Today I want to share with you a garden where a simple change has been used to really switch things up. Rather than relying on annual flowers for summer long colour, Coleus, a plant valued typically for its colorful foliage, has been used instead.
Coleus is one plant that I find is a bit ploarizing. You either like it or think it's hideous.
Its crazy colors are not exactly for the faint of heart: burnt orange, vivid magenta, lime green, deep burgundy and chartreuse to name, but a few. Even more outrageous is the fact that these wild colors are often splashed across a single leaf.
Personally I like coleus, but it never occurred to me to use them in a mass planting as you would annual flowers.
The originality of this simple switch-out impressed me.
In this garden, coleus has been used in many of the flower beds, and also in a more typical fashion in the container plantings.
Coleus with Sweet Potato Vine, Ipomoea batatas at its feet.
The backyard is also nicely designed. We enter through a side gate that you can see on the right. The land is sloped towards the back of the property and so the back garden has been terraced.
Here is a very rough layout:
Here we are just inside the back gate and to the right of the dining area.
Coleus combined with a dwarf variety of Weigela.
A set of steps lead to the upper level of the garden where a couple of chairs are waiting. In the background, there are a pair of "black sheep" grazing.
Opposite the two chairs, there is a small stream fed pond.
At the top of the stream, there is a little waterfall.
The Japanese Maple adds a wonderful note of color to a largely green planting.
At the foot of a mature tree, the plantings in this part of the yard are part shade to full shade.
They include small daylilies, hosta, Heuchera, Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum), and Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris). I especially like the way an evergreen, Creeping Jenny, and ivy have been used to soften the edges of the stream and pond.
Wether you like Coleus or not, the idea you can take away from this garden is that interesting things happen when you think outside the box.
More Information and Links:
Growing Coleus: Coleus is a tender perennial that can be grown indoors or outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. I have often read that it is a shade plant, but I have never had them prosper in full shade. I find they much prefer half-shade or afternoon shade.
Pinching is necessary to prevent leggy growth. Here is a quick little video guide from Fine Gardening on the subject of pinching coleus to get a bushier plant: Pinching a coleus plant
Last fall I took cuttings from all my coleus plants and brought them indoors for the winter. They are sitting happily in a window that gets lots of morning sunshine. I have pinched them back once or twice and added a liquid fertilizer whenever I water them. They are happy enough, but are looking forward to moving outdoors again in late May.
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