Monday, April 18, 2011

Color in the Garden: A Spring Panoply

Often when we think of the garden in springtime, we think in pastels: pink cherry blossoms and lavender lilacs, pale yellow crocuses and daffodils and pale blue scilla. Splashes of color no matter the hue are welcome after a long, dreary winter.

As glorious as those aforementioned flowers are, I think gardeners need not be so limited in their imaginations and experiments. I like to treat color in forms other than flowers, and in hues richer than pastels.

My springtime rear garden--a mix of shade and part-shade beds--illustrates the diversity of spring color. And foliage is the primary mode of underscoring the depth of the garden experience even in the early to mid spring period.

Greens, for instance, need not be boring. Rather, the sheer diversity of the shades in which greens appear demands that we think of and use foliage in ways that accentuate their strengths and variances. The chartreuse Lysimachia accentuates verdant grass and the deeper hues of the Lady in Red Hydrangea, not to mention the deep evergreen of the Camellia (not pictured). The golden margins of the Golden Tiarra hostas (already ascending to prominence so early in the season) echoes the chartreuse tones--all the while both find their foil in the rich green and burgundy leaves of the ajuga, whose lovely spikes of deep blue-purple flowers are beginning to burst.

The Mountain Fire Pieris japonicas, still dripping with strands of diminutive white bell-shaped flowers, offer new growth of deep, vibrant red, while the Bonfire Euphorbia contrasts nicely with the lime-green Sum and Substance Hostas, and the blue-gray hues of the Cobalt-blue bearded iris leaves. The Bonfire Euphorbia, by the way, offers dramatic clumps of yellow flowers in spring--and those, I think will provide a nice parallel to the bright golden single-petaled flowers of Kerria japonica.

The blues of Brunnera's puffs of florets find complement in the blue-gray, increasingly towering spikes of the not-yet-unfolded Solomon's Seal (just visible to the right of Brunnera), while the White Feather hosta's unique contribution to the spring garden (partly occluded by the Ostrich Fern) finds resonance in (and is simultaneously highlighted by) the white margins of the (ordinary) hostas I've situated throughout the garden.

And the Obsidian Heuchera pulls out the salmon undertones in the new growth of the Hakuro-nishiki Dappled Willow.

Though one color in particular, of all of the colors in my spring garden, stands out: orange.

No, it is not the orange of my prized Orange Marmalade Hosta.

No, it is the brilliant sheen of the orange Gramsci-cat. He turns his back to me, frustrated, as he awaits my departure so that he may once again knock over the cage that protects the very expensive, and very slow-growing, Hakone Japanese forest grass. The boy has expensive taste to be sure...

No comments:

Post a Comment