Color my World: Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop

Front garden, Early Summer 2007. Purple coneflower and ‘Belinda’s Dream’ roses harmonize, while silver artemesia and chartreuse Salvia greggii foliage add a little punch.

Like many gardeners, I love color in the garden. Pinks reign in the front, reds and blues in the back. At this time of year, when my winter garden is mostly green and tan, it’s fun to look back at some of my favorite color combinations for this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop hosted by Gardening Gone Wild. Check out the comments at GGW for other bloggers’ posts about color in their gardens. It’ll brighten up a winter evening.

Most of my pinks in the front are hot pink, like this Autumn sage (Salvia greggii ). Not only does it bloom spring through fall with periodic shearing, its foliage releases a fresh, minty fragrance when you brush against it. If you like to harmonize, it looks great with other bright pinks like purple coneflower, roses, rock rose (Pavonia ), and skullcap (Scutellaria ). I particularly like it with silvers (agaves, artemesia) and purples (Salvia leucantha ).

While Frances at Faire Garden goes for dark, near-black foliage, silver is fast becoming my favorite foliage color in the sunny front garden. Silver plants tend to be drought- and heat-tolerant, and they moderate clashing colors with aplomb. Put something silver between hot pink and orange, and you can get away with it. Here silvery ‘Whale’s Tongue’ agave lets orange bulbine share space with my hot pinks.

Silver looks just as lovely with pale pink. ‘The Fairy’ rose teams up with ‘Powis Castle’ artemesia for a cool combo.

Lately I’ve been adding silvers in the form of stock-tank planters. This one shows off some silvery plants that work well in part shade with well-drained soil. I especially like this silver and purple combination: American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana ) in back; in the stock tank, from left to right, silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea ), squid agave (Agave bracteosa ), black sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Black Heart’), Manfreda maculosa ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave, purple heart (Setcreasea pallida ), and gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida or E. biglandulosa ).

Another silver stock tank fulfills its manufactured purpose by holding water. It’s a 100-gallon container pond in my back garden. Beside it, purple oxalis contrasts with golden-yellow black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’).

The back garden, though shadier, is hotter—in terms of color. Here I favor reds and contrasting purples and blues, with golden yellow thrown in for good measure. In this photo, Texas betony (Stachys coccinea ) heats up at ground level, its red echoed in the old motel chair, and purple iris and golden zexmenia (Wedelia texana ) occupy the high ground.

Bat-face cuphea (Cuphea llavea ) should be Austin’s mascot plant thanks to our bat fixation. For contrast behind it, I’ve got purple fall aster (Aster oblongifolius ).

More red and purple under the cedar elm: Texas betony, purple heart, and native spiderwort in spring. Unfortunately, the smoke tree visible in the upper left corner has gone to the garden in the sky since I took this photo. Not of natural causes either, I’m afraid. It just never tolerated the heat (or dryness) of my garden very well and always looked ratty by mid-summer. Plants, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen—I mean garden.

More betony! More red!

I’ll end with a different color in my garden—the orangey coral of ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine (Bignonia capreolata ). In about a month, I should be enjoying this sight again. It almost makes this winter-loving Southern gardener wish for spring.

All material © 2006-2008 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

21 Responses

  1. Nan Ondra says:

    Holy cow, Pam! Having already seen what you can do with color in your garden, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what you came up with for this month’s GBDW. It was worth waiting for! Oh, that crossvine…(need to breathe…breathe…okay now, whew). And how nice to see your echinaceas again, even if they’re not looking quite like that in real time. (They aren’t, are they? With you Austinites, I suspect anything is possible.)

    Well, thanks, Nan. That’s very kind of you. Can you grow crossvine in your zone? It doesn’t bloom all summer, but it sure puts on a good spring show.

    I’m afraid I must have built up the echinacea beyond its ability. Nope, it’s not flowering right now, though there is one in bud—unless a freeze gets it. I may have to do a post about those little troopers, just to set the record straight. ;-) —Pam

  2. Lovely, Pam. Although I use a lot of silver and pink, I never thought of Powis Castle with ‘The Fairy’ rose. Great photo and combo. The agave peeking through the feathery leaves of the orange bulbine is also so magical. Great texture.~~Dee

    Thanks, Dee. I’m guessing you already have ‘The Fairy,’ since I now know that you’re growing 90 roses in your garden. —Pam

  3. Frances says:

    What wonderful color combos. The bulbine is my fave, followed by the betony. I would like to see if they could grow here. The betony looks similar to the salvia greggii, we grow lots of those here, with the occasional loss over winter, but worth replacing. Can’t wait to see your garden in person, and you of course!

    Frances at Faire Garden
    are you aware of the list of drugs at the bottom of this page?

    The bulbine is said to be freeze-tender here, though I’ve never lost any. I believe it’s zoned for 9 through 11, so probably a good, hard freeze would kill it. The betony, a Texas native, might work for you, however. Looking forward to meeting you too, Frances.

    I don’t see the list of drugs you mentioned. I just asked my husband to check from his computer, and he didn’t see it either. Can you give me any more specifics about where you saw it? —Pam

  4. jodi says:

    Oh, WOW! These are just so wonderful, especially the bignonia and that wonderful orange bulbine–neither of which would grow here. Such wonderfully rich colours, Pam, a real tapestry of delightful flowers, foliage, textures…sigh. It’s snowing here again….;-(

    Snow? That’s OK, Jodi. It doesn’t look like this in Austin right now either. Many of these photos were snapped in April, May, or June. —Pam

  5. Robin says:

    O.K. I’m now having to wipe the drool from my keyboard. I sat and stared at that first picture for several seconds before I could pull myself away. The rest of the pictures were just as fabulous. I love pinks in the garden so these are magnificent eye candy for me.

    Thank you, Robin! I’m glad to know you enjoyed the pink fest. If you like the way that top photo looks, I wish you could smell the plants in it. Salvia, artemesia, and roses—yummy! —Pam

  6. Diana says:

    You have such a lovely sense of cottage style in your garden. The design is lovely. I can’t wait to see it in person @ GBSF! empathize. I finally put my head down today and started pruning, digging, cleaning, and it felt GREAT! I was so eager to get out there, and there is so much left to do! Aaack … it’s almost Spring!

    Thanks for the kind words, Diana. I bet you had fun in the garden yesterday. It was a little warm for my taste (80s!), so I waited for the cold front, and I’m going out today to do some trimming and mulching. Yippee! —Pam

  7. Kylee says:

    Pam, there’s just so much to love in all these photos. Of all the gardens I see in blogs, yours is one of my absolute favorites.

    Why, thank you, Kylee! Your comment warms my heart. —Pam

  8. Frances says:

    Under the submit comment box was a dense list of “buy(alphabetical list of drugs, like prozac) here”. It was all drugs beginning with the letter ‘p’ and filled the page to the bottom in white print. It is not there now. How that happened is beyond me, or who you could contact. I’ve never seen it before anywhere. No one else commented on it so ????? I would let your carrier, or whatever it is called know, wordpress? You can delete my comment if you don’t want that up. I should have done a seperate comment on it, thought of that later.

    I’m concerned about any type of spam, Frances, so thank you for mentioning it. I don’t know what caused that since I couldn’t see it. But I think I will contact my server. Thanks again. —Pam

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    All of your color combos look great Pam. I think with all your silver you could put some more of those darks in there. Like your one picture of the stock tank with a little dark plant in front of it. Yummm looks good. That Crossvine is to die for too. Its blooms look so plump, like they are ready to explode with even more color. Yummm just love seeing all this color especially today while it is raining and so drab here.

    I’m glad you enjoyed my color fest, Lisa. Yes, the dark-purple leaves of oxalis and purple heart do look good with the silvers. However, Texas gardeners don’t seem to have as many dark-foliage plants to choose from as gardeners in cooler climates, and they tend to be shade plants here, not sun lovers. As I noted, my dark-leaved smoke tree just couldn’t take the heat; it defoliated every summer. But the ones that will grow here do add a wonderful contrast to the silvers. —Pam

  10. What a color festival! While the Fairy Rose & Artemesia combo is straight out of Sissinghurst, the rest of your garden is oh so Texas in mood. Those bright colors just scream heat to me. I love the old motel chair & the silver tanks – they add so much to the garden pictures. I can’t wait to see it in person.

    Thanks, MMD. I just hope it looks as festive and colorful when you (and everyone else) are here. I’ll be out there every morning that first week of April saying, “Bloom, plants, bloom!” —Pam

  11. jocelyn says:

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos of your garden, Pam.
    I love plants with silver foliage too, and have discovered that not only are they heat and drought tolerant, but that they also tend to be “evergreen”—a great asset in my zone 5 garden!

    Ever-silvers are wonderful, aren’t they? And they often have interesting texture too—feathery like artemesia or fuzzy like lamb’s ears or smooth and spiky like agaves. —Pam

  12. Nicole says:

    Just breathtaking! Once again you’ve given me loads of ideas for the new garden-love the silver combos and the mass plantings of color. I think our climates are similar for about 9 months of the year. That ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine is spectacular.

    Thanks, Nicole. I wonder if our climates are that similar? Certainly heat-wise. But the Caribbean probably gets more rain in the summer, I would guess, while we get more in the winter. Anyway, interesting thought. I hope you can get your hands on a crossvine. It’s a wonderful plant. —Pam

  13. Phillip says:

    Okay, that does it. I’m buying a crossvine this year! I have a spot that is partially shaded but I’ve heard that it blooms well with some shade. Is yours in full sun? All of your photos are just breathtaking. Your garden is just fantastic.

    This crossvine gets about a half day of sun in the summer, and it’s true that they’ll bloom in part shade. I hope yours does well for you. I can just imagine how great it would look near your purple wall. Thanks for your kind words about my garden, Phillip. —Pam

  14. I love your Bignonia capreolata. I’ve never seen that before. Where is that wall? And is the plant fragrant?

    The crossvine is growing on a wooden privacy fence in my back yard. In two or three seasons, it’s pretty much smothered the fence, but it’s well mannered and stays there. I don’t recall any fragrance, unfortunately, but its chalky flowers are a lovely sight for several weeks in spring, and it is evergreen the rest of the year. —Pam

  15. Carol says:

    Pam, you say that first picture is from spring? Spring as in early April? Is that what we should expect of your garden when we are there for the spring fling? You have so much fun color in your garden. It looks like such a happy place.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens (where the first crocus bloom was spotted today!)

    Alas, that top photo was taken on June 3 last year. But roses will definitely be in bloom in April, and much else as well. I hope I haven’t just jinxed everything by writing “definitely” though. Spring in Texas is unpredictable. Last year on April 8, we went from 78 degrees to the 30s with sleet. We don’t want that for our Spring Fling! But don’t worry—that’s not typical. We’re more likely to be in the 80s. —Pam

  16. Nicole says:

    Pam, different islands get different amounts of rain and in different seasons. For example, Trinidad’s rainy season is June to December, when there are heavy, torrential showers. October/November is often dry, and called the “petite careme”. By contrast, the small island I currently live in is quite dry, certainly drier than where you live, and mainly gets rain August/September to March/April; but except for a hurricane, the showers are hardly ever torrential or long lasting. I don’t even own an umbrella, here.
    I guess what I meant by climate wise is that obviously we share the ability to grow a lot of the same plants. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for a crossvine!

    I never think about the tropics as being dry, but you’ve set me straight. :-) Now that I know you’re growing all those topical beauties on so little rainfall, I’m even more impressed. —Pam

  17. Bonnie says:

    Oh thank god! I looked at that first photo and thought “WTF, how does Pam have that much color and those plants in her garden now, in winter??????” Then I saw the caption. But really, stunning combinations. Thanks.

    Ha, ha! I wish, Bonnie. I’m just hoping I have a decent show of color in time for the Spring Fling. —Pam

  18. germi says:

    I can’t wait to see your garden in person!!! That Bignonia practically made me fall off my chair. You are a constant source of inspirtation!

    And I can’t wait to see you in person, Germi. The Spring Fling is just weeks away. —Pam

  19. You inspire all of us with this wonderful look back at the color in your garden, Pam – so many happy plants! You’ve made an enchanted place. If we have a “normal” April it will knock the socks off the Spring Flingers ;-]

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose
    AKA the Bulbine Killer

    Oh, but wouldn’t an enchanted April be wonderful?! Thanks for your kind words, Annie. I look forward to seeing how your white irises add to my spring show this year. —Pam

  20. Nicole says:

    Pam, you’d be even more impressed if you see the “soil” ie limestone rock LOL. I can understand your perception of the rainfall, as of course the media often shows these torrential showers, monsoons etc. It’s always interesting to me to learn of the perceptions people have of the Caribbean, as that’s often indicative of what the media portrays. On a related note, not a few people in the Caribbean actually believe shows like Miami Vice and the movies are reality!
    Several of my American colleagues who are now friends give me lists of the many, many ideas and misconceptions they had before they traveled here. The most frequent is that the Caribbean islands consist of one people and culture-not only are the people of each island different, but within some islands there is a whole range different cultures and societies. My American colleagues often have trouble understanding people whose second language is English (eg when we work together in Asia) and I end up the “translator” many times in conversations. I never have any problems, and I think it’s because I grew up in Trinidad, among a whole range of people with different accents and intonations.
    The second most frequent perception is that the islands are geographically the same. They are different, that’s why there are different climates, soil, etc. hence gardening is different in each one. they can be loosely grouped into lush and fertile eg Trinidad, Dominica, Martinique, St Vincent. Dry and limestone eg St Maarten, BVI, Anguilla, and those in between like Antigua, Barbados.

    I’ve been to St. Maarten, so you’d think I would have remembered how dry a Caribbean island can be. Interesting stuff, Nicole. You should write it up for Jodi’s Where in the Gardening World Are You? meme. —Pam

  21. Pam Kersting says:

    Pam– I am breathless! What terrific plant combinations! WoW! You are a terrific gardener! I want to know what the orange flowers are in front of the silver agaves? I really love your style!

    Welcome, Pam. Thanks for your very generous compliments. I’m blushing. The orange flowers are Bulbine frutescens, which are nearly ever-blooming in Austin. —Pam