NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


A Gardening Journal

Good Together: Yellow Ribbon Arborvitae, Alaska Midnight Daylily, Gold-leaved Raspberry

When colorful plants are near one another, a conversation about color begins. Is the hue of one the same as that of another? Just a bit different? A full-on contrast? A clash? If the plants in question are each just a single color, the chatter can become monotonous. But if even one of the plants is multicolored, the conversation deepens and even sparkles.

 Thuja occidentalis Yellow Ribbon Hemerocallis Alaska Midnight hand 071517 320

Take this red-and-yellow daylily, Alaska Midnight. Its color scheme has a shimmering complexity that keeps at the table a "single topic" companion like the Yellow Ribbon arborvitae. You'll stick around, too.

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Good Together: Pink-flowered Wild Hydrangea & Huldine Clematis

Many pink-flowered hydrangeas are a puzzle. If your soil's too acid, the pink of mopheads & lacecaps can become blue. Unless, of course, the winter was so severe that the flower-producing growth had been killed first. Although the later-season pink of oakleaf and PG hydrangea flowers is inevitable, it's often a mixed blessing when these shrubs are highlights of gardens that would prefer to continue celebrating yellow, orange, and red right through to frost.

Hydrangea arborescens Invincibelle Spirit Clematis Huldine 070215 with Kosteletzkya virginica 320

Pink-flowered wild hydrangea's the answer when you need pink that's bullet-proof regardless of soil pH or when the previous winter was evil and arctic. Hooray!

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Good Together: Siberian Cow Parsnip, Purple Osmanthus, Chinese Tulip tree

Siberian cow parsnip is another of my garden's immense and dangerous plants, and shares with hardy orange the ability to send careless humans to the emergency room.


The danger with hardy orange is its thorns, which are long enough and sharp enough to stigmata a hand or puncture an eye. Siberian cow parsnip causes injury when chemicals that infuse all of its parts come into contact with skin. They bring on a dermatitis so severe—blisters! scars!—you'd wish it were just poison ivy. 

Osmanthus heterophyllus Purpureus Heracleum sosnowskyi Liriodendron chinense 060617 overall 320

Both plants have ornamental potential that's unique as well as substantial, so I grow them respectfully. I allow the cow parsnip to self-seed under careful supervision, so it can pop up with strategic spareness. This one volunteered in just the right place to partner with both purple osmanthus (front) and Chinese tulip tree (back).


The parnip's coolest connection to the two isn't the contrast with its immense jagged foliage. Nor with its satellite-sized umbels of white flowers held high out of frame. Rather, it's the purple speckles on its stem.

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Good Together: Mandarin Honeysuckle & Romantika Clematis

Spring into early summer is the year's first season of unstoppable garden color; fall foliage is the second. In between are the months of the year's hottest and driest weather, which make exuberant garden displays possible only by dint of creativity, wisdom, and industry.


But from now through early July, the living is still easy. Even extravagant moments, such as this tapestry of Mandarin honeysuckle and Romantika clematis, are a snap.

Clematis Romanika Lonicera x Mandarin equal overall 061417 320 

I planted both vines years ago and, so far this entire year, have done nothing to encourage let alone stage-manage their performance. Bountiful though they surely are, could the show possibly be better? Perhaps. Time for a closer look at what makes combinations of colorful plants exciting, both at first glance and upon sustained reflection.

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