Autumn colour echoes

Sunday, 06 May 2012

Abutilon flower with leaf of Liquidambar styraciflua

The month of May sees the colouring of deciduous autumn trees, shrubs and creepers in our Sydney suburbs. Though we don't get the truly sumptuous display of cooler areas such as the Southern Highlands or the Blue Mountains, there are a number of specimens that can give pretty colour in our climate, as I have written about in previous blogs in 2009 and 2010. As readers of the website may know, one of my greatest delights in gardening is to form combinations of plants, and I particularly enjoy colour echoes, where the flowers of one plant are placed nearby the similarly coloured leaves of another plant. In autumn, I enjoy observing and thinking of partnerships between flowers and deciduous leaves. Many of these remain only in my mind, or as collages of picked leaves and flowers as shown in some of the photos in this blog, and never actually get created in the garden but it is still fun to contemplate the idea - and in other gardens I have seen some very successful pairings.

Salvia madrensis with a golden elm tree in the garden of Tracey Fleischner in Sydney

Autumn-flowering Salvia form the backbone of my garden at this time of year and they have lots of potential for forming colour echoes with a background of deciduous trees. A recent visit to the lovely garden of Tracey Fleischner in Sydney revealed a flourishing specimen of the yellow Salvia madrensis placed nearby a young golden elm (as pictured above), an effective grouping.

Salvia confertiflora with leaf of Liquidambar styraciflua

Other Salvia specimens in bloom now have autumn-coloured blooms, such as the rich orange wands of Salvia confertiflora. These flowers have a lovely velvety quality and are held on long spires. The plant seems to take a couple of years to settle down to produce a lot of flowers, so I wasn't quite sure about this plant originally, but it has been blooming for several months now and I am planning where I could put some more of them nearby my big Liquidambar tree that forms a quilt of yellow, orange, red and burgundy leaves throughout May.

Salvia elegans Purple Form with leaf of Liquidambar styraciflua

Lovely Salvia elegans Purple Form is another autumn bloomer (which will also continue into winter) and its dainty burgundy flowers match in well with deciduous leaves of a similar hue. There are several red Salvia in flower at this time of year - including the indefatigable Salvia splendens, Salvia miniata and Salvia 'Van Houttei' - and they could be grown near trees with a reddish hue to their changing foliage - including some of the Japanese maples that grow and colour well in Sydney's mild climate.

Stelitzia reginae with Lagerstroemia indica, the crepe myrtle

The bird-of-paradise plant, Strelitzia reginae, flowers throughout autumn and winter, and I have enjoyed seeing its bird-like inflorescences with a backdrop of an orange-tinged crepe myrtle tree and a stunning orange Chinese pistachio tree (Pistacia chinensis) in my neighbourhood. Abutilon - the Chinese lantern shrubs - flower from late summer through to late spring, so they are also excellent for colour echoes with autumn foliage, as they come in many hues of oranges, yellows, reds and mahogany. Shrubby red Pentas keep on blooming well through autumn and could be given a similar backdrop.

Ruspolia seticalyx with leaves of Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Some autumn leaves have an unusual salmon tint and can be partnered with flowers of a similar colour. The pairing shown (left) is of foliage from a Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) grown on a wall in my garden (which also has red and orange colouration in many other leaves), with an unusual member of the Acanthaceae family that I have recently been growing: Ruspolia seticalyx. I am not very familiar with its growth habit or flowering season as yet, so am not sure if it is going to prove to be a useful garden plant, but it began to bloom in early autumn and is still going strong, with clusters of pretty star-shaped salmon-pink flowers with dark red/orange markings, on a small shrub.

The potential for autumn colour echoes is endless!

Reader Comments

  • By Maureen 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 May 2012

    What a beautiful Salvia convertiflora - so long flowering. Must try and get that one being greedy as I am for long flowering plants despite my vow to not plant anything which grows more than 3-4 feet!! Thanks, Maureen. The salvias are useful for their long flowering periods, and there are quite a few more compact ones. Deirdre

  • By Katherine 3265 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 07 May 2012

    Love your blogs. The latest identified my newest salvia [confertiflora] for me. Many thanks! Thanks, Katherine! Deirdre

  • By Lyn 4570 (Zone:11B - Tropical) Monday, 07 May 2012

    Just back from a visit to Vic"s Alpine Way, and later Armidale. A little early but still gorgeous! Came home to find vibrant colour in a young Lagerstroemia speciosa. I also grow Persimmons as much for foliage as for fruit. I do have liquidambers, too young yet but I"m hoping for good colours. The Persimmon is a good one for Sydney. Hope your liquidambar will give good colour as it matures. Deirdre

  • By Tracey 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 07 May 2012

    The vista of my garden you have pictured is even more beautiful now that the background is coloured red and orange by the neighbors liquid amber.It sounds gorgeous, Tracey. Great that your neighbour has the tree and you can enjoy it! Deirdre

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