Annuals, shrubs and small trees may augment this year’s red border
Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 8:00 pm
By: By Jimmy Williams
The Messenger 06.19.12
The summer solstice (on Thursday) is staring us in the face. After its occurrence, days will begin to shorten, imperceptibly at first, then more so as summer draws to a close in September.
The early summer sky is high, the sun bears down mercilessly, and the light is so strong that pastel garden colors bleach into oblivion, particularly at mid-day. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to enjoy your garden.
One significant way to save your summer garden from those fading conditions is to grow more strong colors. Reds, oranges, strong yellows, purples and the like will continue to stand out under the most brutal sun punishment.
We have a “red” border. At least it started out that way 20 years or so ago. There are precious few red perennials outside daylilies and a few others. I found out early on I would have to augment with annuals and shrubs, including roses. Even then, there wasn’t enough red, so I branched out to other hot colors.
I’ve reviewed that border before, but it has been some years, and things have changed there, with (relatively) recent additions and changes. So let us take another look:
Starting at the top (north) end, next to our lower drive, there is a permanent pot filled with summer annuals, i.e. Dragon Wing begonias, coleous, ornamental peppers, and whatever else strikes my fancy in spring. In October these go out and pansies and violas go in for winter. In recent “Gore”bal warming years, they have held up all winter.
Next is an azalea, Macrantha Orange, that flowers late, in May and early June, so as to contribute to the picture. An earlier azalea would have no flowering neighbors. One of those neighbors is Spigelia marilandica, the native Indian pink. It is not pink, but a good red, one of few red native perennials and it flowers in May and June with the azalea.
Behind all this is a trio of standard, not dwarf, nandinas. Though the rather innocuous flowers are white, they are followed by great swags of red berries, which add value for months on end.
Amidst this scene is a salvia, Black and Blue, with royal purple flowers subtly overlaid with a hint of red. It, alas, comes into bloom just as the Indian pink goes out. Usually listed as a zone 7 or 8 plant, it has been hardy for me for several years. Indeed, it is somewhat invasive.
A floribunda rose, Charisma, in here has rich coral red flowers fading to orange. Just the thing. One I bought last year at a mark-down bargain flowered weakly this spring, then bit the dust. I planted another just a couple of weeks ago. We’ll see.
There are several red daylilies also in this area, fronted with brown-eyed susans and one of the upright sedums, which does yeoman duty in hiding the sorry daylily foliage after the flowers fade. It flowers pinkish, and I grate my teeth for a while until it turns a rusty red for the duration.
Oh, I forgot. At the back in this area is another daylily, Challenger, one of the old Stout hybrids, I think, dating from the 1930s. A show flower it is not, with squinny, thin petals. The salvation is the red color and, most of all, late bloom time, August to wit, after other daylilies are only a memory. I have no show-table varieties, but only those which contribute in some way as good garden plants. They are rare.
Then comes another rose, the invaluable Home Run, a Knockout derivative that blooms almost endlessly through the summer. It is pure red unsullied with pink.
Fronting most of this are annuals, Dragon Wing red begonias, ordinary red wax begonias, “red sage,” coleus, vinca, celosia, impatiens, or whatever other bright colored ones I can find.
Time’s up, and we’re about halfway through the 60-foot border.
More next week.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
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