With the garden season winding down to winter, I made a trip to the New York Botanic Garden to get a look at their last hurrah in the Irwin Perenial Garden. It's always a great show, from the large scale of the inviting entryway, to the smallest detail.
As always, I was on the lookout for sizzling combos created by juxtaposing bold, broad-leafed thingies against more delicate, airy companions. like, for example, the bigger-than-a-bathmat leaves of this banana rising from a surround of Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) , coleus, assorted dahlias and more.
Color ruled the day in this similarly scaled community of canna, accented by an orange swoon of cigar plant (Cuphea 'David Verity'), with its emberlike tube-shaped flowers all aglow in the overcast. Further firing up the scene were the bigger blooms of a few orange dahlias, smoldering like floating campfires. I know, I know...not everyone likes orange. But I do! Unapologetically. It's more accommodating than red, not as strident as yellow. I find it to be at once both fiery hot and pleasingly mellow.
Back to bold, how about these cool elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta 'Tea Cup'), floating above the filmy firmament of thread leaf bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) without benefit of saucers? Oh, and a few red zingers, courtesy of Dahlia royalty 'Bishop of Landaff', make the display ever so much more pleasing.
More thread leaf bluestar never hurts this time of year. While many may plant this standout for the galaxies of starry blue flowers that cover it in late spring, I find it far more valuable in fall, when its fine foliage turns a shimmering gold.
Speaking of gold, if there's a plant that's worth its weight in that precious substance, I'd have to say it's gold Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'), or any of the similar cultivars that bring so much bling to whatever setting they are placed in. Not only is there that gloooooooooorious color (typo, and it stays), there's the plant's ever-so-appealing lax habit, likened by so many to a waterfall. Long may it flow!
One of the most valuable yet simple garden design techniques is repetition. Repetition. You can never go wrong by adding more than one of a kind, and it gets even better when they are spaced out at roughly equal intervals, or if you're more eclectic kind of gardener, at irregular intervals. My feeling is that regular intervals are best because they bring an element of structural formality to a planting, and the more structure you've got, the freer you are to make merry with the rest of the plants. So, ironically, the rigor of regular repeats are ultimately a liberating force. And speaking of repetition, I'm going to have to get back to this garden soon.
Blogging about gardens, travel, and the cosmos. Basically,I'm a home gardener who's gone round the bend. I became interested in plants more than 20 years ago, during extended travels in tropical South America and Southeast Asia. Some of the tropical plants seen during those journeys, along with hundreds of other plants from all parts of the world, now grow in my ever-expanding garden. I’m a former newspaper photographer, travel writer and was managing editor at Fine Gardening magazine. I now design, write about, and photograph gardens. I give lectures about them too.