Dark and Light – Part 3

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' with Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

I promise this is the last post on burgundy and gold – for a while, anyway. (You can find the previous posts in Part 1 and Part 2.) For this one, I’ve pulled a few perennial-based combos. Above is a late-summer view of one of my favorite pairings in what passes for shade in my tree-less garden: golden Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) with the near-black foliage of ‘Ravenswing’ cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris). It’s pretty high-contrast for most of the growing season, but as fall approaches, the grass starts taking on pinkish tinges that softens the effect a bit.

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' with Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'

Hakone grass is perfectly well behaved – in fact, I wish it would expand a bit faster – but the cow parsley (also called wild chervil) can self-sow abundantly, to the point of being considered invasive in some regions. (If you want to investigate its status in your area, check out the Anthriscus sylvestris page at the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. The site is a great resource for checking on the invasive potential of many other plants as well.)

Below is another high-contrast combination that tolerates some shade. Unlike the previous one, which gets full morning sun and full shade after noon, this one is in shade until noon and full, baking sun from noon until sunset, so tough plants are definitely in order. One of the stars is my favorite ‘Angelina’ sedum (Sedum rupestre), which fills the edge between the path and a grouping of dark ‘Plum Pudding’ heucheras. The jug wasn’t originally planned for this site, but that one heuchera clump in the front was slow to resprout in the spring, so I needed a short-term filler there.

Sedum 'Angelina' with Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' and Caryopteris incana 'Jason'

The chartreuse clump toward the back is Sunshine Blue caryopteris (Caryopteris incana ‘Jason’). At the point shown here (late May), it’s producing dense new growth after being cut down to about 6 inches in late April. As the season progresses, the caryopteris gets much larger and looser (a good 3 feet tall and wide), producing a bit of shade for the heucheras.

And finally, a pairing that seems to do well in either morning or afternoon sun, as long as the soil stays reasonably moist: ‘Golden Arrow’ persicaria (Persicaria amplexicaulis) with Alternanthera reineckii. (At least, I think it’s A. reineckii, because that’s how it was labeled, though I see that A. reineckii is commonly sold for use in freshwater aquariums, so…who knows? A. dentata ‘Purple Knight’ would be a suitable alternate, in any case.)

Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow' with Alternanthera reineckii

The persicaria, with its chartreuse leaves and reddish pink flower spikes, is the star anyway. Like most persicarias, it’s a Japanese beetle magnet, but it’s worth daily hand-picking to keep the leaf damage at a minimum. ‘Golden Arrow’ can be hard to find, but for now, anyway, it’s for sale through Digging Dog and Avant Gardens.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Wow–love the ‘Ravenswing’/Hakonechloa combo! And feel free to post about burgundy/gold/black/chartreuse combos anytime. What’s not to love?!!

    Thanks, Elly! You know I never get tired of either color. But I have another series of entries on burgundy with other colors ready to go. So many photos, so little time….
    -Nan

  2. OOOh! Oooh! Must find that golden persicaria! And the black-foliaged chervil/cow parsnip. Like you, Nan, I wish my hakone would spread a little faster, but I sure love that pink tinge in fall, and its water-fall appearance. Like the previous commenter says, feel free to post on these sorts of colour combos anytime. They’re just amazing.

    Yes, Jodi, you *need* the persicaria. I did find it listed here at Wild Things nursery in Ontario; I don’t know if that would work for you as a source. They sell the anthriscus too! Or, I could let a bit of mine set seed this year and send you some. I find it’s easiest to get established from direct-sowing, or by transplanting very young seedlings.
    -Nan

  3. Hi Nan!
    We have Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ to, I thing it is a grait perenial, it allmoust look like hair on a horse.if you now what I mean ;)
    WE have order one of your books on the internet, “Foliage” it shall be exating to read it.
    Regards Ken & Carina

    You’re right, Ken: The habit of the Hakone grass makes it look just like a well-combed horse’s mane. I’m so thrilled that you’re getting a copy of Foliage. I hope you and Carina enjoy it!
    -Nan

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