October 23, 2009

Shuffling Plants for a New Garden

Have I told you lately that I love to combine purple and orange blooms in the flower garden? I put together a design idea and the new color-themed garden is now almost finished.

To help me visualize the color and plant combinations, I looked through my photos and matched up bloom times. I played with the photos until I had my spring, summer and fall bloom plan. I started an inventory of the perennials in the photos. With some garden rearranging and plant shuffling, I could fill the new area quite easily.

Except for allium 'purple sensation' bulbs and annual larkspur seeds, all of the plants came from my existing gardens. In other words, this was an inexpensive project.

I claimed prime real estate that was being used as a holding bed. The new garden area is at the top of the slope above our large willow tree - in deer country, bordering the meadow between the south and east gardens. It is also a full sun, southeast location so all plants were selected for similar growing and water requirements.

Spring color will kick off with purple blooms of nepeta 'Walkers Low', allium 'Purple Sensation', salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna', verbena 'Homestead' and larkspur 'lilac spires' (annual).

In summer, orange blooms of agastache aurantiaca 'Navajo Sunset', echinacea 'Sundown', crocosmia and asclepias tuberosa will be accented with purple spires of agastache 'Purple Haze' and ground-hugging verbena 'Homestead'. If I need additional purple blooms, I have plenty of skinny verbena bonariensis as well as petunias that can be transplanted.

The foliage of the other perennials, as well as stachys 'Big Ears Helen von Stein' will keep the garden from looking barren after the purple spring bloom. The existing nepeta has frilly foliage while the existing crocosmia provides blades as well as a buffer to the red in the butterfly garden. The existing asclepias tuberosa foliage may be eaten by the caterpillars of Monarch butterflies, but that's part of the plan, too. The larkspur will be pulled after blooming and the allium foliage will disappear.

I have allowed enough space to relocate a few plants for fall bloom, probably using my salvia greggii 'Ultra Violet' (short) and salvia leucantha (tall) to bring more purple back to the garden for the final bloom season. Those are too tender to move now and will have to wait next spring.

Dark purple foliage would be a nice accent in this area. It is difficult to find dark foliage that can stand up to the full sun and the deer. Unfortunately, deer will eat the taller sedum that I would love to use in this garden. I have a sufficient supply of sedum 'Purple Emperor' that I could move. Purple salvia officinialis or purple basil are potential candidates for adding next spring, too.

The primary perennial players include:

Tall background plants, over three feet tall, consist of agastache 'Purple Haze' and agastache 'Navajo Sunset'. I have enough of each to create a mass planting, though I wish I had enough 'Black Adder' to use instead of 'Purple Haze'. The agastache pair are suitable for zones 6-9, need full sun and well-drained soil and are deer and rabbit resistant. These will provide a long bloom season from summer until frost.

A meandering planting of orange echinacea 'Sundown' wind between the tall agastache and five purple salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'. The coneflowers (1 - 3 feet high) are fine for zones 4-9, full sun and well-drained soil. I haven't had a deer problem with these, but I have to watch out for the rabbits. The coneflowers will bloom in June and will bloom again with deadheading.

Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna' is a good spring-blooming perennial with dark purple, upright spikes. Suitable for zones 4-8, it works in a variety of soil types (even clay). It is deer and rabbit resistant. I am using five plants and have another group of three. If the spikes are left on this salvia, they will reseed. The plants are about 24" high and 18" wide. The foliage is pretty after the blooms are gone, so a mass planting of 'Caradonna' makes a nice ground cover, too.

Since it is fall, I will keep the plants watered well to help the roots establish before it gets too cold. Here in zone 7, perennials that can be safely planted in autumn are much larger, and bloom better than spring-plantings for the first season.

I'm pretty excited over the purple-orange color theme garden since these are familiar plants that I can count on for good performance next year. I do have a lot of holes to fill in the other gardens from where I stole the plants - I try to view those as more redesign opportunities rather than wrecked spaces!

Photos and words by Freda Cameron; Home Garden
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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