Our gardens are always in a state of change. A corner at the bottom of my garden was once a very shaded section, overhung by a large, old oak tree. It was my challenge to create a garden of hot-coloured flowers in this area: though now I can't remember why!
For red hues, I planted several Camellia japonica cultivars, lots of red-centred Neoregelia bromeliads, shade-tolerant Salvia such as Salvia miniata and a robust red form of Salvia splendens, funnel-flowered Ruellia elegans and its dainty cousin Ruellia brevifolia, Chinese lanterns of a deep red Abutilon and the reddish-brown form of the shrimp plant Justicia brandegeeana.
Orange flowers were provided by other Abutilon specimens in a range of shades, Strelitzia, Clivia miniata, Scadoxus puniceus and an orange-bloomed cane Begonia. Yellow came from the multi-coloured firecracker flowers of Justicia rizzinii and the yellow-variegated leaves of Euonymus japonicus 'Aureus'. I was pleased with this area when everything had grown up and mingled together pleasingly. The shaded context made the hot colours seem less garish, and more alluring somehow.
Then, sadly, a few years ago, the oak tree died and was removed. Suddenly this area was bathed in hot sunlight and my shade plants didn't like it one bit, their leaves being horribly burned and disfigured. The whole garden section has been revamped since that time, with many plants whisked away to shadier borders. Some plants I never got round to transplanting and they proved to be quite adaptable to the changed conditions, so I left them there: examples being the Camellia (red-flowered ones are more sun-hardy in general), the Abutilon and the Salvia plants, both the Justicia species and both of the Ruellia plants. I replanted the bare spots with sun-loving, hot-coloured plants to keep the colour scheme going.
With a broader palette of plants to choose from amongst sun-lovers, this area is now more colourful than it ever was before. At the moment a number of the red-flowered plants are in bloom and providing a vibrant picture. I find red a tricky hue to deal with, as 'red' can vary so much - from brilliant scarlet and vermillion to reddish-orange to cerise (which is a 'cooler' form of red with a blue element, like burgundy): the cooler reds don't sit easily with the hotter reds. In this part of the garden, I have stuck to the very warm forms of red. Quite a few 'trumpet'-shaped flowers are out right now, providing a cohesive effect, yet with enough diversity of hue and size to be of interest to the eye. The largest trumpets are those of the reddish-orange Hippeastrum bulbs, grown from seed from a soft-pink flowered one! These are held on tall, stout stems and have been quite a feature over the last two months. Nearby is a strong-hued red Lilium (pictured at the start of the blog) given to me by a friend in autumn. I haven't ever had much luck with these before but am hopeful this one will multiply and produce its dramatic flowers next year.
Large, bright red daylilies are providing great joy as a cluster of them open each day. On a smaller scale, the trumpet flowers of a coral-red Alstroemeria are blooming happily. Contrast is form is provided by the spires of Salvia 'Ember's Wish', with its similar-coloured flowers that add to the spectrum of reds in the border and help them merge with the range of oranges and yellows included in the mix. The brilliant red circular flowers of the Flanders poppy - grown from seed scattered without much hope last autumn - have been a wonderful unexpected addition to the scene, and I hope they will self-seed next year. Various tough, red-flowered zonal Pelargonium provide further colour.
I think red flowers need lots of green foliage around them and between them, otherwise their impact can be a bit overwhelming and exhausting, especially in a sunny spot as this is now. I also like using dark purplish-brown leaves with red flowers, as it seems to provide a great foil for them and tones down the exuberant colour a bit. I have included Alternanthera 'Little Ruby' and the striking Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandorf', which has sultry dark foliage topped by vermillion flowers. Some of the red-centred bromeliads from the original planting have been tucked at the back of the border where there is some shade from shrubs, and I enjoy seeing the colour echoes thus created. Some coleus cultivars have red or orange markings on their leaves, and these add leafy colour to the scene.
Today I noticed that the neighbours have just planted a hedge of young Camellia sasanqua all along their fence that borders this part of my garden, so eventually it may all be shaded again! In the meantime, I am revelling in my red corner!
The charm of vintage gardening books
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A trip back in time
21 Feb 21
Cane-stemmed Begonia cultivars are summer stars for foliage and flower power in Sydney gardens.
14 Feb 21
There are some unusual flowers on my grasses now.
07 Feb 21
These plants bloom for many months in my garden - and some are in flower all year!
31 Jan 21
Many scented flowers are in bloom now.