Dark and Light – Part 2

Sambucus nigra 'Aurea' and Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty' with Mirabilis jalapa 'Limelight' and Basil 'Osmin'

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

Continuing on the burgundy-and-gold theme in honor of this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, I offer up some more high-contrast combinations from my front garden, focusing mostly on annuals and tender perennials. (For the first part of this series, see Dark and Light – Part 1.)

Below, annual ‘Purple Majesty’ millet (Pennisetum glaucum) does an excellent imitation of a dark-leaved corn clump against the bright backdrop of golden elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’).

Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty' with Mirabilis jalapa 'Limelight' and Basil 'Osmin'

At its feet are the glowing yellow leaves of ‘Limelight’ four-o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) and deep purple ‘Osmin’ basil (Ocimum basilicum): two other annuals that are a snap to grow from seed. Park Seed sells ‘Limelight’ seed here, ‘Purple Majesty’ millet here, and ‘Red Rubin’ basil, which looks very much like ‘Osmin’, here.

On the other side of the same golden elderberry was ‘Maple Sugar’ hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella), which does an excellent Japanese maple impersonation, reaching shrub-size proportions by the end of the growing season. It’s hardy only in Zones 9 to 11, but I consider it worth buying every year for the terrific color and texture. (If you can’t find ‘Maple Sugar’ plants, ‘Red Shield’ makes a good substitute, and you can grow it from seed [available here from Veseys Seeds].)

Hibiscus 'Maple Sugar' with Coleus 'Giant Exhibition Limelight' and Lettuce 'Mascara'

The bright coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) is ‘Giant Exhibition Limelight’, yet another beauty that’s easy from seed (available here through Park Seed). And along the front, there’s frilly ‘Mascara’ lettuce, available from Territorial Seed Company. Ready for even more combos? Check out Dark and Light – Part 3.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Good heavens, Nan! That ‘Maple Sugar’ hibiscus is a shock! I had no idea!!! Loving Japanese maples as I do, I’ll have to check it (and its relatives) out. As always, I admire both your combinations and your restraint. (I, of course, would put together red-purple and chartreuse, then think, wouldn’t a touch of brilliant blue look good with this? And a few tiny fire-engine-red flowers? And then a little orange… And poof, the integrity of the combination would vanish, and no one would ever know that anything intentional had gone on. Sigh.) I see that this will be listed under my new blog rather than my name–so thanks for encouraging me to set it up! Not much there yet (I just created it yesterday), but all in good time…
    –Elly

    Thanks, Elly. That’s the one thing about close-up shots, though: You don’t see the ‘Profusion Orange’ zinnias, ‘Lady in Red’ salvias, blue monkshoods, and all the other color chaos just outside of the frame.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging! Just FYI, your ID does show up as your blog name, but it doesn’t link to your blog. I think you could change the name whenever you comment. But you’ll also want to add the URL for your blog, so we can find you.
    -Nan

  2. I was agreeing with Elly about your restraint until you explained what else was planted out of the shot. I have that sambucus, love it, but have never figured out what to plant around it. It grows by leaps each year and shades out perennials too quickly, even hostas, it must be a water hog. But the large dark annuals would be perfect. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Frances at Faire Garden

    Frances, in my front garden, restraint is an unknown concept. And yes, the elderberry isn’t low maintenance. I cut it to the ground every year *and* thin out many of the new shoots, and it’s still getting too big. I may have to resort to a second whack in late May this year.
    -Nan

  3. Hi there, Nan :-)

    Oh… I do love your colour combos here – a woman after my own heart :-D

    Thanks! So, Shirl…when do we get to see your color picks for this month’s GBDW?
    -Nan

  4. A fellow fan of chartreuse & purple/burgundy! Love it! (I’m glad you didn’t include the orange Zinnias. Tee hee.)

    It just never gets old, does it? I have one more post planned on this pairing, and I think that one is also orange-free. Can’t promise, though!

    -Nan

  5. Hi Nan!
    I be rekomended by Fran to go in to your blog and see your contribution about leafs.
    And I say, wow!! thats more like it.
    I love to mix leafs to each other, it makes so much more deeper vision.
    Flowers…yes but the foliage is more inportant and its there all the time, some even in the winter.
    Now to the spring and summer I shall do some contributions on my blog from my garden here in Sweden so you can see that I agree you completely.
    Best regards Ken

    I’m glad you found me here, Ken; welcome! I very much enjoy your garden photos and look forward to seeing what you post this year, especially with foliage. We seem to appreciate many of the same plants!
    -Nan

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