September 24, 2012

Color Inspiration at the Berkshire Botanical Garden

PURPLE NICOTIANA ADDS A BRIGHT NOTE TO A VIOLET AND BLUE BORDER. HERE IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW MASS PLANTINGS OF ANNUALS CAN BE EFFECTIVE IN BORDER PLANTINGS, AND HOW COLOR SCHEMES WORK WHEN MULTIPLE TINTS WITHIN A COLOR FAMILY ARE USED TOGETHER.



THE BERKSHIRE BOTANICAL GARDEN IS WORTH VISITING IN ANY SEASON, BUT AUTUMN BRINGS ALONG MANY DISPLAYS OF LATE-BLOOMING PLANTS, SOMETHING WE ALL COULD USE MORE OF.

I often visit the Berkshire Botanical Garden located in the quintessential New England Village of Stockbridge, MA. I spoke at a meeting of the New England Chapter of the American Primrose Society, and then attended their auction of rare and unusual primula species grown by members for trade and sale (remember, plant societies are some of the best places to find unusual and hard-to-find plant species).  After the meeting, I had a little time to walk around the gardens and grounds, now in the late autumn lushness with many species of perennials and annuals squeezing in their last hurrah before a killing frost arrives, perhaps even as soon as tonight.  Botanical gardens offer something for everyone, it doesn't matter what your level of expertise is, there is always something new to learn. I left the day with a list of must-get plants, some, species that I have never seen before,


THE PURPLE BORDER HELD MANY PLANTS, PARTICULARLY LESSER KNOWN ANNUALS FROM SOUTH AFRICA, MANY SALVIA SPECIES AND CUPHEA. THE ENTIRE SPECTRUM OF BLUE AND PURPLE IS REPRESENTED HERE.

 One garden in particular captured my attention - an inspirational border composed mainly of purple flowered annuals. In many borders, I could see that volume is important , as well as texture. If I viewed this garden above in June, I would have no idea what it could look like when fully matured. An annual with wirey stems such as Salvia or Cuphea would be wasted if planted singles, or in clusters of three as many books suggest.  But if planted in groups of 20 or 30,  a cloud of color is created. Pale green stems, tiny leaves and specs of colored blossoms suddenly blend, creating an entirely new effect, it's not about the size or color of the blossom alone, one must consider the mass effect, the light and the density of the planting. In the above image, each annual creates its own texture. Imagine if the garden designer above used only one 6 pack of ageratum, or four cuphea? Taking photos at well designed gardens will help you plan schemes in your own garden.

 A NEW SPECIES AND A NEW COLOR

CUPHEA VISCOSISSIMA, A NEW ANNUAL FOR ME, AND RELATIVELY NEW IN THE TRADE - I COULD NOT EVEN FIND IT IN MY BEST GARDENING BOOK ON ANNUALS. I AM NOW IN SEARCH FOR SEED. I HAVE FOUND PLANTS AVAILABLE FROM ANNIES ANNUALS.

Just when I thought that I've grown every single annual in the world, I find something new - at least for me. I've been familiar with Cuphea for 20 years, but only with the Cigar Plant, a common greenhouse annual with red tubular flowers that look like lit cigars. The genus Cuphea is not a small one, with more than 250 species, it is varied and had many common plants grown commercially and ornamentally. Recently some hybrids have been selected for a genetic trait to be 'ever-blooming', sold under brand names by Proven Winners. All are lovely, and often look even better in fall, like many Mexican natives like Dahlia.  

The Cuphea at the Berkshire Botanic Gardens was mislabeled ( an easy thing to do!)  as  the newly introduced hybrid Cuphea 'Vienco Purple', but I've identified it as Cuphea viscosissima - a native species from Mexico.   I was so captivated by the overall effect in this purple garden ( it's warm Pantone Purple shade is enhanced when other shades of purple are used with it), that this Cuphea has taken the number one spot on my must-get list for next year.  I am now on the hunt for other species to try. Also known as Tall Violet Cuphea, or Blue Wax Weed, Cuphea viscosissima is a newly introduced species, not yet discovered by most gardeners. I predict that many Cuphea have not yet been exploited by the garden trade, and that this one is just the beginning of a long line of species surely to come along soon.  


MORE JAPANESE ANEMONES, REMIND US ALL THAT ONE CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH OF THIS FINE OLD PERENNIAL. AGAIN, PLANT IN DRIFTS FOR THE BEST DISPLAY

BLUE AND GREEN, A CLASSIC COMBINATION, BUT THE BEST GREENS COME NOT FROM ZINNIA 'GREEN ENVY' WHICH CAN FADE IN THE SUN, BUT FROM NICOTIANA.

CONTAINERS OF TENDER PLANTS ON A GRAVEL DRIVE AT THE BERKSHIRE BOTANICAL GARDEN

RUDBECKIA, NOT REALLY AN ANNUAL, NOT REALLY A PERENNIAL, THE BEST PLANTS ARE ALWAYS GROWN FROM SEED EVERY YEAR, NEVER EXPECT THEM TO COME BACK OR LIVE LONG

DISCOVERING THE SECRET OF GAURA LINDHEIMERI


I HAVE HAD TROUBLE GETTING THE AIRY EFFECT THAT THIS GAURA  LINDHEIMERI HAS ACHIEVED,  ANALYSIS REVEALS THIS IS NOT A SINGLE PLANT - TRY SIX  OR EVEN TEN PLANTS GROUPED TOGETHER. IT'S AN INVESTMENT, BUT WORTH IT ONCE YOU SEE THE RESULTS

DETAIL OF GAURA BLOSSOMS. THERE WERE MANY VARIETIES PLANTED IN THE BORDERS, AND EACH ONE HAD A DIFFERENT EFFECT, YET EVERY VARIETY WAS SPECTACULAR. THIS NORTH AMERICAN NATIVE DESERVES A REVISIT IN MY GARDEN.

AT THE OLD FARMHOUSE, TENDER TROPICALS SUCH AS THESE ALOCASIA MIX WELL WITH SALVIA, CANNA, NICOTIANA AND BRIGHT RED CUPHEA.

DOUBLE WHITE COSMOS MAKE ORDINARY SINGLE COSMOS SEEM, WELL...ORDINARY


3 comments :

  1. Purple Nicotania! Who knew? I thought it only came in white, except for those dwarf 'Little Nicky' plants, and I've never seen those in purple either.

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  2. Anonymous11:26 AM

    Matt,
    You might try Ginny Hunt/Seedhunt for Cuphea seed. She was selling a decade or more ago as Cuphea viscosa. We used to sell it in Tiverton that long ago, believe Brian Magowan/Blue Meadows did too, and Kathy Tracy/Avant Gardens may still. In New England it works well as a reliably self- sowing annual.
    Best,
    Ed Bowen

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love all these annual choices. I'll keep my eye out for Cuphea. Thanks for the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete

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