July 1, 2014


This year, even the containers on the deck and around our outside sitting area are planted with blue and gold annuals. Sure, I mixed in a little apricot, and some plants leaning towards the orange tints, but it all works.

Color theme gardens really are not my thing - well, let me rephrase that, I love color, and I love gardens that respect color theory, but keeping a garden with a limited color palette feels or too restricting. But A few years back, I decided to design my perennial border - (actually, a circle with quadrants enclosed by boxwood) with a more refined palette - generally in the range of yellow and blue. Of course, in horticultural terms, 'blue' includes violet, and I stretch the yellow description to include bits of orange yellow, gold and apricot. Oh, and I'm not that perfect - later in the season there are all sorts of colors that appear.

Purple angelonia and the luminous yellow foliage of a potted Osmanthus brighten the deck.

Each year, I grow more and more plants in containers - portable gardening, I guess. A friend of mine told me last week that this was one of the most important gardening tricks that she learned from me, when I noticed that she too started placing pots of plants around the garden, especially near her front steps, with containers at different heights, some staged on upside down clay pots. Staging is very important, as one wants plants at the idea height so that one can observe plant details at the ideal viewing height.

Nasturtium 'Flame Thrower', introduced by Thompson & Morgan Europe is a new plant that I a so delighted with - if only all of the color selections were available here in the US. Only one color - 'Flame Thrower' gold was available this year for the first time, and only as plants from Burpee. Just like the great ( and lost) Victorian varieties, this one must be propagated by cuttings. Since Thompson & Morgan in the US is owned by another company now ( the folks at Birds & blooms), I doubt we will see them soon unless Burpee carries more colors next year.

You never know what you are going to get, even in an every-day seed packet - and Nasturtium 'Flame Thrower' proves that - discovered by a customer, T&M introduced the deviant by crossing it with other selectiong, and then propagated it vegetatively ( cuttings) to ensure that only the very best plants made it to market. My three plants from Burpees are doing so well, but I shared one with my friend Glen Lord who cleaned and organized my greenhouse for me last weekend while we were in NYC.

Is there something wrong with me because I like the goodnatured spiderwort? The beauty of Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' isn't lost on me, most every visitor to my garden comments on it. Bright yellow foliage and violet flowers seem to be a match made in floral heaven.

As you may know already, I can't help myself when it comes to down-facing Asiatic lilies ( I can pass on the upfacing ones, however). Down facing Asiatics just look like lanterns in the garden, the perfect form. I don't know the name of this one, since I bought a few dozen bulbs this spring at a garden center because they had them marked down. Who cares!

When you add true lilies to your garden, it sends a clear message that you are a serious gardener. How beautiful is this one? The best part? They are cheap, and get better with each year. Just like us.

Tropical plants are included in my recomendations - If I was ever asked to curate a collection of plants for containers, I would surely include the hard-to-find  Eranthemum watii. It is a jewel of a plant - look for it at specialy greenhouses like Logees, Glasshouse Works or Kartuz.

Siberian Catnip (Nepeta siberica) not only fits my color scheme perfectly, it's tall spikes add height to the blue and gold garden - just tall enough to entice the Hummingbirds who cherish it.

Nepeta siberica can be a little invasive ( never for me) and it can grow loosely, but I allow it to wander a bit then choosing more dense growths in the spring, which I allow to mature into clumps. A gridded ring is essential as a stake, as any other staking material will be too obvious - the stems are fleshy and tender, and they break easily, and one doesn't want to see any twine, string or stakes. 

Nepeta subsessilis may look similar in close-up images to Nepeta siberica, but in the garden, it's habit is more stout. Shorter stems and larger flowers make this Nepeta a nice companion with shorter growing daylilies and Tradescantia.

Throughout the summer, fresh water is important for birds especially if it sits in a shallow container where they can bathe. An Eastern Blue Jay takes off after a quick dip near our container garden.

The borages are some of the best blues around, and in all of Boraginaceae, Cynoglossum may certainly be the best. Cynoglossum amabile is an annual, which is relatively easy to grow, but it must be started early, and carefully transplanted into the garden in early spring. This is one annual you most likely will not find at your local garden center, unless they really know what they are doing. Next year - order some seed and go for the blue!


  1. What a beautiful combination of colors and flowers.

  2. Anonymous8:20 AM

    Flame thrower...wow it's gorgeous! ME WANT!
    Melanie in Ohio

    1. Maybe if we all write Thompson & Morgan company in Europe, they will export more plants - or, we could write Burpee company to see if they would carry more colors next year?


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