Light & Shadow: Sunset Color Play …

July 23rd, 2012 § Comments Off on Light & Shadow: Sunset Color Play … § permalink

The Colors of a Summer Sunset (Clockwise from Bottom Left: Rudbeckia hirta, Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia ‘Palace Purple’, Cotinus coggygria, Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’, Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’, Chelone lyonii, Filipendula ulmaria ‘Variegata’, Hakonechloa macra ‘Beni Kaze’)

Pale yellow, brilliant gold, violet-maroon, mauve, blue-shadow and thunder-cloud grey; the colors of a summer sunset. Stormy skies —filled with ominous clouds— create some of the most memorable late afternoon displays. Light and shadow combine to bring out the best in one another. Taking this cue from Mother Nature, I like to build cloud-like backdrops in gardens with bold strokes of rich-colored foliage. By thinking beyond basic green, I can create a framework for dynamic color play in a garden design. Remember the color wheel from my earlier post on designing container gardens? Have another look at color relationships and apply those principles to a ho-hum border and spice up your summertime garden.

In Romance, Opposites Attract & Often Form Passionate Unions, But When it Comes to Family, You Might Not Seat Fiesty Aunt Flora Directly Beside Prickly Cousin Curt at a Reunion. Add Quieter Members of the Same Family to the Seating Arrangement to Keep Hot Pairings from Duking it Out, While Allowing a Bit of Lively Debate Across the Dinner Table. Here, Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and Rudbeckia hirta Happily Mingle in a Party of Mauve, Dusty Blue and Maroon.

The sunny, saturated hues of late summer flowers —gold, red-orange and cobalt violet— play dramatically against shadowy foliage in complementary colors. Add drama to a garden by choosing woody plants with bold foliage, and then have a look to the other side of the color spectrum when selecting perennial plants. It’s often said that opposites attract, so why not get creative when playing matchmaker in the garden? Worried that things might get garish? When working with this much color, it’s important to keep things from going too far off the deep-end. Avoid solar-glare and the need for sunglasses by adding cool splashes of silver, blue-grey and sparkling mint to balance the show. Like the idea? Have a look at smokebush (Cotinus coggygria), blue-leaf witch alder (Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’), copper and maroon-hued beech (Fagus sylvatica cvs), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius cvs), and ice-blue conifers for a bit of storm-cloud inspiration and contrast for summer’s brightest colors.

Foliage in Moody, Storm-Cloud Hues can Balance Out the Blinding Brightness of Summer’s Hot Floral Explosion: Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ and Fothergilla ‘Blue Shadow’ form a Soothing Backdrop for the Garden’s Bright July Flowers.

Garden Design & Installation: Michaela Medina Harlow – For Inquiries Please See ‘Contact’ at Left

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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In Concert: Fall’s Brilliant Fantasia …

October 18th, 2011 § Comments Off on In Concert: Fall’s Brilliant Fantasia … § permalink

Flames of the Apprentice: Cotinus coggygria (Smokebush) Turns up the Volume on the Mid-October Music

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between color and sound. My mom had a fairly eclectic record collection —from classical to kitsch— and as a child, I loved listening to music while playing with crayons; creating wild works of art in response to the high and low notes I was hearing. I still listen to music while working in my studio, and the auditory language of color seems instinctive to me. When I hear the sound of an oboe —an instrument I love— I’m swept away by rivers of dark indigo and waves of velvety violet. I also adore cello, and while not as dark as oboe, it still conjures deeper hues, like chocolaty maroon and port wine. Some instruments, like guitar and piano, can cover the entire range of the rainbow, while others, like the bagpipes and the penny whistle, seem to stick to one end of the spectrum or the other. Individually, these sounds are all quite interesting, but when you put them all together … Well, we all know that’s when the fun really begins. Colors, like music, stir moods and feelings …

Viburnum lentago’s Dark Indigo Berries Sing a Streak of Rainy-Day Blues Against a Jazzy Backdrop of Red and Orange (Backup Singers, From Left to Right: Viburum plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Purpurascens’)

The colors of autumn seem particularly euphonious, bringing to mind one of my favorite animated, musical films, Fantasia. And as we move toward the end of October, I’m inevitably reminded of the best part of that Disney Classic, The Sorceress’ Apprentice (click here to watch it on YouTube). Although I remember being terrified by parts of the film when I was very young (leaping flames, hooded monks, yikes!), the contrast between the light and the dark is exactly what made it fascinating as I grew older. I still relate to the apprentice’s experimental nature, as I play with my own color magic in the garden. As with art and music, contrasts are what make autumn garden design compositions beautiful …

Meanwhile the Garden’s Head Sorceress —That Wild-Colored Child, Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’)— Hits an Electric Chord Beside Deep and Sultry Summer Wine Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Summer Wine’) with Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’ chiming in with a bit of the blues. Note the Background Chorus: Harmonious, Honey-Hued Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’, and the Screaming Red Notes of Cornus alba ‘Siberica’. Read More About the Witch Hazel ‘Diane’ by Clicking Here.

Purple Percussive Profusion: Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ (In Truth, the Candy-Colored Fruits & Golden Wrapping of Beautyberry Always Remind Me of Another Film: Something Fizzy and Slightly Naughty from Willy Wonka’s Factory) Read More About the Aptly Named Beautyberry by Clicking Here.

Dahlias Dark Delight: This ‘Karma Choc’ Brings to Mind a Raspberry-Infused, Chocolate Cordial Cello

Early Halloween Costume Drama? Even the Insects Get in on the Act: This American Dagger Moth Caterpillar Shows off a Fuzzy, Mustard-Hued, Fantasy Cloak (Click Here to Read More About Autumn Caterpillars)

Abelia mosanensis (Fragrant Abelia) Puts on a Spectacular Show, Starting with Seductive Orange Heat, and Working Up to Fever-Pitch Red; Bouncing off Viburnum lantana ‘Variegatum’s (Wayfaring Viburnum) Yellow-Green, Percussive Notes. Meanwhile, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Wiltonii’ (Blue Rug Juniper) Plays it Cool with a Hint of Blues to Steady the Two Drama Queens (Read More About Fragrant Abelia by Clicking Here).

Hakonchloa macra ‘Beni-Kaze’ (Japanese Forest Grass ‘Red Wind’) gets Jazzy on Improv with Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ and P. ‘Mrs. Moon’. Hosta and Heuchera Playing Backup for This Dynamic Duo (Read About the Springtime Beauty of Bethlehem Sage —And Pulmonaria ‘Mrs. Moon’ in Particular— by Clicking Here)

Inspiration: Walt Disney’s Fantasia: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Film Still ⓒ 1940 Walt Disney Productions

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Autumn Brilliance Part Two – Plants for Spectacular Fall Color…

October 13th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ (Purple Beautyberry)

Could a gardener be diagnosed with OCD if she compulsively checks her ornamental shrubs for changing berry color? Can a collector’s passion for a particularly beautiful cultivar cross the line, where she becomes a stalker of plants? Sometimes I fear I’ve gone too far; slipped off the raft; teetered past the point-of-no-return. But I think you are with me, aren’t you? We can’t help ourselves. The itch simply must be scratched.

I am obsessed with Callicarpa dichotoma, (Purple Beautyberry). Truly, I am. And who wouldn’t be? Her fantastical berries are pure, poetic inspiration; begging to be written into myths and fairy tales. Just look at all that temptingly plump fruit, beckoning the unsuspecting in a glorious shade of shimmering purple. Why I can hear the old witch now… “Come sample the sweet violet berries my pretty.”  *POOF*  Deep sleep for decades. The gullible heroine slowly becomes enmeshed by lacy vines, lost in a trance, awaiting her handsome prince.

For years I have coveted the bright purple fruit of our native American Beautyberry, (Callicarpa americana), but this autumnal prize is hardy only to zone 6. In my desperation, I have killed several plants while attempting to over-winter them here at Ferncliff. Undaunted, I also tried my luck growing Japanese Beautyberry, (Callicarpa japonica), with similar, necrotic results. But last year, just south of here, I was visiting a nursery display-garden when I spotted something that stopped me dead in my tracks. Yellowing leaves, cobalt violet fruits – my heart raced as I rounded the corner and pushed past the browning hydrangea – could it be… ?

Indeed, it was the elusive Callicarpa. Only this time, the shrub I encountered was a hardier member of the family, Purple Beautyberry, (Callicarpa dichotoma). Graceful, arching, elegant in habit, the leaves of the Purple Beautyberry were just turning gold when I met her, highlighting the candy-like quality of her glossy, purple clusters of fruit. There are two excellent C. dichotoma cultivars, ‘Issai’ and ‘Early Amethyst’, both reliably hardy to zone 5. I have been warned to expect a bit of die-back; to be pruned in spring when I fertilize to encourage new growth. I snatched the last ‘Issai’ from my wholesaler’s lot, and placed it carefully in the garden, protected from wind by the American cranberrybush Viburnum, and alongside the blazing fall foliage of fragrant Abelia, (Abelia mosanensis). The color combination is delighting me this October. Will she survive the brutal winter? Only time will tell if Purple Beautyberry is a permanent addition to my garden. But for now, the fantasy is all mine.

So today I will leave you with images of some other bewitching favorites here in my autumn garden. I will elaborate on some of these woody plants over the coming weeks, as I continue to share my favorite design recipes for fall color …

Acer griseum  (Paper bark maple)

The Hay-scented fern, (Dennstaedtia puctilobula), after hard frost

Buddleia davidii, (Orange-Eye Butterfly bush), blooms past the first frost

Abelia mosanensis, (Fragrant abelia), autumn color

Cotinus coggygria, (Smokebush), with a rosy leaf-glow

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (Peegee Hydrangea)

Hydrangea paniculata, ‘Limelight’, turns mauve-purple in cool weather

Hydrangea quercifolia, (Oakleaf hydrangea), foliage variation

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea), drying flowers

Oxydendrum arboreum, (Sourwood tree), a coveted autumn red hue

Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’, (Blue Green Dragon), begins to color

Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, all ablaze in backlit orange and scarlet

Vibrant Stewartia pseudocamellia with gilded Rodgersia aesculifolia

Stewartia pseudocamellia, (Japanese stewartia)

Article and Photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden 

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by what you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Feeling Warm and Fuzzy on a Chilly October Day …

October 9th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Acronicta americana – American Dagger Moth Caterpillar

Ctenucha virginica – Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Estigmene acrea – Salt Marsh Moth Caterpillar

Brrrr. I think it’s officially time to pull out the woollies! There is a damp chill in the air on this gray October morning – it’s a good day to pull out a trusty old mohair sweater. As I stepped outside today, I happened to notice that I’m not the only one donning a few extra layers. On my early walks around the garden this week, I discovered dozens of warm, fuzzy insects dressed up in wooly costumes – all of them decked out in vibrant fall colors. If only I could knit! From spiky and eccentric to elegant and lacy, there is fashionable inspiration everywhere in the garden. Parisian designers – take note!

All of the furry creatures pictured above are moth caterpillars. Aren’t they beautiful? Look at those patterns and colors, (click any photo for a larger view). I am not an entomologist, nor was the study of insects my strongest subject in college, so I needed a bit of help in order to correctly identify each species pictured here. One of my more important gardening goals is to learn more about insects. Not only do I hope to review and enhance my understanding of the allies and enemies I commonly find in my potager, but I also want to better recognize butterfly and moth species by caterpillar – just for the fun of it. If you are looking to quickly identify insects online, a really good insect and spider database, (with useful field photographs), is available from from the University of Iowa Department of Entomology – it’s called Bug Guide . If you live in North America and enjoy butterflies, moths and caterpillars, (and want help learning to identify them specifically), you will also love these websites: Butterflies and Moths of North America and What’s This Caterpillar. There are other useful entomological resources listed on the blog roll at right, under the heading ‘Insects/Entomology’. I think these are great places to bookmark and explore – fun for kids of all ages.

The plant world is also decked out in some textural attire right now. Puffy, fuzzy inflorescences in the garden are all aglow in mauve, taupe and violet. These seductive, smokey hues and intricate details really shine in the early light of day – sparkling and shimmering with morning dew. On damp, rainy mornings I notice the delicate flora are all wearing drops of water like brilliant, crystal-encrusted gowns…

Cotinus coggyria, SmokebushCotinus coggygria (Smokebush)

Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ (Flame grass) inflorescence

pennisetum alopecuroides inflorescencePennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’ (Fountain grass)

Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’ between showers…

cotinus rain dropsCotinus coggygria – wearing a necklace of rain drops…

Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the sole property of The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced for any reason without express, written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond-friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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