A neon rainbow

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Hemerocallis August Flame

Somewhere in the dim, distant past, I seem to recall a song called 'Neon Rainbow' (which I think may have been about neon lights in a city, probably with some arcane subtext) and it came to mind when I contemplated an area of my garden that is pleasing to me at the moment. It is one of my more recently completed garden 'rooms' that comprises mainly hot-coloured flowers and foliage, with a bit of blue, purple and burgundy thrown in. For some reason, most of the flowers blooming now have a sort of unearthly glow about them, as if illuminated by some inner light, hence bringing the long-unthought-of song to mind!

I find the effect of these flowers quite thrilling, as I don't have this look anywhere else in my garden and it is totally by chance that all these smouldering flowers have been gathered into this corner. Perhaps it's just a trick of the light at this time of year that makes them look so radiant, but whatever the cause, I am enjoying being in this part of my garden at the moment. It is probably the most overtly 'tropical' part of my garden, with lots of large, lush leaves added into the mix of brightly coloured blooms.

Fuchsia Triphylla Group

Small shrubs contributing to the effect include my orange-red Fuchsia Triphylla Group cultivar (ht to 90 cm), with its clustered pendulous tubular blooms; nearby, Russelia equisetiformis (ht 60 cm) echoes it, with slimmer flowers of the same hue, as it cascades over the edge of the low garden wall that supports the bed. Twining Manettia luteorubra (ht 2-4 m) is yet another plant with vibrant tubular blooms, and it wanders happily amongst all these plants. Red Pentas (ht 1 m)adds its clustered posies to the picture, along with the fire-engine red of Salvia splendens self-seedlings (ht to 1 m), which grow much taller than their parents from nursery punnets. Shrubby Bauhinia galpinii (ht 1.8 m) will soon add its burnished orange butterfly-like blooms to the scene. Red, orange and yellow Canna flowers are in full bloom at the moment, blazing their brilliant colours on towering stems (ht 1-2 m).

Gaillardia aristata with Sedum mexicanum Gold Mound

Some majestic perennial prairie daisies - Rudbeckia laciniata (ht 1-2 m) - are just beginning to unfurl their shining yellow petals, that surround a prominent central cone. Other flowers from the daisy family (Asteraceae) in bloom include the golden-yellow pom-poms of Coreopsis grandiflora 'Sunray' (ht 50 cm), the clear yellow Anthemis tinctoria and an unusual Gaillardia species I grow, called Gaillardia aristata (ht to 75 cm). It is taller than the more compact cultivars and tends to flop unless staked, but its cheerful luminous flowers appear over a long period from spring through summer, especially if it is deadheaded regularly - this seems to apply to many plants in the family Asteraceae. Also a member of this family, my new scarlet thin-petalled Gerbera is fitting in very well amongst the other hot-coloured blooms.

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora

Hemerocallis 'August Flame' (pictured at the start of the blog) has been one of the stars of the garden in recent weeks. Its name comes from its habit of flowering late in the northern hemisphere summer and it blooms after most other daylilies here have finished, too. It has masses of rich orange-red flowers with a yellow throat, on tall stems, adding a flamboyant zing to the garden scene. The massed blooms of Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora are also spectacular at the moment - I have an orange one and a pretty bright yellow one out. I am reluctant to recommend these bulbs too heartily, as they can become a menace in some gardens by multiplying very rapidly and self-seeding; they should never be allowed to escape into bush areas. The named cultivars may be a bit less likely to become feral; in any case, I try to keep mine under control by ruthlessly pulling out great handfuls of them every year and disposing of them in the green waste bin. They do provide a dazzling splash of colour at this time of year.

I love the contrast of these hot hues with blue or purple flowers. Currently, several cultivars of Agapanthus are in full bloom in this garden area (including the richly coloured 'Purple Cloud', ht 1.8 m), along with some bright blue Salvia specimens, including Salvia 'Indigo Spires' (ht 1.3 m), Salvia 'Blue Abyss' (ht 1.2 m) and the clump-forming groundcover Salvia sinaloensis (ht 25 cm), which has some of the most intense blue flowers in the genus Salvia.

Golden leaves from plants such as Duranta erecta 'Sheena's Gold' (ht 3m), golden oregano (ht 30 cm), gold-leafed Pelargonium (ht to 50 cm), Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious' (ht 90 cm ), Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' (ht 30-50 cm) and Sedum mexicanum 'Gold Mound' (ht to 25 cm) all add to the sizzling effect, and a deeper note of contrast comes from the sultry leaves of foliage plants such as Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon' (ht 60 cm) and Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (ht 1-1.5 m).