Sumptuous summer annuals

Sunday, 03 August 2014

Annual Rudbeckia and flowering dill in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

As mentioned by a reader in the comments to last week's blog, every little village in France seems to have a wonderful public display of annuals - on roundabouts, in hanging baskets along the cobbled streets, and in the local square. In the big cities too, beautiful plantings of annuals decorate the parks that are the vital outdoor spaces for citizens, who mostly live in apartments. During our stay in Paris, we walked through several of these parks, impressed by the way the people embrace and use these vast areas of greenery, embellished by flowers.

Annual plantings in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

A stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens was a highlight, and I thoroughly enjoyed studying the way annual plantings were done here. Many of the large historic statues (including the original prototype for the Statue of Liberty) were surrounded by a circular bed of annuals - which could have been hideous but were in fact a delight. The plants were not just a hodgepodge of colours thrown together any old way but presented in well-thought out schemes. And the plants were all in perfect health, growing robustly - with not a weed to be seen! The plantings offered lots of lessons in using colour in the garden - whether with annuals or other types of plants. Not too many different types of plants were used in each bed - repeat plantings gave cohesion to the picture. And I enjoyed the occasional use of vegetables and herbs grown in amongst the flowers!

Hot-coloured planting of annuals, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

One hot-coloured scheme used mass plantings orange and yellow miniature-flowered single marigolds to great effect: the dainty flower-heads creating (to my eye) a better effect than the usual large-flowered cultivars of this annual. The yellow hue was echoed by a two-toned coleus (the darker leaf colour of which offered a foil to the brilliant marigolds) and some bold clumps of yellow-stemmed silver beet! The lush green leaves of the silver beet provided a restful background to the bright colours, and a smattering of blue petunias offered some complimentary hues to the mix.

Annual planting, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

In other plantings, purples, blues and lavender colours prevailed, using plants such as petunias, Salvia farinacea, Heliotropium and Verbena, with just a few bright-coloured highlights of red zonal Pelargonium and yellow marigolds, providing quite a different effect. Yet another effective scheme paired bright yellow annual Rudbeckia with a haze of yellowish-green umbels of dill flowers (pictured at the start of the blog).

Red-themed planting, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

Another statue was surrounded by a deep red-themed bed, using dark red coleus foliage, the burgundy feathers of Celosia, crimson-stemmed silver beet and a smattering of brighter red bedding Begonia and dwarf Salvia splendens, and some orange zonal Pelargonium. I noticed that a lot of the plantings included clumps of ornamental grasses to give some height and textural interest to the beds, which seemed to work quite well.

Cool-coloured plantings, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

A pretty pastel colour scheme used pale pink zonal Pelargonium, deep pink petunias and a dwarf silvery Senecio. Elsewhere (and in many basket plantings that I saw in French villages) this colour scheme was created using silvery Australian native Plectranthus argentatus along with tall pink Cleome hassleriana, pink Cosmos, pink Impatiens, Nicotiana and pink Dahlia. Pink-tinged white Gaura lindheimeri was also often used to give a dainty veil of colour in such schemes. Sometimes dark foliage (such as that of coleus or Alternanthera dentata) was used to give a different effect with these pink-themed plantings.

In my earlier gardening days, I used annuals so much more than I do nowadays. Few plants can provide the vibrant colour that they can bring to the garden. I've vowed to try to find some patches (or pots) to try out some of the combinations (including the herbs and vegies!) this coming summer that so took my eye during that Sunday morning stroll, which now seems just like a dream ...