Looking for a new look

Wakefield, MA

When I started planning this corner garden 5 years ago, I was very into hot colors--bright oranges, gold, and red. Now I am wondering if they are just too harsh, especially the bright orange. (Even though that butterfly weed really does feed the butterflies and bees, too. They love it...and it blooms so long, practically as good as an annual). So I am leaning towards more cool colors, like light pinks, blues. I also think that a cottage garden look might go better with my house, which is a Victorian. What do you think? What could I keep and what could I introduce to make this better and get a new look? I am thinking especially of a light pink or dark pink rose, maybe a Dwarf Alberta spruce somewhere in there to add some more formal structure.

To give you an idea of what I have in there, there is a Winterberry shrub in the very back, a rhododendron to the left anchoring that corner, and a very small conical boxwood which you can't see at all which is supposed to anchor the right corner. In terms of perennials, there is catmint in the center, veronica Blue Charm, white Becky shasta daisy, orange butterfly weed, heliopsis 'Summer Nights' (that's the gold flower draping all over its neighbors), red bee balm, and black-eyed susan yet to bloom in this midsummer picture.

Thumbnail by ilovedahlias
Wakefield, MA

Here is the garden in mid-spring. Much tidier, I think.

Thumbnail by ilovedahlias
Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

I think what you have is lovely and so I will look forward to reading what suggestions others give you.

Wakefield, MA

Thanks for the compliment, missingrosie!

San Bernardino, CA(Zone 9a)

I'm just getting started so I'm planting every color. Why not try adding different colors in with what you have? Is there such thing as too much color? Not for me. I hope you have fun with this

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Yes, everything looks very healthy and well cared for, which is always attractive.

Folks with better aesthetic sense than me can comment, but it sort of feels what is a little bit off is the form and foliage, not the flower colors? Esp in the spring photo. There's sort of a lot going on, without a repeating pattern or a path for the eye to follow?

If it's making you happy now, I wouldn't sweat it. And you can always use the orange as an accent with the cooler colors.

Wakefield, MA

Hmmm. Give me more on this idea of creating a path for the eye to follow.. I definitely agree on the foliage form point. I realized just this past summer how much it helped planting my purple/black chocolate eupatorium in the front. I agree I need to get some more pretty leaf shapes and form, esp in the front.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

You do have a very pretty cottage garden and it would be a shame to remove the butterflyweed since it is so good for the monarchs and not always easy to move when it is mature.

I also agree that what you might feel is "wrong" with the plant choices is a lack of variety in leaf size, color and texture. In the photo most of the plants form similar sized rounded ball shapes except for the tall airy heliopsis which gives an excellent shape and size variety.

An easy fix is to choose some fine textured low plants sporadically in the front of the bed like Phlox subulata, which could spill a little over your concrete edging to soften the look a little. You also could consider a few lavender plants in the front for their blue leaves. The lavender looks wonderful growing with my next suggestion Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium Scoparium).
An excellent addition near the butterfly weed is a grass like Little Bluestem with it's lovely fine texture, bluish toned leaves (especially in the cultivar "The Blues") and rosy Fall color. In the Fall the pink toned grass looks good planted with Penstemon "Husker Red" which adds red leaves and bolder texture to fine grass. Mountain mint, Pycanthemum tenuifolium, is a fine textured plant with small white flowers that is also good for attracting butterflies and many beneficial pollinators and it laxly falls into open spaces.

If you want pink near your butterflyweed, another milkweed, Asclepias purpurascens, and my favorite milkweed for the variety of colors between the buds and flowers is an excellent addition. The buds are orange hued but the flowers are pink.
It is also taller and bolder in leaf.

Another trick is to repeat a color or texture throughout the garden bed.
In the photo I'm picking up the red in the stems of the Penstemon "Husker Red" with the fine textured bronze Fennel and tying it to the red leaves of the Ornamental Plum with red leaves in the background.

This message was edited Dec 7, 2011 8:06 AM

Thumbnail by sempervirens
Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Here is a photo of the purple milkweed with buds and bloom with the Penstemon again. As you see the red lines in the leaves of the milkweed are repeated in the red stems of the Penstemon.
Penstemon seeds well, is easy to move and has 3 season garden value so I use it alot.

The trick is to find a plant or 2 that you like, works in your garden and is preferably native that you can repeat.
I haven't bought a Penstemon in 10 years, all come from my original 3 plants.

This message was edited Dec 7, 2011 7:37 AM

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Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

Here is the new spring growth of the Little Bluestem grass with Mountain mint and the Penstemon.
Lots of texture.

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Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

wow that truely is pretty. Is that a nepeta between the asclepias? Have you thought about maybe adding a darker purple there instead, say a Salvia nemerosa, blooms all season, that would help to tone down the brightness of the orange a bit. Personally I would be careful about adding pink unless it had some orange tint with it. Geum Mrs. Bradshaw has both pink and orange in it and an all summer bloomer at 12-18". How long does the asclepias bloom for you? I have A. incarnata Ice Ballet, which only blooms in June. Could also consider Sedums (the taller varieties) as they develop their buds in mid summer and don't show much color til later in the season but still have a flower head. How about Limonium latifolium (perenn. statice) soft and airy at 28-30", light purple, right up there in height. If you want to continue with the color theme, look into coreopsis grandiflora, there are so many new ones available now and they bloom all season. How 'bout Chrysanthemum or Leucanthemum Mary Stoker or Sheffield hybrids, can't remember which one, is a pinkish orange, blooms ealier than traditional mums and one of which has a distinct fragrance (not just the mum smell when brushed). , if I remember right is about 24-30". Just a few ideas to toy with. Good luck, Kathy.

Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy
Wakefield, MA

Thank-you for all your replies, guys! I have been away from a awhile and haven't had time to respond, my apologies. Thank-you for pointing out that the heliopsis actually helps by contributing a different shape. I hadn't realized that most of my plants were a similar mounding shape. I always find it hard to cut back the heliopsis until the very end, since the flowers are just so cheerful, so I guess I'll just work with it!

I love how your bronze fennel looks, sempervirens! Does that take a lot of space?

I do have some other dark leaves in my front yard: a Black Lace elderberry shrub, Diabolo ninebark, and the chocolate eupatorium shown here. Perhaps I should just add some more dark-leaved plants to bring out that theme more. I tried to plant a Bishop of Landaff dahlia last summer, but the rabbits didn't give it a chance! I was thinking of growing it in a pot until the leaves were a bit tougher before planting it in the ground. Wonder if that will work...

I also like your idea of a darker purple in the middle, Kathy. Which variety of Salvia nemerosa would you recommend? I have the Marcus, but it is a bit short and did not bloom more than early summer for me. I'd be willing to use an annual there if there is something that would really work.

Kathy, the asclepsias that I have was originally Gay Butterflies. When I first bought it it had yellow and orange blooms, I recall. But after a while it only bloomed orange! Go figure. It does reseed readily, but that I don't mind. It blooms from early summer through to early fall. I deadhead it and it produces one or two more rounds of flowers! In addition, I think that the new first-year seedlings bloom later than the mother plant, thus extending the overall bloom time in my garden.

The statice looks lovely. It makes me think of heliotrope, which I tried to grow one year, but it stopped flowering for me. That's also a dark purple. Are there any other long-blooming dark purples that you would recommend?

I will look into the mums, too. I have very little fall color.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

I've been away also so I didn't see your bronze fennel question until today.
It is a large plant that spreads easily but I do control it and limit it's size and spread.
It has a light airy feel even though it can reach 3 or more feet tall.
You can grow it easily from seeds.
Since it is a host plant for the Black swallowtail butterfly you'll get lots caterpillars.
Since it isn't native and can be considered invasive in some areas I have been trying to replace it with a native host plant, Zizia, but so far
the butterflies have not laid any of their eggs on the Zizia, always choosing the fennel.
This spring I plan to replace a large clump of the fennel with the Zizia and see if the swallowtails will transfer.

Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

I have Salvia nemerosa, can't remember if there's another name attatched, it grows to 24-28" and blooms all season, especially nice if deadheaded.

As far as your Dahlia, you could fashion a cage out of chicken wire, say over a 1 or 2 gallon pot and place over the plant. The bunnies couldn't reach the emerging stems, the stems can grow through the holes in the c. wire. This can be bought at your local hardware store.

Drop back from the corner to window to the house area, you could also place a lattice, post or something similar and place some vines. If looking for annual check out Hyacinth Bean. Flowers are purple, the back sides of the leaves and stems are also purple with dark green heart shaped leaves. The pods if allowed to grow are a redish purple. Or could even grow a clematice that is a summer bloomer.

Ok, thinking of purple flowers with a long bloom......Malva zebrina or a related one ie. Mystic Merlin; Pardancanda july-sept ish, 15-18"; campanula glomerata Joan Elliot, 18", all summer; C. lactiflora is milky blue, 30"ish or C. latifolia, 3ft, Lilac blue; Liatris...could add some inbetween other plants as blooms from July-sept. at 21/2-3ft, they only get about 12" wide; Lobelia fulgens Queen Victoria, not sure about this as lobelias don't make it for me, lol; Platycodon grandiflora "Hakone Double Blue: Salvia (patens) "Purple Majesty, 3ft; Veronicastrum there is one that is blue in color, they bloom in summer at 48" and look like a veronica on stilts, nicw as background.

Does that help any? Hope so.

Pix is Salvia nemerosa

Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy
Southeastern, NH(Zone 5b)

I like purple with orange! Please don't get rid of your butterfly weed! The Monarchs will thank you :)

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

It's absolutely stunning as it is! However, I agree with Kathy that replacing the Nepeta with a Salvia that blooms dark, dark purple would be stunning paired with the orange. 'Caradonna' or 'May Night' would look awesome. There was a thread on the perennials forum comparing the two.


Here is a pic of my Salvia nemerosa 'Caradonna'.

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Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

dont forget caryopteris - the fragrance is wonderful.
it is long blooming
you can cut it way back each and every single year when done blooming with a nice small shrub in time for its next bloom time.
I have dark knight (If it isn't dark...it's black...I get it mixed up with the butterfly bush) it wows in the garden because it glows!

Wakefield, MA

The Salvia Caradonna wins! Those spikes are gorgeous and that will work in my zone. Thanks so much for the advice, everyone! Now that I look at my picture, I think you are all right in suggesting something else for the middle that will be bolder and hold its own in midsummer. I will try three Caradonna in the middle and then add some annuals to soften up their feet, perhaps with bluish foliage, or perhaps the dwarf lavendar or Little Bluestem that you suggested, Sempervirens. I think the tall spikes will look lovely poking up among the gold heliopsis. Thanks so much everyone! Getting a few new plants is going to be much easier than a total overhaul.

Missingrose, I do have a caryopteris, but elsewhere in my yard. It's the First Choice variety. I do love its foliage and late season blooms. I'm afraid I haven't taken care of it as I should as there is a lot of grass growing up between its stems and I think that's keeping it from producing as well as it might. I had a lot of dieback very late winter last year. But this winter is proving to be much milder! Hopefully it will be bigger this year.

Will be sure to post pictures with the results!

North Shore of L. I., NY(Zone 6b)

I love hot colors so your gardenbed looks lovely to me.

Grand Haven, MI

Your garden is lovely and doesn't need a complete over hall. A few tweeks might improve it, but it nice now. In terms of color theory, deep blue or purple is complementary to orange; orange needs that counterweight or it seems unbalanced. The suggestions for salvias or similar makes a lot of sense. Most of the darker chocolate colored plants are really shades of deep desatuated purple. Alternatively, you can do a lot of shades of orange with different reds (including pinks) and yellows, but you need a lot of different tones and a lot of space, which makes it impractical on any border that isn't 10-20 feet wide by fifty to 100 feet long. Purple balances the heat of the orange, but to balance the intensity, and create more repetition, I would add more white, as well as some silver. Pastels are really just colors mixed with white, so adding more white has a similar impact, lightening by dilution. Silver desatuates it, tones it down a bit, as does the deep chocolates. Pinks, which are really light red, and orange, since they are almost the same color, but not really the same color, confuse and annoy the brain unless there is a third or fourth similar shade to either side of them for context. It is like playing two adjacent notes on the piano at the same time; it is dissonant and needs to be resolved. That resolution is very doable and interesting on a large scale, but difficult a small scale, so the effect is just jarring. Some "pinks" are really peaches or salmons, and they might do, because they are really light oranges, but you still would need a range, to connect the colors together.

Wakefield, MA

Genevieve, Thank-you so much for your color analysis! That is very helpful! Something I was considering would fit very well into one of your tips. I was thinking of spreading the shasta daisy around a bit by adding a clump in the middle and to the right by the hydrangea. I was alternatively thinking of getting an iceberg rose, but maybe a rose is too ambitious for me, I don't know. I haven't grown them before. I also bought some delphinium pagan purples online the other day (couldn't resist) and am thinking of putting them in the back...in the um, 4 inches of space between the winterberry and heliopsis. Yeah, I'm really cramming it in there. =0.

Wakefield, MA

I forgot to ask--would you have any suggestions for silver-leaved plants? A quick search came up with Melianthus major (as an annual), dusty miller (of course), Picea pungens, maybe English lavender - violet intrigue, a Petrovskia closer to the front? I was also thinking about the dark purple potato vine for chocolate leaves in the front.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

How about Brunnera? I think the silvery one is "looking Glass."

The sweet potato vine is even prettier hanging, mixed in with lower plants like coleus.

Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

ilove....give your caryoptris a hard hair cut this spring. I usually clip mine back to about half, this helps to produce more stems, thus more flowers, yummmm.

Silver leaved plants: there's a Santolina, personally I grow viren because of it's rich deep green foliage, silver-green Alchemila molis, Lavendula silvery green, Stachys b., Artemesia there are several, Centaurea montana carulea, leaves are green with a greyed hairy cast especially early in the year, and I'm thinking Cerastium ( I have personally never grown).


This message was edited Apr 22, 2012 9:40 PM

Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy
Wakefield, MA

Thanks for the silver-leaved ideas!

I was wondering about Salvia Caradonna and May Night. From what I've read, they seem to bloom more in the early summer range and then take a rest midsummer. Since the butterfly weed starts to hit its stride end of June, will it miss the Caradonna then? I was thinking of using an annual Salvia such as Black and Blue.

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

Yes, I think that is mostly correct. Although I often see May Night paired with Rudbeckia, and the latter is an August bloomer here. There are probably so many differences depending on your climate. My caradonna goes well into July/early Aug, but we have very cool nights here in the summer, so everything tends to start blooming later but then it blooms a lot longer. I love the black and blue salvia, too. I'm hoping it will be perennial for me. (1 out of 2 look like it might come back). Here's mine paired with coreopsis, Amaranthus 'Hopi Red Dye', and pink roses.

Thumbnail by kosk0025
Wakefield, MA

Oooh, that Black and Blue is really pretty...what a nice combination!

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

My pink creeping phlox that I planted 2 yrs. ago is stunning and full this year and the other perennials are starting to fill out behind it, some are almost ready to bloom and I can't wait to see the color so I'll know what I need to move next year or divide. Which coreopsis is that that you have planted; what a sharp yellow it is, against the Amaranthus..Stunning!

I know that I need to work in some more vertical flowers into my flower beds. I am leading on Salvia "Cardonna" when it hits the garden centers I will find a place for it.

Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

Looks like coreopsis grandiflora Sunray, 12-18", June thru frost if deadheaded, can lightly reseed at feet if allowed, and they will make a nice patch. Could bloom earlier in warmer zones I'm thinking.

Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

I'm not sure what type of coreopsis it is, as there were a few here when we moved into this house 5 years ago. However, Kathy's description is accurate so that might be the one. It pops up all over my yard in different beds, but not in an invasive way. It is also easily divided. When we moved in, I had three plants. I now have about 20 large ones, and more babies this year coming up. Thanks for the compliments. I really really loved the Hopi amaranth in particular.

(Pat) Kennewick, WA(Zone 5b)

I would add some birdhouses on TALL posts, maybe a few other "things" besides plants. That will help add interest and beauty during the winter. It will also had some good vertical lines that are in short supply in your beautiful flower bed.

Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

Are you going to add some vines? Planted a bunch of annual vine seeds today and now they are getting watered in by Ma nature, love it!! I forgot to add them last year but remembered it was going to rain tonight so I got some in but not all that I want to plant, more on Saturday.
Also if your looking to get longer bloom on your salvias DEADHEAD, this usually encourages further bloom. Every stem that is cut back produces two more stems for blooming. This works with most all perenns. unless it is a season specific bloomer, ie iris, creeping phlox, perennial poppies etc.
Kosk, Sorry my boof, there are several gold varieties, (many height dependant, from 12-24", 5 different ones). I love coreopsis, it's so bright and sunny. I have 2 different ones of the grandifloras, 2 different ones of the the vercitillatas, the light yelllow one might be nice at the feet of your plant or next to it. I got a new one last fall and I checked today and it starting to show signs of life. It's c. v. Rosea, I am anxious to see it bloom again this spring. I also have c. tripteris which blooms at 5-7ft in July and August. But I must admit I'm stumped. When I got it , it bloomed beautifully, that was at about 3500ft. Then I moved to another home and it bloomed a bit, that was at 6200ft. Now in my current garden, it has never bloomed, I now live at 6900ft. Yup, I'm beginng to suspect altitude is the culprit, but I'll keep trying to get it blooming.
Pix: Geum c. Mrs Bradshaw ( a great example of the pink/orange)
Pix: Origanum rotundifolium Kent's Beauty
Pix: Verbascum phoeniceum, comes in white, pink, rose, lavender, and reddish purple, easy to grow and (for me) 24"^x 6-8">. Great filler plant and reseeds if allowed.
Pix: Campanula rotundifolia or portenschlagiana (Let me tell ya thats a mouthful, lol)
So here's a few ideas for you to consider. And I absolutely Love that Amaranthus!!!!!!
Pix 2 is actually, from left to rt., Lavendula, Scabiosa (short one) and Stachy's macrantha

This message was edited Apr 26, 2012 11:43 PM

Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy
Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

Here's the origanum on the far left, alyssum m. and perennenial Geranium Rozzanne

This message was edited Apr 26, 2012 11:48 PM

Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy
Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

I'm noticing this thread pretty late, but I'll throw my 2 cents in: No one has suggested some tall summer blooming liles, like Stargazer if you want some pink, or Casa Blanca if you want to repeat the white from the daisies. This would get you something other than the rounded mounds. My other comment is my May Night salvia blooms pretty much all summer, as long as I am diligent about deadheading it and you can't cut it too short, just right at the base of each flower spike. Oh, and Russian sage can get quite tall, be careful putting it too close to the front. Lastly, I have some purple New England asters that are very tall, but bloom in late September for me, if you are looking for purple in the fall. They tend to get leggy because the bottoms get a fungus, but I just plant something else in front of them to hide it, because I love the blossoms in Sept, and so do the butterflies. Look at this photo from a couple years ago, this was a once in a lifetime phenomenon, luckily I was home to see it that day. I counted 32 butterflies at one time. This photo was taken on Oct 1

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Salem, OR(Zone 8b)

AMAZING photo, Cindy!

Fort Dodge, IA

I just planted that aster from seed yesterday! I'm so excited now, every fall our trees load up with monarchs as they pass through, it will be nice to see them closer to the ground now that I have some flowers for them. :)

Wakefield, MA

That's gorgeous with all the butterflies! What is your favorite purple/blue aster, Cindy? I am shying away from Asiatic lilies because mine have gotten so many red lily bugs that the plants end up being short stumps! I have heard that they eventually overpopulate and die out? I am waiting... =).

Duxbury, MA(Zone 7a)

I'm afraid I can't be much help on the asters, they were on the property when I bought my first house 20 years ago, and I've brought them with me to this new house. I believe they are New England asters, but I don't know about the specific named variety.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

Ilovedahlias, there are innocuous sprays to avoid that awful red lily beetle. There are two different types I use: one is a spray that makes the vegetation taste bad; the other is a bacterium that actually kills the beetle and other kinds of pests. Of the sprays that make the vegetation taste bad, it has essential oils and does not rinse off in the rain. It also repels deer and other pests. The other bitter-type sprays are available at the pet store/warehouse, such as Grannick's Bitter Apple, and the other sprays that keep a pet from chewing.

Red lily beetles don't die off, they just find other lilies. Their larva winter in the ground. When it warms up early as it did this year, they appear early.


Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

WOW....Cindy...that is truely amazing, could you send some of those Monarch this direction, (PLEASE). Seems like we don't get many monarch the last few years, mostly admirals and swallowtails, very pretty!!!!!

If you want to try another butterfly magnet look for Boltonia asteroides, (aster relative) get 4-5 foot high and as wide, comes in white or pink and the flowers smother out the color green with soooo many blooms. August to frost. Mine is still putting on some girth as I grew from seed so no pix yet, but is a lovely.

Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy

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