An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

February 13, 2016

Summer Color 2015 I

     Like I did last year about this time, I want to make use of a weekend spent inside. It is too cold to venture out, and the garden has been dusted with some of that horrible white stuff, so it will be a good time to look back at this past summer. As I said last year "These are all shots of the annual display beds taken last summer at the Norfolk Botanical Garden where I work. My team is responsible for their design, planting, and maintenance, and it takes a lot of collaboration to pull off. It is hard work, but we do get help, and I think it is one of the best parts of my job."

     Let's start at the Front Entrance where a busted blue and white Greek dinghy was our jumping off point. It's been a long time since the boat held water, in fact the bottom was mostly gone which was an advantage using it as a planter full of Lantana 'New Gold'. We planted edible rice behind it to evoke a marsh, and blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) and Evolvulus 'Blue Daze' to evoke water. The large elephant ears (Alocasia x calidora 'Persian Palm Maxi') where for a fun textural contrast.
Front Entrance (3)

Front Entrance (5)

Front Entrance (1)

     We are fortunate to have space in our nursery to overwinter tropicals and other tender plants, and we like to reuse some of them from year to year in different combinations, and in different locations. The previous summer we loved how well Cyperus papyrus King Tut® did for us and wanted a repeat at the Toll Booth, where it formed a backdrop for Colocasia esculenta 'Coffee Cups', Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus), and hot pink New Guinea impatiens.
Toll Booth (1)

Toll Booth (2)

     One of my favorite combination of colors includes various oranges with blacks and smoky purples, and I was able to indulge this in front of the Visitor's Center. The main plant was a dark sugar cane, Saccharum officinarum 'Pele's Smoke', whose height, color, and movement I love. We received a small clump of it in a plant trade with the Virginia Zoo, and our propagator was able to make about a dozen additional plants for me.  Around its base we planted Zinnia 'Zowie Yellow Flame', a bronze sweet potato vine, 'Black Pearl' ornamental pepper, Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost', a black basil (which was quickly overwhelmed by the other players), 'Sedona' coleus, coral Stachytarpheta, and one of the absolute best annual lanantas, 'Landmark Sunrise Rose'. Somewhat sad to me, we are converting some annual bed spaces to more sustainable plantings of perennials and shrubs, and this was the last time annuals were to be used in this bed.
Baker Hall Fountain Bed (1)

Baker Hall Founrain Bed (1)

Baker Hall Founrain Bed (2)

Baker Hall Fountain Bed - Lantana 'Landmark Sunrise Rose' (1)

     Within in sight of the above bed is one also now no longer planted with annuals. Here we used a few of the same plants, but swapped Cordyline 'Red Sensation' for the sugar cane.
Baker Hall - Parking Lot Bed (2)

     In the Sensory Garden we had mixed results, mainly due to soils that tend to hold moisture and a summer of several wet periods. Our main floral components were to be Bidens 'Goldilocks Rocks', which didn't like the extra moistue, and Lantana 'Little Lucky Red' which did poorly everywhere it was planted, not just in this garden. The bananas, coleus, bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), red fountain grass, and purple hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus) seemed to like the extra moisture.
Sensory Garden (3)

Sensory Garden (1)

     In containers it can be easier to control the moisture, and in large matching bowls on a terrace behind the Visitor's Center we chose some very drought tolerant plants, which did well all summer. In the center of each pot was an Agave americana, which was surrounded by several varieties of sedum, Gomphrenea 'QIS Carmine', two colors from the Pizazz series of Portulaca, a yellow Lantana and my new favorite trailer, Dichondra 'Silver Falls'.
Baker Terrace Matched Pots (1)

     On the same terrace under a large overhang, we kept a collection of potted tropicals and annuals. It is a good way of bringing things out of the nursery for our visitors to see, and the tropicals thrive in our summer heat and humidity.
Baker Terrace  (2)

Baker Terrace  (1)

Baker Terrace - Clerodendrum paniculatum 'Firefly' (1)

     We will end this post here before I risk losing your interest, or taxing your bandwidth. Next time we will venture out a little further into the garden.


  1. Now I wish I could be around in June. Beautiful combinations and loved the boat garden.

  2. What is that last plant? It's amazing.

  3. You know I love your garden and your plant pics; especially at THIS time of year. But I must confess to being amused that you are being kept inside by a "dusting" of snow. Cheers from your chilly Scotian chum.

  4. Wonderful combinations! I am considering going with a purple/orange combo design for my new garden in front. I usually stray off course when I try to do color schemes. I want that clerodendron - do you know any sources?

  5. Oh, thanks for sharing these, Les. The colors in your photography are so rich and it's so refreshing to think of summer right now! We're just pulling out of a polar blast, so your post helps me to feel optimistic that we might just be crawling out of the winter now. Is it time for your "Winter Walk-Off" challenge soon? ;-)

  6. Thanks Les. I needed a little summer just now. As you know I love "your" garden!

  7. Wow, amazing color! I feel warmer already.

  8. Bravo! Beautiful beds and a great taste of the summer to come!