The end of the year usually marks a roundup of posts. However, this year, I thought I would change things up a bit. Let’s look instead at a series of fantastic plant combos. I mean, we’re in the depths of winter, but the Winter Solstice is past. The days are growing longer, and it’s time to look ahead to the new year and 2014’s garden. The following are combos I saw around the country and here at home that I thought especially beautiful or striking. Will you agree? Let me know what you think.
Several are from my favorite nursery, Bustani Plant Farm which is always worth the drive. I make at least two trips out there every year, in spring and in fall. I go in fall to pick up any asters and non-asters Steve and Ruth found, along with other perennials, but I also go to look at the gardens in their full and bounteous glory. They use a lot of tropicals, and it takes heat to get these babies going. Oklahoma has plenty of summer heat. By Autumn, Bustani’s gardens and mine are at their peak, and I can see how things fared.
I know I’ll be adding ‘Anna’ and ‘Cathedral Windows’ coleus to my collection next year. Hard to believe I’ve never grown them, but I must rectify that. The striking plant in the back is Euphorbia continifolia ‘Atropurpurea,’ Caribbean copper plant–a long name for a very pretty tropical.
On the photo above, I’m not sure about the coleus. It could be ‘Large Marge’ or ‘The Line.’ UPDATE: Steve told me it is ‘Large Marge.’ The real impact of this combo comes from the play of light and dark. This garden sits in partial shade, and the plants look really good together. As you know, I’m a huge coleus fan. Foliage is very important in Oklahoma because summer heat keeps many things from blooming. Not so, for the Crossandra below, though.
Steve is really excited about this Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade.’ He told me it was one plant I need for my garden next year. It’s a very soft orange and would be an attention getter in a couple places in my garden along its sunny edge. One more from Bustani, and then we’ll move on. I think the combo below works because the coleus is only two colors, and the white shrimp plant stands out against them.
In my garden, I used a few old favorites to impact the lower beds. I bought the Pink Knockout roses on sale a long time ago before Rose Rosette began to claim the original Knockouts throughout Oklahoma City and Edmond. I now see it in Guthrie too. I’m just hoping my Pink Knockouts survive because I love them so. They bloom all season with very little care. I’ll knock them back by about half in February. Oh my, that’s not very far away. The variegated tapioca I buy from Steve every year. I’m thinking about growing it in large square terra cotta pots this year to get more height and have that solid color beneath to break things up a bit. I’ll run drip irrigation from my soaker lines to the pots so I won’t need to water twice a day.
Another combo from my garden. I grew the New Zealand castor bean from seed. I will again this year. I’ll start it indoors at the beginning of March or end of February. It’s tropical.
This was striking not just because of the size of the plants which are both over five feet, but also the color contrast and large, jagged, dark purple leaves versus the thin and reedy sunflower foliage. Note that the sunflower is perennial and needs a lot of space, preferably at the back of the border. This native is somewhat aggressive in a watered garden so I pull up about half of it at the beginning of spring and move it about in other places in the garden.
There are a lot of new elephant ears coming out of Hawaii, hybridized by John Cho, that can handle full sun or partial sun in many places. This is good news for us in Oklahoma. The combination, above, was at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I visited while I was at the Garden Bloggers’ Conference in September. It’s not a huge botanical garden so you can visit it in half a day or so. I don’t know if these pots are moved about a lot, but they were healthy and thriving when I was there. I’m betting the elephant ear is ‘Maui Gold.’ You can find it at Plant Delights Nursery. I am also excited about ‘Hawaiian Punch’ which is smaller and has red stems. Do I think these can handle Oklahoma’s full sun all summer? No, because we are too dry, but I do think they can stand a bit of morning sun here, and that gives us more options.
I must admit I have a love/hate relationship with purple waffle plant. Its crumply, bumpy foliage gives me the creeps especially when it dries up and starts to fall off in our heat. However, it is a great plant for morning sun if you don’t mind its other issues. I would probably replace it with ‘Black Patent Leather‘ coleus though.
Finally, one more from my garden, and then I’ll let you go. It’s good to review what worked and what didn’t. Armchair gardening can be quite satisfactory in the wintertime.