"A neon rainbow revisited"

Hot-coloured flowers still feature in my summer garden
Sunday, 17 January 2021     

Hemerocallis August Flame

One of the benefits of writing this blog is looking back over old posts and realising how much things have changed, both in my garden and my ideas about gardening. I recently reread this blog from January 2012, which described 'one of my more recently completed garden 'rooms' that comprises mainly hot-coloured flowers and foliage, with a bit of blue, purple and burgundy thrown in. For some reason, most of the flowers blooming now have a sort of unearthly glow about them, as if illuminated by some inner light, hence bringing the long-unthought-of song ['Neon Rainbow'] to mind!' This garden bed was in what was then a sunny part of my garden - which has since become quite shady, due to the growth of neighbours' trees plus what I had been under the impression were two 'dwarf' lilly pillies, which quickly grew to around 10 m tall! As a result, that garden border has been replanted with shade-loving specimens, still in the hot-colour range.

Over the last couple of years, I have recreated the effect of the original border in my back garden, where, by chance, an old dead oak tree was removed a few years ago to create a very sunny area, with a couple of garden beds around our old cubby house. In this area, I still enjoy some of the mainstays that were described in the blog, most particularly the unusual Hemerocallis 'August Flame', which blooms in January (August in the northern hemisphere, so hence the name!) - most other daylilies flower around November into early December. The luminous orange-red trumpet flowers with a yellow throat are quite prolific. Orange and yellow Canna were also transplanted into this new area, and flower well in the heat of summer. One compact orange one, given to me by a friend, really has a fluorescent radiance (pictured above).

Many of the other plants described in the blog, however, have fallen by the wayside. The Bauhinia galpinii, the flowers of which I still love, got too big, growing very wide over time and was removed altogether. The colourful summer perennials Coreopsis grandiflora 'Sunray', Anthemis tinctoria and Gaillardia aristata all, sadly, proved to be short-lived - they need to be replaced periodically and, lazily, I have yet to do this. The orange and yellow forms of Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora, that even in 2012 I was expressing a few reservations about, ultimately showed themselves to be something of a pest, multiplying in a rather scary fashion, and being subject to fungal diseases, so they were all dug out in the end.

Instead, the new borders rely on brightly hued Dahlia, such as 'Moonfire', which has golden flowers with a reddish centre, and 'Bishop of Llandaff' with maroon flowers and dark foliage (reflecting my current passion for Dahlia, which feature in many spots in my summer garden, because of their incredibly long booming period and wonderful array of colours), reddish and yellow forms of shrimp plant (Justicia brandeegeana) and orange Cuphea cyanea with petite trumpet blooms. In more recent times I have been growing sterile Lantana hybrids, once I lost my fear of them, and a prostrate rambling one with vivid golden flowers wanders between the other plantings. Zonal Pelargonium cultivars also feature, now that there are specimens available such as 'Big Red' and 'Oh So Orange' that bloom over an extended period. There are various red Salvia, including 'Josh' and a new one to me: 'Roman Red', which has large flowers like those Salvia in the 'Wish' series, but in brilliant red. Strangely, I have found that the red Salvia splendens from the original border, do very well there now that it is shadier: in full sun, the flowers tend to bleach out rather quickly, so I haven't included them in the new area.

I still love to contrast the hot reds, yellows and oranges with blue and purple flowers, which really seem to zing when put next to them. I no longer grow Salvia 'Blue Abyss', as I found it had a shorter blooming period than other blue Salvia cultivars, but I still love 'Indigo Spires' and Salvia sinaloenis. I now include Salvia 'Amistad' for its year-round purple blooms. For later summer colour, I have added in Salvia mexicana Lime Calyx and also Salvia caudata, which has tiny but intensely blue flowers. The new bed also contains the strappy-leaved Neomarica caerulea, which has stunning blue iris-like flowers from November to January, providing a contrast in form to the spires of the blue Salvia plants. I have recently added in a shrubby Iochroma with pendulous purple flowers. This can get quite tall so will hopefully prove to be a good background plant.

I retained the use of foliage plants, including the brilliant Duranta erecta 'Sheena's Gold' and the gold-leaved version of pineapple sage (Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious'). The golden form of feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum') selfseeds through the gardens here. I don't grow Sedum mexicanum 'Gold Mound', golden oregano or gold-leaved Pelargonium in sunny areas now as I prefer the lime colour they have in shaded spots: in sun they are too brassy for me. The lovely gold-leaved Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' was not a stayer in my garden, gradually fading away like so many cool-climate perennials! I now use a lot of coleus, a more recent interest. There is such an incredible range of colours and patterns in the foliage of these plants, and in the new area I have yellow, orange and dark-leaved versions, that echo the hues of some of the flowers. Dark purple foliage also is provided by the excellent Iresine herbstii 'Wallisii', and I also use the yellow-variegated 'Aureoreticulata' in the bed - though I often use Iresine in shaded areas, it does equally well in sun. The tall self-seeding Amaranthus cruentus with burgundy leaves has placed itself in several spots, and looks effective. The Persicaria 'Red Dragon' and Pennisetum setaceum Rubrum from the original border are used in other areas of my garden these days: I still regard them as good plants.

I enjoy wandering in this garden area each morning to deadhead the Dahlia and daylilies and revel in the colours and forms of my new hot-coloured borders.

 Reader Comments

1/2  Ann - 2263 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 18 January 2021

Good Morning Love the colours. I see you have a bark pathway. I have gravel and every thistle seed and other weeds keep popping up. How do you keep your path weed free? I also love Shrimp plant, have both the yellow/white and orange/white variety. I also have Duranta Sheena/Gold and Spanish Lady, but because of every berry taking root I clip it to shape as soon as the flowers appear. At the moment I have Naked Ladies shooting up around the fish pond and Cane Begonias. Ann Lake Haven Thanks for your comments. I agree about clipping the Duranta. I try to keep mine shaped. My path is made of coarse mulch from a tree lopper. Weeds do come up! I try to keep it weeded but also add extra layers of the mulch when I can to try to stop them. i wish I had put weed mat underneath before we put the mulch down in the first place. Deirdre

2/2  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Thursday, 21 January 2021

Your garden is alive with colour, Deirdre, a joy to see. I am fond of lemon and orange in the garden, and have a number of dahlias and cannas blooming at the moment, which certainly brighten the garden. You mentioned Gaillardia. I like these plants, but have planted many over the years, but they don't survive. Perhaps the soil is too rich, I don't know the reason, but would really like to have a patch of them. I am sure your garden is looking gorgeous, Margaret! Re Gaillardia, I wonder if they are always short-lived in Sydney because of our summer humidity. I have found this with so many perennials. They can be kept going with cuttings taken from year to year but I didn't get round to doing this with my plant, unfortunately. Maybe very well-drained soil can help. I think my clay soil was too heavy for them. Deirdre

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