Coleus: Rainbow Foliage for Containers and Gardens (Timber Press, 2008, $29.95) includes lush photos and descriptions of over 225 cultivars, organized by plant type, leaf shape and size, and color or pattern, such as red with yellow edge or black-flecked. Author Ray Rogers includes chapters on history, propagation, troubleshooting, sporting and reversion, and training topiary. Coleus don't perform particularly well in the low desert's summer heat, so now is a good time to peruse the book in preparation for cooler weather planting.
I was intrigued by some of the red leaf choices, such as 'Crimson Velvet' or 'Red Ruffles', which would make unusual holiday choices in place of poinsettias. At mid- and high-elevation deserts, coleus performs in summer, but it won't take the winter cold. The chapter on coleus culture provides extensive info on temperature, soil, sun exposure, and overwintering that will help you grow coleus successfully wherever you garden. Details and photos in other chapters, although specific to coleus, provide inspiration for designing with color, texture, and form, as well as creating unusual container combos. If you like vivid color in the garden, this book will offer ideas.
Clever Gardening Technique
Have Containers, Will Travel
Take your containers with you to the nursery and mix and match potential plant combinations on-site. Look at container combos at the nursery for ideas and ask personnel for recommendations. This helps maintain your color scheme and you head home with sufficient plants. It's so annoying to arrive home, start planting up a masterpiece and realize it needs just a little something else.