Everyday Gardeners

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sweet potato vine

The following is a guest blog post from Leslie Halleck.

With Halloween just around the corner, I find myself giddy with anticipation. I’ll admit that Halloween is my favorite holiday when it comes to decorating. As the designated “scary house” of the neighborhood, I feel it’s my duty to deliver not only on the sweets when the kids arrive, but also to max out the “creepy” factor. In addition to all the standard decorations that go into creating a house of haunt, I also like to create plant combinations that reflect the season. There’s nothing better than adding plants with black foliage to porch containers to complete the look and feel with some style.

Plant varieties with black foliage are hot right now, but plants with true black foliage are far and few between. One of the newest arrivals is the BLACK DIAMOND™ series of dwarf crapemyrtles. When I first spotted these beauties I knew I had to have at least one, and that they’d be perfect for Halloween container specimens. The plants sport spectacular black foliage that offers up a striking contrast to the five available flower colors. BLACK DIAMOND™  Pure White is my favorite; the bright white flowers against the dark black foliage are stunning. If you’re using the “thriller, filler & spiller” method of container design, these are definitely your thriller (which just happens to work perfectly with our Halloween theme, no?). When mature, these semi-dwarf shrubs reach a maximum of 10- to 12’ feet tall, but can be kept to a container size by tip pruning. Make sure you place them in a full sun location to keep plants in bloom and foliage color strong.

For an architectural modern look, Aeonium arboreum ’Zwartkop’, also known as black rose, is the perfect filler for a Halloween themed container. Aeonium is a striking succulent which forms clumps of tall gray stems that hold shiny rosettes of almost black leaves. These rosettes are often called flowers because of their shape. Another fantastic fall filler for your Halloween doorstep is Petunia ‘Black Velvet’. I adore this variety because the flowers are as black as can be with a velvety sheen to them. Don’t forget about black pansies or violas! ‘Black Devil’ offers up coal-black blooms with a tiny yellow center. They make for the perfect tabletop centerpiece when planted or displayed inside pumpkins.


A good container combination always benefits from a plant that trails over the edge…also known as your “spiller”. ‘Black Heart’ Sweet Potato vine is a vigorous creeping vine with beautiful heart shaped leaves. Foliage color is a deep burgundy to almost black. This annual is easy as can be to grow and can work in a full sun to part sun environment. It will also tolerate dry spells if you forget to water, which is a bonus if you live in a hot climate.  All of these black beauties create a striking contrast with combined with silver foliage plants such as dusty miller or Centaurea cineraria ‘Colchester White’.

Happy Halloween!

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Leslie is a dedicated horticulturist and gardener with more than 20 years of green industry experience.  She earned her M.S. in Horticulture at Michigan State University and her B.S. in Biology/Botany from the University of North Texas. Leslie is also a Certified Professional Horticulturist (CPH). She currently runs her own consulting company, Halleck Horticultural. You can read her growLively garden blog at www.lesliehalleck.com

 

 

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Last week I visited the Gardens at Ball in West Chicago, IL, and spent the day photographing hundreds of gorgeous annual flowers, perennials, and shrubs. The gardens are open to the public, and definitely worth a visit to get ideas on how to combine plants for beautiful displays and to see side-by-side comparisons of flower varieties.

Cocktail Mix begonia in a background of Alternanthera spells out the Ball logo in this vertical garden display.

Cocktail Mix begonia in a background of Alternanthera spells out the Ball logo in this vertical garden display.

Although the gardens are large, they're arranged into "rooms" that mimic the scale of home landscapes. See below for a close up of this combo.

Although the gardens are large, they're arranged into "rooms" that mimic the scale of home landscapes. See below for a close up of this combo.

Zahara Double Fire zinnia, Henna coleus, Mahogany Splendor hibiscus, and Silky Scarlet Asclepias combine beautifully in this hot border.

Zahara Double Fire zinnia, Henna coleus, Mahogany Splendor hibiscus, and Silky Scarlet Asclepias combine beautifully in this hot border.

This pillar of Wave Purple Improved petunia and Wave Misty Lilac petunia brightens the patio outside the employee cafeteria.

This pillar of Wave Purple Improved petunia and Wave Misty Lilac petunia brightens the patio outside the employee cafeteria.

Here's a close up showing how the petunia tower was constructed. Basically, it's a ring of galvanized fencing lined with landscape fabric, then filled with potting soil. The petunias were planted through slits in the landscape fabric. This looks like a pretty easy do-it-yourself project!

Here's a close up showing how the petunia tower was constructed. Basically, it's a ring of galvanized fencing lined with landscape fabric, then filled with potting soil. The petunias were planted through slits in the landscape fabric. This looks like a pretty easy do-it-yourself project!

Here's an idea for taming a slope. Large culverts were filled with soil and planted with Madeira colocasia, Marguerite and Sweet Caroline Light Green sweet potato vine, Silky Gold asclepias, and Snow Princess lobularia.

Here's an idea for taming a slope. Large culverts were filled with soil and planted with Madeira colocasia, Marguerite and Sweet Caroline Light Green sweet potato vine, Silky Gold asclepias, and Snow Princess lobularia.


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