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Fabulous Foliage from Seed: Purples and Reds

‘Purple Majesty’ millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and ‘Osmin’ basil (Ocimum basilicum) with golden elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Aurea’) and ‘Limelight’ four-o’clock (Mirabilis jalapa)

Whether you’re a fanatic for foliage-focused plantings or simply appreciate the many ways that colorful leaves can enhance your flowers, it can be hard to resist the latest anything-but-green perennials and woodies in nursery catalogs and garden-center displays. Take one look at the price tags on these beauties, though, and you may be contemplating a loan to bulk up your plant-buying budget. And then, you’ll still have to wait a couple of years for them to settle in and fill out to their full glory.

There’s a way to make your gardening dollars go further and get faster results at the same time: by taking advantage of the many annuals and tender perennials that are easy to grow from seed. They come in a wide range of heights and colors, so you’re sure to find some that can complement just about any bed, border, or container planting you can dream up, and you’ll be waiting only weeks to start enjoying them.

Lovely in their own right, seed-grown foliage annuals are also useful for testing combinations or large-scale planting plans before fully committing to them. If the heights and colors work out, you can then replace them with similar perennials or shrubs; if not, you can easily replace them with another option the following year.

There are so many excellent seed-grown foliage annuals that I’m dividing them up by color. Let’s start the series with the deliciously dark-leaved options.

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Purple Prose – Part 3

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

Penstemon digitalis 'Husker Red' with Imperata cylindrica 'Rubra' and Trifolium rubensPurple foliage lends itself so well to high-contrast plant pairings that it seems almost a waste to try it in quieter combinations. In my garden, this usually happens only by accident: The purple foliage is there waiting for the bright flowers to do their thing, and it ends up looking good with another leafy partner. Well, I’m inclined to enjoy beauty where I find it, and these unplanned pleasures often delight me more than my carefully considered pairings.

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Purple Prose – Part 2

Clematis seedling with Rosa glauca

Text and photos ©Nancy J. Ondra

Every few months, I start a new list of garden projects I’d like to try. It would be better if I’d keep just one running list, because the many small bits of paper scattered over my desk get used as bookmarks or coasters or end up getting filed with other papers, and I lose track of them. When I do run across an old list, it’s fun to read it over and see what I’d planned and what (if anything) I’ve accomplished. One project that’s appeared on quite a few of my lists is making a black-and-white garden.

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