Monday, March 3, 2014

One Simple Change



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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38 comments:

  1. Never sure about coleus. I'm not a fan of the vivid colours That being said, this switch looks great!

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  2. My mother-in-law always used mass plantings of coleus for borders, and it always looked so nice. When I tried to do the same...eh? Not so pretty as hers. I really like the magenta/green ones, but not so much the green/gold.

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  3. I'm glad you explained/photographed the black sheep. The garden map has "Black sheep" and I thought it was some plant that I hadn't heard of yet.

    I like the coleus, especially in the mass plantings like you have it. I may need to experiment with that this year as we have a few places that need some splashes of color.

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  4. I will tell you what...I like using it because it saves me money! I don't have to run out and do much in the way of fall pots because my coleus usually holds on through fall! Your examples here are out of this world beautiful! My goodness...just stunning! I like it because it does have a nice foliage! And speaking of foliage...I am going to see the author of the book "Fine Foliage" speak at my local nursery! i remember the post you did on the book and I am very excited to learn a bit more and meet the author! All the best friend..a job well done on the photos!!! Nicole xoxo

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  5. What a fabulous garden Jennifer! I used to hate coleus and now I will cautiously admit it can look amazing in certain gardens in certain colours. The way they've been used here is just beautiful.

    Thanks for the eyecandy, I sure need something to get me through this latest cold blast. Brrrr!

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  6. Well, the garden you showed looked sensational. That said, while I like the idea of coleus, I think you can go overboard, especially when you mix all the colors together. If you're using them en masse as a bedding plant, I think it works better if you stick to one or two varieties. Or maybe three, at the most.

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  7. Every time a fantastic post and a different one Jennifer. I think you could write a book about all the different gardens. Great to see en read.
    Have a wonderful day.

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  8. Love the pics! I love coleus and always plant around 10 varieties. They are so easy in the summer!

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  9. Thanks for giving me a great idea, Jennifer - I need the garden to look good at the end of the summer and I think Coleus is the way to go!So many colours and sizes. Good for you to actually take cuttings and have them prosper indoors through the winter. This garden was gorgeous and I especially liked the Black Sheep.

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  10. Lovely to see Coleus used so effectively, Jennifer. I love them, but, like you, can't get them to prosper in full shade. They are very slow to 'get away' here in the uk, and are slow starters. They don't have time to get massive as they are usually treated as annuals, and have a relatively short growing period.

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  11. Hi Jennifer, bring on the color, I'm a nut for coleus. I never gave it a thought to mass plant them, oh, boy, you've given me more ideas.....

    Love the sheep grazing in the back yard, they immediately caught my eye (because I thought they were big black rocks, lol.) Your posts are always filled with gorgeous photos and inspiring ideas.

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  12. Hello Jennifer girl !
    I love coleus and usually have containers full of them on the front step .. but last year I copped out with a huge fern which was too simple to take care of .. phew !
    I had not thought of planting them in the ground in a mass planting of sorts .. that is a great idea .. I will have to make a mental note of that now.
    Yes ... I am sick of winter ... I have been so lazy and such a bed-bug .. I am in terrible shape so when I go to do some gardening .. I am afraid what will happen ! haha
    But .. when my garden calls .. I have to be in it.
    Spring is supposed to be in 2 weeks ... yeah ... right .... where is the joke in that I ask you ? LOL
    Joy
    PS .. gorgeous pictures here girl !

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  13. What a wonderful garden, I loved the waterfall pond and the black sheep,,,,I was really impressed by the way Coleus was used here, it looks so luscious!xxx

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  14. I'm in a love hate relationship with coleus...love em when they are little...and not so much when they get out of hand. I wonder how they will do up here in the Okanagan, it's hots here, and sun, yes lot's and lot's of it.

    That is such a beautiful garden, where did you take the photos of it?

    Jen

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    1. Jen, This garden is in the Forrest Hills area of Toronto.

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  15. This is a fabulous garden. My tastes are changing. Some years ago I would have turned up my nose at coleus. Not now! I like that coleus can add some wonderful color to shady areas. I love the first photo showing massed coleus under the tree. I really want to try something similar in my garden this summer.

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  16. What a gorgeous garden! They've used coleus very well. I love it!

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  17. I really like the mass planting of coleus around the tree; I never would have thought of that. I've often used coleus as an accent in containers or in the shade garden, but the last two years I've used them in containers without any flowering annuals and really enjoyed these pots. Other than pinching them back occasionally, coleus are so easy to care for and look good all summer right up up until frost. I have a hard time choosing just a few from all the varieties available now.

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  18. Oh my gosh I was enthralled with that shot of the Coleus surrounding the tree trunk. What an amazing array of color. This was a beautiful garden area and I so enjoyed all the photos of it.

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  19. I don't like coleus, I love them! My garden in summer would not be the same without them. We are so hot here that many summer annuals peter out by late July, and the color in coleus foliage takes me through until fall.

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  20. I have been contemplating growing coleus and your post has convinced me.

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  21. I love the coleus used this way! Can you tell me what kind of trees are lining the fence? There's several in a row and there looks to be some type of fencing behind them. Thank you!

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  22. What type of trees are in these lining the fence?

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    1. Sorry, I wish I knew for sure. If you wanted a similar effect I'd suggest using a tree standard. It could be a lilac standard or a hydrangea standard, if you want the bonus of flowers. There are evergreen options as well. I'd ask at your local nursery and have them show you the range of choses available.

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  23. I love coleus I have all colors & love all of the I am a newbie on the whole green thumb & they have never let me down alwYs big & beautiful this year tho they have had many babies & different colors I didn't even plant this year surprised but not disappointed

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  24. Wow! These pictures are beautiful. I must admit, I never thought of people disliking them so much. My mom always had these long wooden flower boxes on our front porch with a variety of plants, including coleus. So, I have always loved them.
    I also enjoyed this article and will have to start checking your others as well.
    Thank you!

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  25. My husband just brought home two giant plants, can I grow them indoors

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    1. They do make good houseplants. If you want to use the Coleus that your husband bought outdoors this fall, take a few cuttings when you plant your Coleus in the garden. This would be a top rosette of leaves and a short bit of stem. Rinse the leaves just to make sure there are no passengers. Root the cutting in water or plant them in moist soil. Keep the soil moist and place the cuttings in a bright spot out of direct sun. Sometimes covering the plant pot with a plastic bag can create a mini greenhouse that will help the cuttings get established.
      Coleus like a bright window that doesn't get too hot. They like to be watered whenever the soil is dry. You may have to pinch them back every once in a while to prevent them from getting leggy.

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  26. Coleus is a wonderful plant for its outstanding foliage. I create a giant planter every year under my patio overhang, filled with several varieties of Coleus along with a sweet potato vine (both purple and green) trailing along the outside perimeter. It lasts all summer and into fall and looks fabulous. An added bonus is no maintenance, maybe just a little pinching back in August!

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  27. What are the trees planted in a line, in the photo under the plan? Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Sorry, I wish I knew for sure. If you wanted a similar effect I'd suggest using a tree standard. It could be a lilac standard or a hydrangea standard, if you want the bonus of flowers. There are evergreen options as well. I'd ask at your local nursery and have them show you the range of choses available.

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  28. I have become particularly fond of "Wasabi" coleus...very bright green, monochromatic, doesn't flower, roots quickly from cuttings, looks fabulous in pots with dark foliage plants, purples and greens, or in ground, winters over inside well. One plant provides many others, so quite economical.

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    1. I like the "Wasabi" cultivar as well. I also have a brownish leafed variety (sorry I don't know the name of the cultivar) with a bright green edge that cascades wonderfully. I took cuttings from it to overwinter indoors.

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  29. I am growing some flowers from seed. My coleus are beautiful. Mixed colors, they are about 3" tall. Can't wait to get them in the ground, and in pots. Love your pictures.

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    1. I am looking forward to adding coleus to my container plantings again this year. I love the ones with red tones and the chartreuse colors especially. Coleus can be expensive, so good for you for growing it from seed. I am sure you saved yourself some money. They also grow very well from cuttings. You may be able to pinch back your three foot coleus and make additional plants.

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  30. do these plants do well in winter, i live in a zone 4 and the plants are in a north facing flower bed which means lots of snow. i am in Alberta Canada. any advice would be helpful. will they regrow themselves?

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    1. Coleus are annuals here in Canada. You can buy them every spring at a garden centre or you can take cuttings in the early fall and bring them indoors for the winter. During the winter they are houseplants. Then in spring you can replant the coleus outdoors.
      Cuttings need to be taken before the first frost in fall. To take a cutting you simply cut off a young shoot from the big plant. Wash it under cld water, turning it over to check the underside of the leaves for any insect passengers. Put the clean cutting in a small glass of water and place it on a window ledge. Wait for roots to appear and then plant the cutting with potting soil. Keep it as a houseplant until spring.

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