‘Black and Blue’

I’ve also been enamored this summer by ‘Black and Blue’, an annual salvia (S. gauranitica). The true blue petals of ‘Black and Blue’, which resemble Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) in form if not color, emerge from a nearly black calyx attached to the stem. In full bloom, the flowers of ‘Black and Blue’ appear to be tiny pennants run up along a ship’s mast. The foliage is green and indistinct, but forms a solid base below these outstanding flowers.

Achillea ‘Strawberry Seduction’

I’ve never been that attracted to yarrow (Achillea), with its weedy foliage and tendency to fade in the summer heat and overwinter poorly during our Midwestern winters. But as I was browsing a clearance table at a garden center last fall, the name ‘Strawberry Seduction’ and a two dollar price tag convinced me to give it a try. So far, it’s been worth far more in my garden. Planted at the base of a large ‘Jackmanii’ clematis, my small clump of  ’Strawberry Seduction’ manages to catch my eye every time I walk through the garden.

Hemerocallis ‘Kwanso’

Any discussion of the attention grabbers in the early summer garden has to include Hemerocallis. I grow nearly 30 different varieties of daylilies in my garden. While my collection focuses heavily on red culivars, including  ’Angel Fire’, ‘Ivory Edges’, and ‘Christmas Carol’, there is one I wouldn’t do without: H. ‘Kwanso’. A close, yet cultivated, relative of the much disparaged “ditch lily” H. fulva, ‘Kwanso’ commands attention with its double-petaled orange flowers and vigorous (almost aggressive) growth habit. While many of my other Hemerocallis specimens may get overlooked at first glance, ‘Kwanso’ in full bloom is undeniably a starring member of my garden.

Clematis ‘Rouge Cardinal’

While I’d be remiss to ignore ‘Jackmanii’ clematis that forms the focal point of my front border,  ’Jackmanii’ is so well known that it seems redundant to give it more attention. Besides, another clematis in my garden may actually be outperforming ‘Jackmanii’ this year. ‘Rouge Cardinal’ is finally coming into its own after growing on the corner of my home for several years, is covered with dark red-purple, velvet-textured blooms from June through July. After the petals fade, the seed heads that remain are beautiful in their own right.

Calibrachoa Cabaret ‘Hot Pink and Pelargonium ‘Happy Thought’

Often plants form an attention-grabbing combination in the garden. In this container that grows near the end of our driveway, Calibrachoa Cabaret ‘Hot Pink’ and Pelargonium ‘Happy Thought’ (zonal geranium) combine to form a trailing base below a dark pink tropical Hibiscus. The yellow variegation in the Pelargonium foliage offsets the orange-red flowers and forms a clear transition between the solid green foliage of the Calibrachoa and Hibiscus.

Lobelia ‘Crystal Palace’ and Impatiens Tempo ‘Cancun Mix’

Sometimes breaking the rules of gardening can lead to a unique plant combination. While putting my containers together, I had three leftover plants: Lobelia ‘Crystal Palace’, Impatiens Tempo ‘Cancun’ and a small division of a variegated Hosta. While the light needs of these plants are on opposite ends of the spectrum, I decided to push the growing conditions for all the plants involved because I loved the combination of the blue and salmon, with a slight interruption of the yellow variegation in the Hosta.

Those are just a few of the attention grabbers growing in my garden. Please feel free to use the comment feature to share those plants and plant combinations that are starring in your summer garden. Please join me at my blog, From the Soil, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

blog1Last week, for the third time in a row, I had the opportunity to judge the trial gardens at Costa Farms, near Homestead, Florida. At first blush, it seems an easy thing to do—just wander through bed after bed of beautiful flowers on a sunny Florida morning. But, in reality, it’s hard work, evaluating each plant on four important criteria: growth uniformity, foliage appeal, flower power/size, and consumer appeal. Fellow judges included Heather Will-Browne from Disney and Dr. Alan Armitage from the University of Georgia. Here are a few of my favorite picks (left to right, top to bottom) that you should watch for in your garden, this year or next.


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