Color in the Garden

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Colorful Plant Combinations

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saponaria-montgomery spruce-heuchera 'miracle'

Saponaria officinalis, dwarf Montgomery Spruce, Heuchera ‘miracle’

Each month, in the back of their magazine, Fine Gardening publishes a full-page color photo called Captivating Combination – a layout of unusual and often stunning plant combinations. I’m often dazzled by these photos (Purple Verbena, red Texas Sage, purple Fountain grass;  pink tulips, blue Woodland Phlox, lemon yellow Globeflower; Purple Drumstick Allium, Canna, Black-eyed Susan…) Over time they’ve taught me to see in color, texture and nuance. They are small pockets of surprise, artfully combined.

Now I finally have my own “captivating combination.” I’d like to say the design was purposeful, but I can’t.  The Saponaria (on the left) was purchased two or three years ago and the dwarf Montgomery Spruce (top) has been in the garden for a while. It’s the Heuchera that’s new.

You see, I bought five Heuchera ‘miracle’ last year, and planted them in a different part of my garden. But their roots were quickly disturbed (something burrowing? tunneling? hungry?). By the time I realized their distress, three of the Heuchera were destined for the compost pile. I wasn’t sure where to move the survivors, so I tucked this one under the spruce, hoping that a bit more shade and protection would nurse it back to health.

And now here it is — a picture that stopped me in my tracks last week on my way out the front door. I love these colors. I love these textures. And today only, I’m allowing myself to pretend that I have the “Captivating Combination” photo in Fine Gardening magazine.

plants in the photo (in my Redding, Connecticut garden):

Heuchera ‘miracle”: This is very interesting Heuchera (also known as coral bells). During the cooler weather in spring and fall the foliage is brick-red with bright chartreuse to gold edges and silvered undersides. During the warmer months the leaves turn green.  ‘Miracle’ produces pink flowers in midsummer. Zones 4-9.

Montgomery Blue Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’): An evergreen conifer dwarf that forms a dense, symmetrical cone shape.  Attractive, pointed gray-blue needles. Hardy in zones 2-8. Very slow growing to 3 to 4 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide.

Saponaria officinalis: Also known as Soapwort, this is actually a member of the carnation family. It contains high concentrations of saponin, which creates foam in water and has mild cleansing properties. Before the soap-making process was known, Saponaria’s crushed roots were soaked in water in order to do the laundry. The herb is a laxative, but it can be toxic, so internal use isn’t recommended. (info from The Complete Herb Encyclopedia) Can be used as a ground cover. Moderately fertile, well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Zones 3-8.

Author: Sharon Epstein

College consultant, teaching students how to write memorable college application essays and succeed at college interviews.

One thought on “Colorful Plant Combinations

  1. Aren’t you glad that you don’t have to do the laundry with saponaria? I have been having a few FG moments too..one is Phlox divaricata’s lovely blue next to another two heucheras (whichare currently being chewed by those damn little white moth loop caterpillars)Heuchera Frosty Violet and Citrine, which is a yummy lime green..they were also nice with some yellow, and orange tulips…nice texture, nice color play..not techy or would share

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