In Annual Events – Part 1, I showed some of my favorite annual-based groupings for summer interest. While I’m waiting for spring to decide it’s really here, I’m thinking even further ahead and reviewing some color-rich combinations for fall. The shot above, of the middle path in the front garden, contains several of my must-have annuals and tender perennials, including ‘Profusion Orange’ zinnias and several selections of sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas): ‘Sweet Caroline Light Green’, ‘Sweet Caroline Bronze’, and ‘Sweet Caroline Purple’.
‘Raspberry Ice’ bougainvillea (Bougainvillea brasiliensis) didn’t bloom here, but it didn’t need to: the variegated foliage was simply spectacular. Above, it’s in a planter with Cuphea cyanea.
No quibbles about blue-flowers-that-are-actually-purple-not-blue with flaxleaf pimpernel (Anagallis monelli); it’s hard to beat when you need a long-blooming, true blue annual. Below is a bit I had tucked into a planter of herbs, including common thyme, rosemary, parsley, curry plant (Helichrysum angustifolium), and good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus).
Yeah, pink and brown isn’t one of my favorite color pairings either, but there’s something about this combo of ‘Carmencita Pink’ castor bean (Ricinus communis) and ‘Jester’ millet (Pennisetum glaucum) that works for me. Maybe it’s the tiny touch of creamy pink in the millet flowers?
Below is an easier one to like: cheery ‘Starfire Mix’ signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) with a carpet of pink knotweed (Persicaria capitata).
Several years ago I made the front foundation strip mostly edibles. Other than the ‘Wellington Bronze’ toatoa (Haloragis erecta) at the bottom left, which came up on its own, all the rest qualify as veggies, herbs, or edible flowers: ‘Lady in Red’ Texas or hummingbird sage (Salvia coccinea), ‘Golden Gem’ signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia), ‘Golden Delicious’ pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), ‘Redbor’ kale, and ‘Yellow Pear’ and ‘Sweet 100’ tomatoes.
‘Outback Sunset’ dense-flowered loosestrife (Lysimachia congestiflora) used to be available all over the place around here, but finding this photo made me realize that I haven’t seen it for sale for quite a few years now. That’s a shame, because it has great-looking foliage and does a super job filling in around the base of taller companions (such as the ‘Angelface Blue’ angelonia below). Hmmm…I see that Proven Winners lists ‘Walkabout Sunset’, which sounds and looks very similar, so maybe the plant is the same but the name has changed.
Whew – that’s pretty intense, isn’t it? There’s ‘Frivolous Glow’ dwarf dahlia in front, ‘China Town’ celosia in back, and Fine Wine weigela (Weigela florida ‘Bramwell’) off to the side.
Below, a combination that’s easier on the eye: ‘Blackie’ sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) mingling with ‘Mandarin Orange’ creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens).
Above, a wider shot of a mixed combination, starring porcupine tomato (Solanum pyracanthum, in front), ‘Carmencita’ castor bean (Ricinus communis), an orange mum, ‘Taurus’ mountain fleeceflower (Persicaria amplexicaulis), and golden elderberry (Sambucus nigra).
Below is more orangey goodness, with a pairing of shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana) and ‘Caramel’ heuchera.
‘Black Pearl’ pepper (Capsicum annuum) has a place among my top favorite annuals. It’s easy to grow from seed (even to the point of self-sowing, though the volunteers don’t appear until mid- to late June), and the practically black leaves look great all through the season. The flowers are hardly noticeable, but the glossy fruits are stunning, especially when they ripen from black to bright red. Above, it’s with ‘Sedona’ coleus and Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica ‘Rubra’).
Below is ‘Cramers’ Amazon’, a terrific spiky celosia that can easily reach to 6 feet or more, with purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’), ‘Mahogany Splendor’ hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella), and some ironweed (Vernonia).
By the way, I have to confess that I’ve been miswriting the names of ‘Cramer’s Plum’ love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) and ‘Cramer’s Amazon’ celosia for many years now. I recently discovered that they (and a number of other annuals) were originally from Cramers’ Posy Patch, a Pennsylvania business that specializes in growing and selling unusual cut flowers. So if I’ve ever sent you seeds of either annual, please note that the apostrophe should be after the “s” in “Cramers.”
Below, ‘Profusion Yellow’ zinnia paired with ‘Serena Purple’ angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia).
Moving on to the October combinations…
‘Redbor’ kale is a nice purple-tinged blue-green for most of the growing season, but once the days get cooler, the leaves develop a pinkish purple blush that intensifies as fall progresses. Above, it’s with ‘Van Houttei Paul’ salvia (Salvia splendens). (You may also find this salvia listed as Salvia splendens ‘Paul’ or Salvia vanhouttei ‘Paul’.)
Below is another very cool salvia of the same type (sometimes sold as a selection of Salvia vanhouttei and sometimes of Salvia splendens): ‘Dancing Flames’. The yellow-speckled foliage is so showy that you hardly need the flowers, but when they appear, the effect really is spectacular. Below it’s with ‘Purple Knight’ alternanthera (Alternanthera dentata) and a bit of ‘Hella Lacy’ New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).
Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) is another salvia that’s not hardy here, but I don’t mind buying a new plant each spring to have the tall, violet-purple spikes in October. Above, it’s with ‘Sheffield Pink’ chrysanthemum.
‘Lady in Red’ Texas or hummingbird sage (Salvia coccinea) is easy from seed and even self-sows. Unlike the previous three salvias, which tend to bloom late and sometimes get zapped by early frosts, ‘Lady in Red’ starts flowering by midsummer and keeps going for months. Above it’s with ‘Profusion Orange’ zinnia, ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet, and ‘Angelina’ sedum (Sedum rupestre).
That’s it for the flowery combos. In Annual Events – Part 3, I’ll share some of my favorite annual foliage combinations, but first, April’s Bloom Day on the 15th.