Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Riot of Red

Echinacea 'Sombrero Salsa'
Day 175
The Daily DuBrule

I am seeing red everywhere. Ever since Echinacea 'Sombrero Salsa' came into my life, I can't take my eyes off of it. This is a shocking, pure red. As I walk down the steps from my attic office, it is the first thing I see. Every time I turn the corner into the nursery yard, I say "WOW!" to myself. This is one screaming accent color. I must have it.

'Sombrero Salsa' has started me obsessing about the color red. There are two basic flavors: orange-reds and blue-reds.

Hibiscus 'Disco Belle Red'
Perennial Hibiscus 'Disco Belle Red', as seen in the Natureworks gardens, is a perfect example of a blue-red. So is the zinnia below. The type of red helps me to decide what plants to marry it with. Echinaceas, Browalias, and other lavender and purple flowers combine beautifully with this drama queen.
Now look at what happens when you introduce burgundy foliage. It totally changes the feeling. Burgundy with blue-reds or rosy-reds is subdued and quite mysterious
Bee balm (Monarda) is a classic red summertime flower. When you take this blue-red and combine it with a green and white variegated foliage it pops with crispness.
Physostegia variegata with bee balm and Persciaria
The bracts of this bee balm are a deeper maroon
The new red perennial Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising' is a breakthrough in Coreopsis breeding. This plant has a deep red flower, approaching burgundy. For a real contrast, pair it with Coreopsis 'Sienna Sunset'. The yellow center relates to the soft peachy pink petals of it's sister Coreopsis and makes the maroon flower appear darker and richer. Still, this red coreopsis tends towards a blue-red, probably made more obvious by the orange-peachy pairing.
Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising' & 'Sienna Sunset'
One of my favorite maroon flowers is the daylily 'Royal Occasion'. This variety blooms for 6-8 weeks, often repeating in the fall. Want to make this maroon blossom appear almost black? Put it next to a glowing golden yellow flower. This is how you create an eye-turning display in your summer borders.
Daylilies 'Royal Occasion' and 'Condilla'

There is one summer perennial that is what I call fire engine red. It is rich, vibrant, and catches the attention of any hummingbird in the neighborhood. I will never forget walking through a woodland trail at the Vermont Wildflower Farm on August afternoon. The woods were cool and green, with nary a wildflower in site. All of the sudden I spotted an enormous stand of our native Lobelia cardinalis soaring 5-6' feet into the air along side of a small pond. What a breathtaking scene. Can you see how this red could be described as leaning towards orange instead of blue?
Lobelia cardinalis
I urge my customers not to be afraid of red flowers. You don't have to have lots of them. Use them to draw the eye of garden visitors and heat up your gardens. By studying the type of red in the flower you can better understand how to combine them with other plants. It's really a fun exercise.

1 comment:

  1. I adore reds... I brought 'Salsa' home three weeks ago, and it's just gorgeous. And as soon as we get more 'Mercury Rising' in, some is coming home with me. Echinacea 'Solar Flare' is more of a Kool-Aid red, (on the blue side) with a brown center, and I really like that one - I have four of them, I think. Coreopsis 'Route 66' is nice, too... a yellow threadleaf heavily splashed with red.