Hot trends for adventuresome gardeners
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Veggies in a flowerbed
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Black for gardens
Black is the new...well...black for gardens in 2011. A cult gardener’s favorite for years, black flowers and foliage are a hot new trend, and should be popping up in catalogs and nurseries around the state.
“There is always a trend toward things that are interesting and unusual, and incorporating black into the color scheme in your garden can be exciting,” says Steven Koprowski, landscape designer and owner of Koprowski and Associates in Richmond.
Achieving true black in blooms can be tricky, although more new hybrids are achieving it every year, our experts say. Some of their favorites include Black Barlow columbine, Storm of the Century iris, Black Gamecock iris, perennial black violas, Black Magic elephant ears, Blackie sweet potato vine, Queen of the Night tulips and black daylilies and hollyhocks.
But resist the temptation to create an all-black flowerbed. Too many dark blooms together create a visual void, says Janet Baruch, landscape designer with Greenway Gardens in Richmond. It’s important to place them where they will complement other, brighter flowers, or against a lighter background so they can stand out.
Black flowers and foliage are best used as an accent or foil to other colors, says Janet Rogers, grounds manager for the Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville. Two combinations that work well are black and yellow and black and pink, she says. Another of her favorites: graduated color beds with flowers planted so that the colors move from light to dark.
Light is crucial for black plantings as well, to ensure that the darker blooms are visible. “The color will look very different in shade than in bright sunlight,” Rogers notes.
Other top gardening trends for 2011:
Rain gardens. As eco-gardening goes mainstream, gardeners are turning to rain gardens to preserve water resources and help the environment. Planted largely from grasses and other native plants, rain gardens slow storm water runoff, filter pollutants and rarely need additional watering.
The best location for a rain garden is where water collects during and just after a rainstorm, suggests Ralph Hall, board member of the Piedmont Master Gardener’s Association and editor of the group’s newsletter, The Cultivator. Track how quickly the water runs off, however. Some plants will tolerate being flooded for a few hours or a day, but not necessarily having their roots standing in water for days at a time, he notes.
Top plants for rain gardens in Virginia include blueberry bushes, Jerusalem artichoke, pampas grass, feather reed grass and Great Blue lobelia, our experts say.
The aesthetics of a rain garden can be challenging, Koprowski warns. With primary plantings of tall grasses, reeds and wildflowers, it can be tough to achieve a manicured or landscaped appearance.
Another unique trend—water harvesting—is sprouting from rain gardens, says landscape designer Neal Beasley of Richmond. “Rain barrels are becoming more popular,” he says. And “there are cisterns for the more serious” eco-gardener.
Veggies in the flowerbed. Vegetables aren’t just for backyard gardens anymore. Plant them in an ornamental flower bed for unusual texture and visual interest, Koprowski recommends. The bright red fruits on a cherry tomato plant, when several are clustered together, can actually look like flowers from a distance. “I think [vegetables] add an element of surprise, plus you can eat what you grow,” he quips. Rogers uses red chard to provide a pop of bright color in her garden designs, and puts parsley plants in her flower beds and container plantings for its lush green color. The leafy head of an heirloom purple carrot hints at an unusual surprise below.
Check your veggies’ growth patterns carefully, though, Koprowski counsels. Herbs, like mint, can be beautiful, but invasive.
Miniature conifers. Small pine, spruce, fir and cedar trees are moving into flower gardens this year. Bigger than bonsai, but far smaller than their wild cousins, miniature conifers can start out under a foot tall, rarely max out higher than six feet and grow only a few inches a year.
“They really can be quite charming,” Koprowski says. Plus, their spiky needles and rough bark can provide unexpected texture contrasts to the delicate blossoms and leafy foliage in many flower beds, he adds. There are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from. Just be sure to read up on the plants you like, he says. The difference in the final height of a miniature versus a dwarf tree can be several feet.
It’s time to start digging!