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: Buds of Variegated Spanish Dagger and Everything Else within Reach

The flowers of Spanish dagger are almost pure white. So many of them crowd each tall, multi-branched stalk that you can enjoy a yucca clump in full flower from hundreds of yards away. In large part, the display is so successful because it is so comprehensible at such a distance. You don't just think, "Wow: big colorful plant in bloom way over there." You think, "The flower spike on that plant is huge. I'm not just looking at a plant bearing a lot of flowers all over." Eat your heart out, magnolias and forsythia, cherries and azaleas.

 

Spanish dagger buds are a delight, too—but the interplay of dusty maroon, pink, green, and white is lost even steps away.

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Yucca: The plant to site both on the horizon and right at hand. 

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Dusty deep-purple bracts cover each young side-stem of the Spanish dagger's inflorescence. The flower buds themselves are tipped with a much lighter shade: rosy pink. Intervals of pale green and greenish-white are the perfect contrast. I had usually set out my four pots of Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' in the far distance in my garden: At the four corners of the reflecting pond. The clump's strongly-striped rosettes of sword leaves were showy from afar all season—from mid-Spring through hard frosts in the Fall—as were the spikes of flowers in September.

 

But the intimate coloristic drama of the buds was lost. This season, purely to have closer access to the four pots so I could water and fertilize them more diligently, I arrayed them in one of the centerline displays of the pink borders. In the picture below, the reflecting pond itself is obscured by the many containers of aquatic plants growing in it. Two large PeeGee hydrangeas flank the pond's near corners.  

 

In the front center of the shot, the large centerline grouping between the two pink borders, there's a pot of yucca at each corner.

 

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Two pots define the near corners of the grouping; the other two define the far ones.

 

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In such a focal and intimate setting on the axis of the entire garden, the pots of yucca are so much closer at hand. As important, they are no longer isolated specimens. Instead, they are corners for a large and crowded square of warm-weather containers (jacaranda, giant potato creeper, purple-leaved mimosa, Chinese banana, variegated fig, 'Persian Queen' geranium, striped agave, and cherry-pink swamp mallow). Plus, purple-leaved perilla and tall verbena have seeded themselves in between the bluestones on which the pots are set; in the middle of the entire group, some purple barberry. At the edge of the borders, two clumps of hydrangeas lean in towards the sides of the center group; nearer the front of the shot, two colonies of pink 'Gibralter' lespedeza arch and sprawl everywhere.

 

I had set the quartet of yuccas into this jam-packed context mainly for ease of access, plus a vague realization that their variegated foliage would show up well from a distance. Although this current grouping brings the yuccas fifty feet and more closer to the house than they were at the corners of the reflecting pool, at over a hundred feet, they are still far away. I was still thinking of these yuccas as horticultural semaphors: Plants able to communicate a simple message over a great distance.

 

But then, September, and my reward for more faithfully tending the yuccas: the spikes of flowers. It was serendipity that these blossoms' buds would be the show that was worthy of the yuccas' lapidary placement this year, smack amid so many purple-and-pink-friendly plants.   

 

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The pink buds make an easy shout-out to the sparkly pink heads of tall verbena at either side, whereas the whitish stems beckon to the white stripes of the agave. The dark purple bracts find their echo in the small rounded barberry leaves just visible, below, at the base of the agave.

 

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This late in the season, purple-leaved perilla has finally come into flower. It stops forming new pairs of leaves, which have an inky-purple hue, and allows the old leaves to continue lightening to greenish purple. 

 

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In the picture below, the perilla leaves as they appeared six weeks ago. They still held their matte-purple hue, creating an easy see-it-from-a-hundred-feet contrast with the striped green-and-cream foliage of the yucca. Now that the yucca has begun to work on its flowers, the softer green-purple of the late-season perilla leaves creates a subtler and more detailed interaction with the yucca buds.

 

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Leaning out from the borders themselves, greenish-white flower heads and rosy stems of 'Invincibelle Spirit' hydrangea are another take-a-closer-look linkage with the yuccas' bud spikes. When the hydrangea flowers were young way back in July, they were pink: a shocking new color for Hydrangea arborescens, whose flowers had, heretofore, always been white. As with the deep purple of the mid-Summer perilla foliage, the July collaboration of those large pink flowerheads with the bold striped yucca foliage was easy to appreciate without even leaving the house.

 

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Now that the yucca is in bud, so many intriguingly intimate relationships among these diverse and exceptional plants have come to the fore. The details are so worth the trip. 

 

I'll profile Perilla frutescens 'Purpurea' soon. Here's how to grow Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata'. Here's how crisp and showy it looked the year I arrayed four tubs of it at the corners of the reflecting pool, right by the ultra-twiggy mounds of Salix purpurea 'Nana'.

 
 
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