Guest post by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, the Seattle-based authors of Fine Foliage. When the bold punctuation of summer is s...
Planting Ideas: Rich and Composed Color

Guest post by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, the Seattle-based authors of Fine Foliage.

When the bold punctuation of summer is softened by the warm light of autumn, we have the time away from those busy summer days to take note of the quiet detailed harmony of our garden. We absorb the soft and subtle autumn color of a composition differently and appreciate their elegance in a new way. Olive tones rather than electric chartreuse, deep inky blacks rather than vibrating neon orange or faint tones of berry and rose take the stage where vivid, energetic violets and purples were soaking up the spotlight before. Even the container itself makes its way into the song as an upbeat player in this smooth jazz ensemble.

Why This Works:

The bold red berries of summer on the Hypericum in the background are giving way from clear green to deep fall color on the foliage while the berries turn ever more black by the day. The unique warm olive tone of the Hebe in contrast to the emerald green in the background and the texture of the very fine foliage to the larger broad leaves sets them distinctly apart. Blue-green succulents and soft rose blooms align magically because their hue is so similar. Drawing opposition to all of the warm tones, the Oregano blooms to the side of the container to complete the scene with a harmonic sweetness that the small orchid colored flowers offer up.

Key players:Hypericum ‘Ignite Scarlet Red’ is one of the most spectacularly colorful shrubs you’ll find for your garden. This compact beauty only grows to about 3-feet tall, with emerald green foliage that serves as the perfect foil for profuse electric yellow flowers that last all summer and fall, and contrast beautifully with brightly colored reddish-orange berries that eventually turn inky black in late summer and fall. It appreciates a bit of protection from the hottest sun of the day, but doesn’t need much! This drought resistant beauty is highly resistant to rust, hardy to -20 degrees and rarely bothered by deer.

Hebe ochracea ‘James Stirling’‘James Stirling’ is a dense, low, spreading evergreen dwarf shrub with unusual ochre-colored, scale-like leaves tight to the stems, and small, white flowers in short axillary branches from late spring. Blooming in early summer with small white flowers, this tough shrub will grow to 36 inches tall and wide.

Sedum ‘Lime Zinger’A new, very hardy succulent ground cover, with fantastic lime-green leaves edged in bright cherry-red. In late summer, the foliage color gets a blue tinge and soft pink flower clusters dance just above a dense colorful mat of disease-free foliage. This colorful, drought resistant workhorse is a perfect choice for mixed containers and mass plantings. Staying low, this sedum will grow to 4 inches tall and 18 inches wide.

Origanum ‘Hopley’s Purple’Origanum ‘Hopley’s Purple’ is one of those can’t-miss perennials, as long as the soil doesn’t stay waterlogged. The 15-inch-tall by 24-inch-wide arching stalks of round green leaves each end in sprays of violet-colored flowers during the summer months. This plant is a great choice for a rock wall, or to blend into the perennial border. This can be a bit of a reseeds freely, but is easy to control.


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