August 13, 2007

Combinations of Color in My North Carolina Garden


We’re always looking for inspiration for great color combinations in the garden. The color palette should reflect the personal taste of the gardener. To me, one of the biggest challenges with color combinations is finding perennials that bloom at the same time. I believe this is why annuals are so popular – they bloom together all summer long. If I can’t have blooms, I try to bring in color with foliage plants. In a new garden like ours, we have allowed spacing between the perennials to allow for future growth. As such, it can be difficult to get the full effect (especially in photos) of a color combination for a few years.

I’ve seen gardens of others with jaw-dropping color combinations that I can only dream to replicate! Here, growing in my North Carolina garden, these are my favorites for 2007.

In the spring, our lavender and dianthus (cottage pinks) bloomed at the same time. The purple lavender and pale pink blooms lasted for weeks and weeks. The spicy fragrance of the dianthus permeates the garden when grown en masse. The lavender blooms and foliage provides a soothing fragrance. So, I consider this duo to be my #1 color (and fragrance) combination for our spring garden. When these two are not in bloom, the foliage is still beautiful. I shear both with the hedge trimmer after the blooming is finished and within a week or so of new growth, they look lush. These two also stand up well in our hot summers, yet the blue-grey foliage provides a cool look in the garden. I like purple-red foliage next to these, such as a purple heuchera (coral bells). Lamb’s ear is a fuzzy silver foliage plant that also looks great with these two. Actually, it’s hard to find a color that doesn’t go well with the foliage. I give the dianthus a little more water than the lavender, but otherwise, I consider them to be easy-keepers. We have found the dianthus to be uprooted by either deer or bunnies when it’s located outside our cottage garden fence.


For big impact, think big plants. This is the first season that I’ve tried elephant ears. I selected colocasia esculenta fontanesii to plant on the sunny side of a magnolia virginiana (sweet bay magnolia). The big ears work so well with the magnolia, but I wanted some color. The mauve veins and hue of the stalks in the ears seemed to be the color to bring out. I planted buddleia ‘pink delight’ and a monarda (bee balm) of the same mauve color. In the shade of the ears, I planted heuchera with burgundy and amber foliage. This is my #2 choice of favorite combinations. We have drip irrigation around these plants. Other than deadheading the bee balm and butterfly bush, there is little maintenance. I fertilize the elephant ears whenever I fertilize the brugmansias and cannas in the garden.


For combining colorful foliage with colorful blooms, I have a tie for my #3 favorite, but one is in the blue family and one is in the red family. A Moench aster combined with purple sage is just glorious. I have to go look at this combination at least twice a day! Purple hypericum (a shrubby St. Johns Wort) growing alongside coreopsis ‘Heaven’s Gate’ is the tie for stunning colorful foliage and blooming perennials. The hypericum has some small yellow blooms, but mostly it’s a foliage plant that looks the same all season. The asters start blooming in July and bloom until frost. The coreopsis started blooming in June and with shearing, will repeat until frost.

I’d love to hear comments about the favorite color combinations in your garden!

Happy Gardening!

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Defining Your Home, Garden & Travel

Home, garden and travel tips by Freda Cameron

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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