Amazing green flowers

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Carnation Green Trick (right) in my bunch of flowers

A recent bunch of flowers given to me by friends contained amazing carnations (which belong to the genus Dianthus) that were shaped for all the world like fluffy, bright green tennis balls! They were the cultivar 'Green Trick' and lasted for ages in a vase and reminded me of my long-held fascination with green flowers. Though some people dismiss them as mere novelties, I have always found a place for them in my garden. They are lovely with white flowers, creating a cool, restful atmosphere, and I also like them with bright blue or purple flowers: an exciting, zingy combination.

Kniphofia Lime Butter with Euphorbia characias supsp. wulfenii in the background

There are numerous attractive green flowers and many have unusually shaped blooms. Often this is because the green colouring is in the pronounced calyx or spathe of the plant, rather than the actual flower itself, which can be insignificant. These interesting and long-lasting shapes can be used to introduce variation of form and texture in foliage planting schemes, as well as to provide a conversation piece for garden visitors!

Amongst green flowers there are soft, subtle colours of many shades, including yellowish-greens, jade green, lime green, emerald, pale green, greenish-white and pinkish-green, each lending itself to different colour combinations with other flowering plants. Perhaps the best known to many people is the 'green rose' (Rosa chinensis 'Viridiflora'), which grows to about 1 m and has clusters of small green buds which open to 'blooms' comprised of layers of green sepals that turn bronze with age.

Nicotiana langsdorffii

There are several green-flowered annuals. My favourite is Nicotiana langsdorffii, a self-seeder with a cloud of dainty lime green trumpet flowers almost all year round. Zinnia elegans has a green hybrid called 'Envy', growing to about 75 cm with flowers ranging from lime to emerald green.

Helleborus argutifolius

Amongst perennials, perhaps the best known green flowers belong to the hellebores, which produce their exquisite and long-lasting nodding blooms from winter to early spring. The purest green flowers belong to Helleborus viridis, which grows to 30 cm with cup-shaped blooms. Helleborus argutifolius and Helleborus foetidus have similar but paler green flowers, and grow to about 60 cm. Some Helleborus x hybridus have greenish-white or greenish-pink flowers, which are saucer shaped and often spotted inside. They reach 50 cm in height.

Hemerocallis Green Dragon

Daylilies have a number of greenish cultivars - my favourites being 'Green Dragon' and 'Lime-painted Lady'. These are both 'spider' daylilies, with an elegant form; their colour is on the yellowish-green part of the spectrum. I grow mine nearby Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii, which I have found one of the easiest Euphorbia to grow in Sydney. Its chartreuse domes persist for months, from winter into early summer, when the daylilies come into flower. There are also lime green 'red hot pokers' (Kniphofia cultivars), and I add these into my green scheme. 'Lime Butter' and 'Lime Glow' are two that I grow. The dramatic vertical flowers don't last terribly long but there are usually several flushes of them in spring and summer.

White mophead Hydrangea often have buds that open green then change to white. The lovely Viburnum opulus 'Roseum' (syn. 'Sterile', ht 5 m), which is sometimes called the guelder rose, has magnificent pale green balls of flowers in spring, which mature to white. It grows quite well in our climate.

Among Australian natives, the kangaroo paws have some green-flowered species, including Anigosanthus viridis with emerald green paws, and Anigosanthus manglesii with striking red and green flowers. Banksia robur has bronze-green cones in winter and spring.

Green flowers can certainly offer scope to gardeners looking for a challenge to create an unusual planting combination.