A Study in Pink

Canna 'Pink Sunrise'

I’m as glad as other garden bloggers to see this winter’s snow disappear, but despite my best efforts, I can’t work up much enthusiasm for my mud-splashed snowdrops and wind-tattered hellebores. The idea of doing a new color-based post was much more appealing, and though pink isn’t one of my favorites,  my latest obsession – the BBC series Sherlock – provided the perfect title, and I couldn’t resist. (Delightfully, Dr. John Watson now chronicles Sherlock’s adventures in a blog, which includes his own A Study in Pink post.) So now, for your viewing enjoyment, a random selection of some pretty-in-pink flowers and foliage in portraits, pairings, and garden settings.

Among some somewhat-out-of-the-ordinary annuals and tender perennials are ground-hugging pink knotweed (Persicaria capitata), with ball-shaped bloom clusters over bronze-marked green leaves:

Persicaria capitata

Black-leaved cotton (Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigrum’), with delicately shaded blooms that mostly hide under the dark foliage:

Gossypium herbaceum ‘Nigrum’

‘Limelight’ four-o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa), with hot pink trumpets that open in late afternoon over chartreuse foliage:

Mirabilis jalapa 'Limelight'

‘Chocolate’ morning glory (Ipomoea nil), looking lovely here with the glossy, bright green leaves of Malabar spinach (Basella alba):

Ipomoea nil 'Chocolate'

The dainty, tubular blooms of pink cigar plant (Cuphea cyanea):

Cuphea cyanea

Fuzzy-tailed chenille plant (Acalypha hispida):

Acalypha hispida

Rosy pink ‘Limerock Ruby’ coreopsis – here with ‘Merlot’ lettuce:

Coreopsis 'Limerock Ruby' with 'Merlot' lettuce

‘Angelmist Pink’ angelonia – here with with variegated Japanese iris (Iris ensata ‘Variegata’) and snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata):

Angelonia 'Angelmist Pink' with Iris ensata/kaempferi 'Variegata' and Euphorbia marginata

The late-season, pink chains of variegated kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Persicaria orientalis ‘Shiro-gane Nishiki’):

Persicaria orientalis ‘Shiro-gane Nishiki’

Croftway Purple Prince cape fuchsia (Phygelius aequalis ‘Cropurpri’), which – to my eye, at least – is much more rosy pink than purple:

Phygelius aequalis ‘Cropurpri’ (Croftway Purple Prince)

There are plenty of pinks among common perennials, of course – and among some not-so-common ones too. Lamium orvala isn’t especially long-flowering, unfortunately, but it’s a real beauty when it’s in bloom in early May.

Lamium orvala

Later in May, crosswort (Phuopsis stylosa) is at its best.

Phuopsis stylosa

‘Pink Panda’ ornamental strawberry (Fragaria) has at least a few flowers through most of the growing season, but it’s showiest around here in late spring to early summer.

Fragaria 'Pink Panda'

‘Tubby Andrews’ bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) also blooms pink, but they’re not as showy as the streaked-and-speckled foliage.

Bergenia cordifolia 'Tubby Andrews'

Campion (Silene dioica) is generally dependable for showy spring pink, with a bonus of variegated foliage on the selection ‘Valley High’.

Silene dioica 'Valley High'

And there are many pink pinks (Dianthus), of course, including ‘Rosish One’ – here with variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida ‘Variegata’).

Dianthus 'Rosish One' with Iris pallida 'Variegata'

Moving into summer, the feathery pink spikes of ornamental clover (Trifolium rubens) are at their best in June.

Trifolium rubens with Atriplex hortensis 'Rubra', Eupatorium maculatum, Rosa glauca, and Allium sphaerocephalon

Two more June bloomers include ‘Dark Towers’ beardtongue(Penstemon)…

Penstemon 'Dark Towers'

…and ‘Amazone’ tuberous Jerusalem sage (Phlomis tuberosa).

Phlomis tuberosa 'Amazone'

Pink perennials for July include ‘Party Girl’ prairie mallow (Sidalcea):

Sidalcea 'Party Girl' with Echinacea purpurea

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca):

Asclepias syriaca

…and rosy pink purple milkweed (A. purpurascens).

Asclepias purpurascens

There’s lots of phlox, too, such as the stunningly unsubtle ‘Becky Towe’ (Phlox paniculata)…

Phlox paniculata 'Becky Towe'

…and tiny-flowered ‘Jeana’.

Phlox paniculata 'Jeana'

The individual blossoms of pink vervain (Verbena hastata ‘Rosea’) are also tiny, but they’re arranged in spikes rather than domed clusters.

Verbena hastata ‘Rosea’

‘Erica’ Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum) has slightly later spikes than the vervain. It’s a much paler pink, though definitely more pink than the usual white species.

Veronicastrum virginicum 'Erica'

And for fall, the airy pink plumes of ‘Dallas Blues’ switch grass (Panicum virgatum)…

Panicum virgatum 'Dallas Blues'

…and pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) – here with ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora):

Muhlenbergia capillaris with Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

As well as marvelous ‘Sheffield Pink’ mums (Chrysanthemum) – here with aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium):

Chrysanthemum 'Sheffield Pink' with Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

There are loads of pink-flowered bulbs too, but I’ve picked out just a few favorites, starting with ‘Antoinette’ tulip:

Tulipa 'Antoinette'

Ornamental onion (Allium schubertii):

Allium schubertii

Compact ‘Tom Pouce’ Oriental lily (Lilium):

Lilium 'Tom Pouce' with Astrantia major, Hydrangea quercifolia 'Little Honey', and Anthriscus 'Ravenswing'

Towering ‘Robina’ Orienpet lily, with a fragrance as rich as its color:

Lilium 'Robina'

Gaudy ‘Far West’ gladiolus:

Gladiolus 'Far West'

The much-more-delicate-looking ‘Friendship’ gladiolus:

Gladiolus 'Friendship'

And the very late-flowering Japanese onion (Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’).

Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’

It’s just as hard to choose only a few uncommon offerings from the plethora of pink shrubs. Hybrid tea ‘Verschuren’ may be one of thousands of roses that have pink flowers, but it’s one of very few roses that have variegated foliage.

Rosa 'Verschuren'

Variegated memorial rose (Rosa wichuraiana ‘Curiosity’; a.k.a. R. wichuraiana var. variegata) has pink in its new foliage, not in its flowers (which are white):

Rosa wichuraiana ‘Curiosity' (R. wichuraiana var. variegata)

Weigelas, of course, come in many shades of pink. This soft pink one is ‘Variegated Mystery’.

Weigela florida 'Variegated Mystery'

For late summer, there’s spiky, purplish pink mint shrub (Elsholtzia stauntonii):

Elsholtzia stauntonii

And broad-mounded bush clover (Lespedeza thunbergii).

Lespedeza thunbergii

Pink isn’t nearly as abundant in foliage as in flowers, but you can find some interesting options, such as the crinkled-edged rosettes of Echeveria ‘The Rose’.

Echeveria 'The Rose' with Rubus pentalobus

Several phormiums, too, have distinctly pink parts in their leaves. This one was labeled as ‘Pink Stripe’. I’m not sure that’s the right name, but it was certainly accurate.

Phormium ('Pink Stripe'?)

Below it’s with ‘The Rose’ echeveria, ‘Catlin’s Giant’ ajuga, and Allium cernuum:

Phormium ('Pink Stripe'?) with Ajuga 'Catlin's Giant', Hypericum 'Brigadoon', Geranium 'Brookside', and Allium cernuum

And here’s a closeup of it draping over yellow-leaved Hypericum ‘Brigadoon’, which itself takes on a pink blush in cool weather.

Phormium ('Pink Stripe'?) with Hypericum 'Brigadoon'

Cannas, such as Tropicanna (Canna ‘Phaison’)…

Canna Tropicanna ('Phaison') with Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Taurus'

…and ‘Pink Sunrise’ (below, and at the very top of this post) also have pink striping but are bold instead of spiky.

Canna 'Pink Sunrise' with Origanum vulgare 'Aureum'

Swiss chards aren’t quite as dramatic as cannas, but they too can have some nice pinks in their stems. You can see the color from the time the seedlings sprout and pick out those with the best pink. Below are seedlings of ‘Pink Lipstick’.

Swiss chard 'Pink Lipstick'

The ‘Bright Lights’ mix also includes some great pinks.

Chard 'Bright Lights' with Phormium 'Rainbow Sunrise', Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Caroline Bronze', and 'Redbor' kale

Chard 'Bright Lights' with Carex 'Toffee Twist' and Ipomoea batatas 'Sweet Caroline Bronze'

Polka-dot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) is another easy-to-grow annual for pink pairings. ‘Pink Splash Select’ – shown here with ‘White Splash Select’ – has light to medium pink spots.

Hypoestes phyllostachya 'Splash Select Pink' and 'Splash Select White'

‘Rose Splash Select’ has darker pink speckles.

Hypoestes phyllostachya 'Splash Select Rose'

Tender perennial ‘Haight Ashbury’ hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella) offers a very similar effect to pink polka-dot plants – to the point where you don’t want to plant them together!

Hibiscus acetosella 'Haight Ashbury'

A solid green background is much better at showing off the jagged, pink-marked leaves.

Hibiscus acetosella 'Haight Ashbury'

You can depend on coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) to provide all kinds of oddball foliage colors. ‘Amora’ is one that can have some distinctly pink blushing on its leaves. (In some conditions, the pink part is much more of a creamy yellow.)

Solenostemon scutellarioides (coleus) 'Amora'

Here it’s with ‘June’ hosta and ‘The Rose’ echeveria:

Solenostemon scutellarioides (coleus) 'Amora' with Hosta 'June' and Echeveria 'The Rose'

‘Bellingrath Pink’ (a.k.a. ‘Alabama Sunset’ and ‘Texas Parking Lot’) is another, more widely available, coleus.

Solenostemon scutellarioides (coleus) 'Bellingrath Pink' with Setcreasea pallida

Coleus-like Perilla ‘Magilla’ is pretty spectacular, too.

Perilla 'Magilla'

Finally, a few – very few – pinks in other places. For seedpods, ‘Carmencita Pink’ castor bean (Ricinus communis):

Ricinus communis 'Carmencita Pink' with Pennisetum glaucum 'Jester'

For fruits, Amethyst coralberry (Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii ‘Kordes’):

Symphoricarpos x doorenbosii ‘Kordes’ (Amethyst)

And last, ‘Taff’s Silver Edge’ coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus):

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus 'Taff's Silver Edge'

14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lisa at Greenbow on February 27, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Nan, all of these are marvelous. I always wonder if all of the plants you write about are in your garden?? If they are your garden is unbelieveable. I know it is marvelous because you show an overall every once in awhile and I have seen peeks in books. What ever the information you give always makes me want more, More, MORE.

    Thanks ever so much, Lisa! I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. It ended up being very long and I was afraid it would be tiresome. I had to leave out many more beauties. Yes, these plants are (or have been) in my own garden, or in gardens I’ve planted elsewhere.
    -Nan

  2. Grace will love this post! :-) I’d not seen this knotweed and it looks like a perfect groundcover! Spring will be here before long, too.

    It’s very cute and very much a groundcover, and fortunately for us, *not* hardy. In warmer zones, I’ve heard, it can be aggressive or even invasive. Here, the plants die over winter, but the only time I’ve had to restart it is when I mulched over its spot one year in early spring, which apparently smothered the seeds.
    -Nan

  3. Wow! I’m not a big fan of pink flowers but the way you have used them does make me wish I had more planted. My daughters love pink I’d bet they would love to see a little pink garden. Great post as always!

    That’s a charming idea, Dave – a pink garden for the girls. It certainly would be easy to find suitable flowers, perhaps with touches of chartreuse or silver or purple foliage for accents. I bet they’d like the polka-dot plants too. I usually buy them in cell packs so I can pick out the colors I want, but you’d have no trouble growing them yourself from seed.
    -Nan

  4. Great title — I loved that new Sherlock too and hope they film more. Your beautifully grown plants always amaze, but a variegated rose? I had no idea…

    More Sherlock episodes to come this fall, apparently – yay! That ‘Verschuren’ rose wasn’t much as a garden plant, but the scent was outstanding. ‘Curiosity’ was much more vigorous, but it succumbed to rose rosette soon after I took that photo.
    -Nan

  5. First – here we have seen only the three first of the BBC series Sherlock, but I loved it and hope we are going to see all!
    Then – as usual there are some absolutely wonderful pictures of marvellous plants. Most of them I havn´t seen before, but I will look for them in the future. Twice a year we (the Enthusiasts on Gotland) imports plants from a wholesale in the Netherlands and I´m always bying a lot to myself – and always some “new” ones. Next delivery, ordered in January, will be in April and it´s like Christmas when the big parcels arrives.

    They’re making three more episodes, and we can hope for many more. In the meantime, there’s lots of lovely fanfiction to indulge in, thank goodness.

    How exciting to hear about your group plant orders. I can imagine how thrilling it must be to open the boxes! And to have direct access to growers in the Netherlands – I’m so envious. I can’t wait to see your post on your new acquisitions.
    -Nan

  6. Posted by Sylvia (England) on February 28, 2011 at 5:22 am

    Nan, a lovely post and not too long! For someone who, like me, is not too keen on pink – you have a lot of pink plants. Some of these combination are gorgeous. I liked the pink/yellow of the tulips, lilies and gladiolus. I also noticed that a lot have variegated foliage.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    I think that’s how I ended up with many of these pinks, Sylvia – I acquired them for foliage interest and the flowers were incidental. I can’t remember buying many plants specifically for their pink blooms, except maybe for red valerian (Centranthus ruber). And it’s funny that you mention liking the pink-and-yellow flowers. I once worked for someone who wouldn’t allow us to plant pink and yellow together, and now I feel an evil thrill every time I make or find that combo. (Though to be fair, bluish pinks with orangey yellows can be pretty horrible.)
    -Nan

  7. What a great post and outstanding photos. I do like pink flowers, especially roses. I was really admiring your lespedeza. I have it in my garden but unfortunately, it doesn’t have room like yours and it is cramped in a border with other plants around it. It looks so much better with space to display the cascading branches.

    That photo was a good reminder to me too, Phillip. I moved that particular clump the following year, and it never reached that full glory again before being demolished by the voles. I planted a new one last fall in an existing bed last year, but I think I will move it to a spot of its own this spring if it’s not been vole food over the winter.
    -Nan

  8. Posted by brenda on February 28, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I’m such a sucker for all these gorgeous photos! An extravagant visual feast.

    I had knotweed in Calif and it was a pest, had to rip it out because I hadn’t allowed enough room for its spread.

    Love the combination of allium schubertii sprouting from a bed of sedum. My AS gets buried by its sprawling neighbors, so I’d like to copy that idea.

    Also bought pink muhly grass last year and it’s in a holding bed. After seeing your photo I’m pretty sure it’s going to get moved next to Karl Foerster grass. You’ve made a stunning combination!

    Thanks for the fabulous photos and great ideas!

    Ah hah – I think it might have been you who mentioned the aggressive spreading of that knotweed when I wrote about it in a previous post. It’s always helpful to get details like that.

    The Allium schubertii in the photo here is in a bed of woolly thyme, but I like the sedum idea even better – maybe with that wonderful Sedum hispanicum?
    -Nan

  9. What a beautiful selection of pinks! I need to find a way to grow that gossypium here and get hold of one of those bergenias.

    Hi Laurie! It looks like Sequim Rare Plants currently has ‘Tubby Andrews’ available. They have a superb shot of the winter color there, too.
    -Nan

  10. Very enjoyable post. There can never be too many pink plants in the garden or in a blog

    Thanks, Allan. There are certainly more interesting pinks that I’d first thought. I really need to start tagging my photos with color keywords as well as botanical names. I’d probably have found many, many more.
    -Nan

  11. Wow! That is incredible! I actually love the colour pink in a garden, but I am still impressed with the number of non-flower pinks you were able to include!

    That was the most fun part of the post, Kim. I’d collected many really weird leaf colors when I was working on my foliage book but had to cut those chapters because the book was already too long. At least I can use some of the photos and info here.
    -Nan

  12. Posted by John Drexel on March 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Nan,

    I have & love all of your books. I’m new to your wonderful blog & this is my first ever blog entry. I have much to say but don’t know if this is the correct forum. My main comment is I want ‘Limerock Ruby.’ Is it zone 7 hardy or an annual & would you grow from seed or buy plants? Thank you!

    Welcome, John! ‘Limerock Ruby’ is not hardy for me in Zone 6, so I treat it like an annual. I suspect it might not survive the winter in Zone 7 either. You’ll need to buy plants. It’s a little expensive to grow as an annual, but the color is so rich that it’s worth it.
    -Nan

  13. Posted by Prairie Girl on March 2, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    I love Pink in the garden! I had to laugh at the yellow/pink dictum. I found a very striking petunia last year that was yellow shading to pink, ‘Dolce Flambe’, that really appealed to me. Although it was not as vigorous as some of the hybrid strains; I think it’s a seed strain. Is that a hydrangea behind the pink phormium? I love how it complements that weird shade the flowers turn. Your borders have so many interesting layers, I always see something else I need to try.

    Mmmm…that petunia sounds interesting, PG. Yep, that’s a hydrangea in that shot with the phormium – ‘Tardiva’, I think. You’re right about the weird pink of aging hydrangeas; it’s what I think of as mauve, though I’m not sure that’s right.
    -Nan

  14. Another lovely post, Nan…as always! Love how you captured the iridescent beauty of the Panicum…one of my absolute favorite plants! I always lust after that ‘Amazone’ Jerusalem Sage…such a stunner. Honestly, if you’d asked me if I had much pink in my garden last year, I would have said “no”. However, over the past winter, doing post of the prevsious season, I realized I have TONS of pink! I think it’s my love of purple, and as I think you mentioned, plants listed as purple are often really pink. Also…I do think I occasionally buy plants for their foliage, not really thinking about what the flowers will look like (hello, Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’). Then again, sometimes those end up as “happy accidents”.

    I too adore ‘Dallas Blues’, Scott. I’d hate to have to choose just one panicum, but if I did, it would probably have to be ‘Dallas Blues.’ (Or ‘Northwind’ – it would be close.) The great performance of the pink phlomis here always surprises me. I’d love to grow russeliana too, but it always rots.
    -Nan

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