Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2006
Regional Report

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The foliage of 'Powis Castle' artemisia, castor bean, and ornamental bananas keep the color coming all summer long.

Color That Lasts All Season Long

A landscape is the canvas on which the gardener paints. Just like there are many styles and techniques for painting, there certainly are many for gardening as well. But they all involve the use of color. Our gardens provide so much enjoyment in so many ways, not the least of which is the aesthetic beauty of a well-designed landscape.

There are many guides to help us achieve a pleasing end result when it comes to using color in the garden. The color wheel is one such guide. Colors across the wheel from each other are known as complementary colors, as they make dramatic combinations. Colors adjacent to each other on the wheel are called harmonious. Like music notes that harmonize, they are different yet go together to create a more beautiful combination than either one alone.

A common mistake of many new gardeners, and also a few of us veterans, is to use too many colors in a small area. While this may be okay when viewed up close, at a distance the colors seem to all blend into one confusing mix. It's better to use large swaths of color to get the desired effect. Masses or swaths of color provide a bold, attention-getting end result.

Summer Color
Here in the south we have to deal with this thing called "summer" every year. In the spring almost anything will grow and bloom. When the heat arrives and starts frying, broiling, or in the case of our more humid regions, poaching our poor plants, our color options are reduced significantly.

Despite the fact that the majority of spring-bloomers can't take the heat of a southern summer, we have many bullet-proof summer bloomers from which to choose. Plants like Yellow bells (Tecoma stans), salvias of various types, lantana, cuphea, and Blackfoot daisy keep on keeping on right through the heat.

A plant need not have blooms to be colorful. Foliage is our friend, especially in the summer season. Colorful caladiums, Persian shield, iresine, ornamental sweet potatoes, cannas like 'Phasion' or 'Bengal Tiger', or purple fountain grass all take color right through the summer season on into fall.

Don't forget grey and white as they are colors too. Aztec grass (a type of mondo), 'Powis Castle' artemisia, dusty miller, and lamb's ears are a few examples. In the shade white is an important color. It brightens up dark areas of the landscape, bringing interest to an otherwise unnoticed shady area.

So plan for some summer color this year. There are many great options for painting your landscape with color that last all season long.

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