In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
July, 2012
Regional Report

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Toad lilies surround a mossy rock, creating a cool green scene in a shady nook.

Happy Green Birthday

My birthday is this week and I am celebrating my favorite color, green. Long before Kermit won our hearts, I learned how difficult it can be to choose corsage flowers for a warm green formal dress. Lucky for me there are creamy green orchids and not just those Kelly green carnations. It is very hard to admit that you like primary and pastel green better than pink or blue for baby clothes and hard to explain why the front door must be grass green. These shades suit me and they soothe me, too.

Hot and Cool Greens
Between the primary colors yellow and blue on the color wheel sits the world of green. The closer to yellow the hue is, the warmer its effect, which becomes increasingly cooler as it approaches blue. To understand how this works, think of color crayons. Iguana green is definitely green, but has a lot of buttery yellow in it, like pea green does. Paint a wall with either and it will be tranquil but hot on a sunny day. Use those shades to warm up a cool basement and reserve shades like sea green to cool a hot wall. Like aqua and good old blue green, sea green looks more like a blue color with green in it. They sail into a space like bon vivants and they never seem to sweat, unlike the more muscular yellow greens.

Choosing Variegation
I was late to the party, the last one to embrace variegated leaves. I even think I wrote about my dislike for them in this space a decade ago when I derided variegated euonymus. That shrub is a mealybug and white fly magnet to be sure, but I no longer want to burn down all I see. When I realized how bright and distinctive variegation can be, I began slowly, with Carissa holly. It has deep blue green leaves and nearly white edging and added a bright yet soft spot badly needed behind a rose hedge.

Emboldened, I soldiered on into yellow and green variegation with sanchezia, heuchera, and 'Kaleidoscope' abelia. All used to look sick to me, like they needed fertilizer, until my eye matured to see the depths and heights of these green shades together. This spring I added a variegated hosta to a bed below purple-leafed lorapetalum that also has a rose and a native cactus in it. The rest looked okay, but now the view has focus, thanks to variegated green leaves.

Grow Green Swords
Perhaps the reason I so prize green in the garden is the way its shades work with plant forms to create strong textural diversity. To appreciate this variety, I am particularly devoted to sword shapes, both clubby and sleek. Iris leaves, for example, provide shades from bluish bearded iris to shamrock green flags. Both grow well in sunny sites and bloom for a few great weeks, but even in spaces gone too shady for the flowers, their foliage stands just as stalwart and shiny anyway.

Canna and banana plants offer more brute force and because some of their leaves are striped yellow or red, the green pops out even more. Indoors all year at my house, the deep green snake plants point like arrows to the sky to lift the mood in the darkest room. These plants run the gamut of green from light and yellowish to deep bottle green that is so blue it is almost black. I love a group of plants that is inspiring, diverse, and green.


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