Six on Saturday – colour, planned and by chance

My garden often looks like a giant riot of happenstance blooms and branches but really, for the most part, everything I plant – annuals and veggies as well as perennials, shrubs and trees – is in its spot for a reason.  The exceptions, of course, are volunteers like the sunflowers that return year after year, or the wild and often native perennials that I encourage and enjoy, such as goldenrod, aster, Queen Anne’s lace and evening primrose.  These grow with such abandon and abundance that the most I have to do is ‘edit’ them – removing them where they encroach too much in the more genteel parts of the garden.

perfect Goldenrod Aug 24 2018 sm
1 – The perfect patch of Goldenrod – Solidago.  It’s kinda in an awkward place but who am I to rip up such a magnificent, picture perfect example of this lovely native perennial?

Did I mention veggies?  I do have a few raised beds but they’re far from a water source; mostly I fill them with garlic and bush beans.  Vegetables I actually like to eat I plant closer to home, in the kitchen/cutting garden outside the back porch, in a small garden on the sunny west side of the house and even in the Island garden, where last year I grew heaps of yellow zucchini.

Kholrabi Aug 24 2018
2 – I tried growing kohlrabi this year for the first time, just because there’s a purple variety and because I’ve always been intrigued by its exotic growth habit and leaf structure.  Despite the best efforts of the local cabbage moth population one or two have managed to mature.  This one will be sliced up and added to a stir fry tonight, I think.

I’ve been creating a long shrub border half way between the house and the driveway – I want to create some context, definition and create various perspectives.  It’s been fun slowly adding to this border; filling the blankness between the shrubs with perennials and some annuals (can’t have bare spots while the shrubs grow!).  I try to chose shrubs whose foliage or flowers will interact well with its neighbours.

Rose of Sharon and Purple Leaf Sandcherry Aug 24 2018
3 – This Rose of Sharon – only a foot high when I planted it two summers ago – anchors one end of the shrub border.  I wanted this particular variety because I thought the purple centres of the flower would tie in with the leaves of its neighbour, a purple leaf sand cherry I transplanted from one of my original gardens in the back field.
Rose of Sharon and Ratibida pinnata Aug 24 2018
3b – The same Rose of Sharon from a slightly different angle, fronting a stand or Ratibia pinnata (Prairie Coneflower).

Sometimes colour combos turn out better than expected; for instance, if a seed packet produces something other than what was labelled, or if  willy nilly colours magically appear in just the right place.

Echinacea and Rudbeckia Aug 24 2018 sm
4a – Echinacea purpurea – both the purple and the white variety of purple cone flower, appeared after I scattered seeds collected from a large patch of Echinacea out back.  The flower petals had long before shriveled away and I had no idea what colours would pop up.  I think this is an especially pleasing combo because it’s behind the Black Eyed Susan’s.
Echinacea and Rudbeckia big picture Aug 24 2018 sm
4b – Here’s the same group of daisy like flowers with some context.  They’re growing on the Island, just beside a small weeping white pine. Behind them is a pathway.

I quite frequently plant something only to realize, a year, a month, sometimes just a day, later, that it’s in the wrong place.  I did that this year with a little Ice Plant.  Low growing.  Dainty flowers. Knowing it liked good drainage, full sun and is drought tolerant I planted it in May on a slope on the Island, forgetting that, come July, the slope was totally covered by foliage from other perennials that also like full sun and good drainage.  The Ice Plant seemed a goner until I moved it to a vacant spot in the shrub border.

Rudbeckia & rose Aug 18 2018
5 – I’m hoping this Iceberg rose will eventually (and quickly) grow tall enough for the Rudbeckia, currently way too close, to become an understory planting for it.   I do, however, really like how the colours set each other off.  Dilemma.

Sometimes, of course, you don’t want or need colour.  Just a single exclamation point.  Something architectural that provides interest most or all year. Perhaps with some aspect of the plant repeated elsewhere in the garden, so that the eye draws connections.   Purple shrubs in three spots.  Solitary Emerald Cedars in strategic corners (ie not as a hedge).  Tall ornamental grasses.

ornamental grasses Aug 18 2018
6 – I have three clumps of this tall ornamental grass (as high as me or higher, in one case), variety long forgotten, in the yard.  The seed heads have just emerged.  They blow around with the slightest breeze and turn the most lovely golden yellow brown in autumn.

That’s it for my Six this last Saturday of the month.  To see Sixes from around the world head on over to The Propagator’s site.



  1. Loved seeing your massed plantings of flowers. I’m hoping my echinacea will look as good as yours if it ever gets going ( has been dormant all winter). Rose of Sharon is a terrific plant that flowers for months.

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  2. Funny how we share the same common name for different plants. I was studying your ‘Rose of Sharon’ and thinking that’s not right, so had to look it up. I see your name is for a Hibiscus Syriacus whereas for us it usually refers to a Hypericum – two very different looking plants. I guess that’s why I always try to use the Latin name. Common ones can be confusing! Saying that I like your planting very much.

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  3. Your garden looks amazing Chris. I’m not good at organising when planting at all and often realise at this time of year that I don’t have enough for Autumn colour. I’m going to use the photos I take this year to sort that next year.

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  4. I have a few things like your grass, important in the overall scheme but not colourful and showy, so often overlooked when you consider what’s happening at a given time. They’re always happening, but quietly.

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  5. Is kohrabi like a turnip that makes a fat stem instead of a fat root? I have never grown it, and have not seen it since the late 1980s. I have grown both turnip roots and turnip greens, and mostly turnip roots that happen to make good greens, but have never grown kohrabi.

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  6. It’s wonderful to have the space for swaths of the same plant. Most of my colour combos come by chance, as I’m not very visual. From the look of your photos, it seems you’re able to bring what’s in your mind’s eye, into the garden. Would love to see that rose once it grows bigger’n the rudbeckia. Think that would be gorgeous. Is there a photo of the ice plant? When I Googled it, there were several options, so wasn’t quite sure what it is.

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  7. I live the white coneflower and plan to add this my planting soon. Also on my wish list is a white hibiscus with a red splash so I was thrilled to see yours looking so good. Do you know which variety it is? I’m looking at ‘red heart’ and ‘monstrosus’ but can’t see what there differences are! Any thoughts? Beautiful garden btw.

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