Painting with Perennials

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Painting with Perennials

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Powell Gardens’ Perennial Garden is ablaze with summer blooming perennials. The 3-1/2 acre garden has nearly 1,500 varieties of perennials. Walk along its brick paths and you will see many ideas on how to combine perennials into colorful compositions. Here are a few that captured my attention this morning:

This composition of hot colors is centered with a clump of Firehouse Asiatic Lily and surrounded by red-flowering daylilies (cultivar ‘Al Baker’ left, ‘Indian Love Call’ background and ‘Scarlet Orbit’ right). A red-flowering Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) in the lower right ties right in. This composition really gets the heart pumping and is not a good choice for a relaxing outdoor space.

Cool blue flowers like this Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) contrast with warm red-flowering daylilies and enhance the beauty of each. Look for this composition and Russian Sage used as a backdrop to daylilies along the walk from the Trolley Stop into the garden.

Warm yellow flowers like this Savannah Asiatic Lily also contrast nicely with cool Russian Sage blossoms. These colors are actually complimentary on the color wheel–the lily is yellow and orange and the Russian sage is actually violet-blue.

The strong light of these near solstice days make yellow and white glow. The shady woodland backdrop reads black and really sets off the form of the plants as well. This spectacular stand of Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum) is in the prairie border of the perennial garden. The white flowers are the native weed Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron annuus) — we always leave a few for color but it does reseed too much and requires thinning and removal.

This stand of a similar and related huge perennial, Texas Coneflower (Ratibida maxima) would be more dramatic with a dark background. Even though yellow-flowering, this perennial is used in our “blue” border because of its green-blue leaves (and not its bold form). The coarse texture of the leaves also contrasts wonderfully with adjacent, finer textured (smaller leaved) perennials.

Even though solely in shades of green, the form of this native grass — Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix) make it beautiful all by itself with a turf and woodland backdrop that don’t compete with its delicate beauty. Bottlebrush grass is locally native in open woods and savannas and prefers some shade.

The smoky rose plumes of the Karley Rose Pennisetum grass echo the the smokey pink flowers of Sweet Sixteen Mallow (Malva). Both these perennials have performed extremely well for us and are showy for a very long time in the summer perennial border. You rarely see them in other local landscapes or gardens.

Back lighting really sets off some perennials. Light catching Sweet Sixteen Mallow and spiky steel blue Sea-holly (Eryngium) look even better with warm colored daylilies blooming in the background.

Pastel compositions are a favorite of many gardeners as the colors are soft and soothing. This composition is quite sophisticated with spectacular Highland White Dream Daisies (Leucanthemum x maximum), Lady Emily Daylily (lower right), a pastel pink Asiatic Lily and interwoven Summer Pastels Yarrow (Achillea).

Cool colors take the heat away from this hot day. The composition includes Blue John Veronica with the spiky flowers, a touch of Franz Schubert Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) and the leaves of Texas Coneflower for contrast.

Huge Variegated Giant Reed (Arundo donaxVariegata‘) looks even better with a mix of Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea cultivars) at its base.
White flowers are very nice in hot weather and perfect for an outdoor “after work” relaxation space. These flowers will glow into dusk and shine in moonlight. Royal Respect L.A. Lily in the foreground and Flower Power Phlox (Phlox maculata) in the background really work well together.
Some flowers are so dramatic they are at there best all alone. This is the weak vining Clematis ‘Florida Sieboldii which always catches attention with its striking flowers.
The Perennial Garden offers many ideas of how to combine perennials in the home landscape. It provides garden interest at all seasons but from now through September it is at it peak of summer colors. All color ranges are utilized with areas themed for white, pastels, reds, blues; sun or shade, native plants, etc. There is surely a composition inspiring for you so bring your camera and pencil and paper to capture ideas to recreate at home.
All images taken by Alan Branhagen at Powell Gardens’ Perennial Garden on June 26, 2009.