Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
September, 2004
Regional Report

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The glow of sunset reflecting on these annuals captures your attention.

Orange You Glad

In the science of color theory, orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. Associated with sunshine and the tropics, orange represents joy, enthusiasm, creativity, determination, success, encouragement, and stimulation. Although a hot color to the eye and giving a sensation of heat, orange is not as aggressive as red. It has an invigorating effect, stimulating mental activity, and, according to the theorists, increasing oxygen supply to the brain. Could that be why this year's container plantings on my mother's back deck have been so successful?

Theory Into Practice
Using orange was certainly a big leap for this gardener who usually focuses on a palette of pastel blues and pinks plus white. When choosing annuals for the deck this year, I decided to break out of the mold and try something different. As the site is shady, impatiens form the core planting. What caught my eye were 'Dazzler Salmon' as well as the corals of 'Fanciful Tropical Mix' and some double impatiens (the tags have gotten lost, so I can't be sure of the variety). I planted a mixture of these in two window boxes that are attached to the deck railing. More of them were also used in mixed container plantings below the railing boxes.

Making Combinations
In wandering through the garden center with my flats of impatiens, I decided to make the combinations monochromatic. So the challenge was finding plants with contrasting textures but similar colors. An array of coleus beckoned. The coppery bronze ones I chose are part of Stained Glassworks series and included 'Tilt A Whirl' and 'Copper'. An upright fuchsia hybrid called 'Koralle' provides interest with its dangling, tubular flowers. Fibrous begonias with reddish leaves and red flowers add another dimension to the blend.

In addition to the mixed plantings, I potted up other plants separately to add various height levels to the grouping. These plants included an angel wing begonia with bright green leaves and clusters of red-orange flowers; a caladium with leaves spotted in white, red, and green; an orange-flowered tuberous begonia; and a New Guinea impatiens with variegated foliage.

Other Possibilities
On other parts of the deck, I contrasted purple and orange shades. I chose heliotrope, fringed lavender petunias, and lavender-and-purple-flowered petunias, as well as hibiscus, portulaca, and impatiens with yellow-orange flowers. In a large corner planter, I combined Sunsation 'Peach' nemesia; a peach-colored, dwarf nicotiana; 'Tiny Tunia' purple-flowered petunia; carex 'Toffee Twist'; 'Aztec Peach' trailing verbena; osteospermum 'Vanilla Symphony'; and a nameless tropical foliage plant with purplish bronze, pink, and yellow leaves.

My favorite part of the deck is, hands down, the monochromatic area. At sundown -- a perfect time to sit out on the deck -- the light on the array of orange flowers makes them glow. And, yes, I do feel a sense of joy, enthusiasm, and success. Maybe those color theorists actually do know what they're talking about.

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