Ask any 4-year-old what color leaves are, and they’ll confidently proclaim, “Green!” And green leaves are just fine, for the most part. We expect gardens to be basically green, from the verdant lawn to the tops of the trees (at least during the growing season). When it comes to plants, that glowing, chlorophyll-derived green implies life and health.
But one can have too much of a good thing. That’s why our landscaping includes plants with leaves that are a soft silver (that sounds much better than “gray”). No, I don’t want an entire yard full of them, but as accent plants, silvery leaves can make quite the impression.
Yuccas are as much a part of the Colorado landscape as red rocks and towering peaks. I admit, I didn’t like them at all when we arrived 25 years ago. Yuccas? Yuck! But in the intervening years, they’ve grown on me. I now acknowledge that yuccas have their place—as long as it isn’t in my yard.
I think my initial antipathy came from driving by a yard in a Colorado Springs neighborhood. The homeowners clearly didn’t want to deal with landscape maintenance; their front yard was mostly rocks. A scraggly Ponderosa sat to one side. The only other plants were a few yuccas stuck between some ugly boulders. It was probably intended to be a xeriscape. I thought it was a “zeroscape”!
It looks like the sky has fallen and landed among my perennials. Purple-blue flowers formed a dense carpet nearly obscuring the thick layer of green foliage underneath—and the whole show was only a few inches high. I have a weakness for “blue” flowers (when it comes to botanical descriptions, usually that means purple), and the various speedwells are at the top of my list.
All summer, the shrub sat in the back corner of our yard, quietly filling the space between the fence and a dry creek bed. The olive-green leaves were a bit drab, but provided a nice, neutral backdrop for an adjacent Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris). The shrub had been a bit late to leaf out, and I was contemplating replacing it with something more interesting. I’m glad I waited. In the last few weeks, that inconspicuous shrub has suddenly become the star of the garden. Continue reading →
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) used to be purple. You can still buy the purple-flowered version of this perennial (actually more of a pink, at least to my eye), but purple is only the beginning. Consider passionate hues such as raspberry pink and florescent orange. On the other hand, perhaps you’d prefer delicate pinks, or even an innocent snowy white. A related species, E. paradoxa, below, is a pure lemon yellow.
Looking for a small perennial with a big impact? Consider Pineleaf Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius). True to its common name, this low-growing plant has long, narrow leaves similar to pine needles. They hang on well into winter, and may be evergreen even in some colder climates. But it’s the flowers that steal the show. The dense mass of vivid scarlet red simply takes your breath away!
As an enthusiastic gardener, I spend a lot of time in my yard, but it’s always a treat to visit other gardens. Just as sandwiches always taste better if I don’t have to make them, a garden I haven’t tended seems more lovely somehow. Perhaps it’s because I’m not responsible for pulling every weed; I can just relax and enjoy the flowers.
I’ve been garden hopping a lot this month. Earlier this month, our house suffered 45 minutes of half-inch hail accompanied by a torrential downpour. Runoff scoured my gravel paths and adjacent flower beds—I never did find some seedlings I had just planted. Happily, other parts of town completely missed the destruction. I find their intact flowers and un-shredded leaves therapeutic, easing my bruised sensibilities while my garden heals. Continue reading →