Choosing Color and Texture for the Garden

Choosing Color and Texture for the Garden

Part of Ep. 1501 Garden Design

Mark Dwyer from Rotary Gardens in Janesville offers wonderful ideas for garden beds focusing on color and texture.

Premiere date: Mar 03, 2007

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
When designing a garden bed, or redesigning a garden, sometimes the most difficult decision is what to put in it.  There are so many choices out there, it can be overwhelming.  I’m at Rotary Gardens in Janesville.  I’m with the Director of Horticulture, Mark Dwyer to try to help narrow down our choices.  Mark, there are so many neat things out there.  Where do you start? 

Mark:
That’s a tough one.  We all struggle with that.  My recommendation, really is to go with some tried and true winners, something that’s maybe been tested or evaluated.  Along those lines this huge collection of plants we have back here is part of a program called All-America Selections.  These are award-winning seasonal plants many of which would be perennial in our climate.  They’ve been tested since the 1930s. 

Shelley:
You’ve got stuff in here that is an A-A-S winner, an All America Selection winner, since 1930.  Who’s testing these? 

Mark:
There’s a series of test gardens around North America.  We’re one of 175 display gardens.  However, to date, this is the most extensive collection of historical winners. 

Shelley:
So, it’s happening all over North America.  They’re reliable almost anywhere in North America in order to be a winner. 

Mark:
Exactly, they should grow well for the majority of the country.  Again, they’ve been tested throughout. 

Shelley:
We’re talking some perennials, and some annuals.  Some of these will even bloom from seed the first year? 

Mark:
Many of them will bloom from seed the first year.  Many are offered as bedding plants.  Look at your seed catalogs to find these historic winners.  Look for the little "All America Selections" logo. 

Shelley:
And even vegetables? 

Mark:
Exactly. 

Shelley:
So, we’ve narrowed down the choices.  That’s still a number of years since 1930.  Color is usually the first thing I choose my plants by.  Let’s talk about how to pick color for this garden. 

Mark:
Sure, you know, color is a subjective thing.  But in terms of what we do here, we try to balance color in terms of hot colors, like yellows and reds that draw the eye quickly.  And cool colors, like blues, maroons, and deep greens help balance the composition. 

Shelley:
So, kind of cool down the hot colors? 

Mark:
It’s important to never forget to include white in the garden. 

Shelley:
I tend to forget it all the time. 

Mark:
White is sort of the intermediate color that really ties things together, whether it’s white foliage or white flowers. 

Shelley:
That’s the thread that’s sewing the whole garden together. 

Mark:
Exactly. 

Shelley:
Let’s talk about some of the ones in this garden that are really standing out.  I first noticed the pink.  This is just gorgeous.  It’s beautiful. 

Mark:
That’s called Diascia.  That’s a Diamonte Coral Rose variety.  It’s a twinspur.  It’s a very small flower.  It’s not one you notice from a great distance.  But as you get closer, it’s very delicate and beautiful. 
Shelley:
And what I really like about it it approves one of my temptations; I love blue.  I’m always planting blue plants.  Well, looking at these two together, the blue looks better when it’s next to something that’s not blue. 

Mark:
It sure does.  Well you alluded to a great neighbor here.  This is Salvia farinacea Victoria Blue.  We plant these by the thousands.  It is a great All-America Selection winner, not only for the great blue color but that upright shape.  That’s something to consider as well your flower architecture, your shape of the flowers. 

Shelley:
You don’t want everything to be a low-growing ground cover.  You want a variety of heights and shapes in your garden. 

Mark:
Right, tapering height is enough of a struggle, but if you can vary the shapes of the flowers by mixing daisies and spires, buttons, trumpets.  It goes on and on in terms of the shapes.  But mix those up and you’ve added more interest--

Shelley:
So, more places for the eye to rest.  In fact, like the rudbeckias the daisies you’ve got there, are just gorgeous this time of year. 

Mark:
That’s a great representation now.  That’s Indian Summer Gloriosa Daisy.  That’s good architecture as a flat daisy.  A nice platform for butterflies.  That yellow is toned down by the blue salvia.  So, it’s a great combination. 

Shelley:
They look better because they’re beside each other.  Either one by themselves wouldn’t have that same punch. 

Mark:
Right. 

Shelley:
Then, I notice the vertical element behind it, the millet. 

Mark:
Right, that’s Purple Majesty Pennisetum.  That’s a great upright.  It’s an ornamental grass.  It’s a seasonal.  It has an interesting architecture and flower shape.  And that combination of maroon is offered from the entire plant. 

Shelley:
You’ve got the foliage, and the seed head.  And you’ve got that purple repeating back into the daisies as the center, too. 

Mark:
Right, that’s a subtle touch that makes a huge difference. 

Shelley:
Gorgeous, it almost looks like you’ve planned it.  Okay, what is the giant thing in the middle that almost looks like it’s going to attack us?  I assume those are morning glories. 

Mark:
Those are morning glories.  They’re very vigorous at this time of year.  Buried underneath there is an obelisk or a vining structure that helps support it.  In this case, we’ve made the vine the high point of the garden in terms of tapering up to it. 

Shelley:
Everything kind of goes up to it. 

Mark:
Right, and all the colors segue up into that section and again it’s an All-America Selection winner, but it’s vigorous, interesting and again, it’s a focal point in this space. 

Shelley:
You use obelisks without that large of a plant on it as focal points in other places.  The pink obelisks look like you’re taking a real gamble with pink but they work beautifully. 

Mark:
In spring, when there’s nothing around it, the pink obelisks were criticized.  But the intent there was growing vines up them so the combination of that obelisk and the plant is very important.  People consider plant-to-plant interaction.  But remember, hardscape elements, like the obelisks or containers, on the side of your house, anything.  It all creates that outdoor room, that garden space. 

Shelley:
Don’t think of gardens in a void.  They are part of the entire setting, the environment. 

Mark:
Definitely. 

Shelley:
We talked a little about foliage with the purple millet.  Do you have some other favorite foliage plants where we’re not focusing on the flowers? 

Mark:
Actually, one of my favorites is over here.  It’s another All-America Selection winner. 
Shelley:
Ah, look at this!

Mark:
This is wonderful Look at the great, dark, deep maroon foliage.  This would combine well with yellow or white as a neighbor.  But as you get a little further into the plant you start to notice some fruit. 

Shelley:
These are hot peppers.  Hot, hot peppers, I bet. 

Mark:
Try it, we’ll find out. 

Shelley:
No you try it first. 

Mark:
A wonderful plant, this is Black Pearl.  You know, when you consider foliage, consider color, but also bold verses fine texture.  But this is a great plant, I think, with lots of uses. 

Shelley:
It’s an ornamental edible.  And I just learned that mammals don’t like the hot pepper seeds, so it might even help with the bunnies. 

Mark:
Utilitarian, as well. 

Shelley:
Thanks, Mark, these are some great ideas. 

Mark:
You’re welcome. 

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