Hello fellow gardeners! Hope you and your plants are not suffering too much in this heat. Just remember to hydrate yourself first, then the plants. My topic for this week has been inspired by a gentleman who recently requested that I design a plan for his backyard in Menifee – his main request was for color in his garden. So, I think it’s a very appropriate topic as I know when I first started gardening I thought, as do most people, that color came from flowers. That is true to a certain extent, but I am going to teach you why, how, and what you can plant in your garden that will go far beyond flowers.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love flowers, however, the problem is keeping them blooming. You usually have to “dead head” regularly to keep a plant blooming, since the entire energy of the plant is basically devoted to setting seed and propagating itself. Once it flowers and those flowers set seed, it figures its job is done and it can rest for awhile, unless you “dead head” – cut off those flowers so that it will bloom again and again.
Let me get back to the topic of the gentleman’s garden that I have re-designed for him. He had neglected it for some time but what I noticed most was that without the few flowers there, and there weren’t many, all the plants were basically the same shade of green. He noticed this as well, so what I added are various plants that are not just green (some aren’t green at all) but also blue, grey, chartreuse, burgundy, and multi-colored. Many bloom, some don’t, but now it doesn’t really matter, because his yard will look colorful and interesting whether the plants are blooming or not.
There are many types of plants that are called “variegated” – that is they have at least two colors in the leaves, sometimes yellow and green, as in “Golden Euonymus,” a very common landscape shrub here in Southern California. Sometimes, they may have three colors, such as the glossy abelia variety ‘Kaleidoscope’ or one of my favorite shrubs of all, and the lowest of maintenance, the Nandina’s – Gulfstream.
Many of these plants have several seasons of interest, nandinas have small spring flowers, multi-colored leaves all summer, and then red berries through the winter. Not only do you want to look for plants that have lots of different colors in the leaves, but also various forms and textures for even further interest in the garden.
Some plants that I love to use include Lambs Ears (large grey, soft, fuzzy leaves, a low growing plant), Blue Fescue (a small bluish clumping grass, great for ground cover), Japanese Barberry (dark burgundy leaves), and lavender (many varieties, great form and color in garden, Grosso is a good one to try).
Remember to get varieties that can handle the heat and the cold. We get nights in the 20 degree range so plants have to be hardy and able to take not only the heat but the winters as well.
Although this is not the ideal time to plant in the garden – possibly another month or so – I would like to mention fall color, as that’s always a welcome sight isn’t it? As far as I’m concerned, if we’re talking trees here in this area – there are three incredible ones for fall color – the “Chinese Pistache” is one, “Liquidambar” another, and the multi-talented “Crape Myrtle” is yet another good choice.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas for adding color into your garden. Flowers are great and you can find many at any nursery but look beyond those as well so that when they are not in bloom your garden will still look colorful and beautiful.
Next week I will be starting a two part discussion on “Design Basics” in the garden – until then, head on outside and enjoy your garden!