Gardening / The call of coloured themes

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Loropetalum “Plum Gorgeous” makes a great hedge as seen here in Manuka.
Loropetalum “Plum Gorgeous” makes a great hedge as seen here in Manuka.

FROM time to time, I am asked to create gardens with coloured themes, the most popular being the soft pastel flowers of pink, white, mauve and lavender.

Cedric Bryant.
Cedric Bryant.

Apparently, some people don’t like looking out at their garden with bright reds, orange or yellow on a hot day. Unfortunately, many of our native plants have these strong colours.

Despite requests of “no native plants”, I sometimes sneakily include native plants of the blue, white or pink varieties. For example, Prostanthera ovalifolia, the mint bush with its profusion of blue flowers or the white-flowered Philotheca myoporoides, the native mint bush.
Recently, I’ve had requests for plants of purple or burgundy, with the emphasis on the foliage rather than the flowers.

Among the smaller perennial plants available, the spring-flowering Heuchera “Palace Purple” fits the bill perfectly. Then there’s the Ajuga “Black Scallop”, a dense ground cover growing to just 10cm high with a spread of 80cm of glossy, deep-purple foliage and pink flowers.

The autumn-flowering Salvia sinaloensis “Aztec Blue” has purple leaves. Leucadendron “Ebony” has almost black leaves all year round with yellow/red flowers in autumn and winter, growing to two metres. I particularly recommend this plant.

The last suggestion is Berberis thunbergii “Little Favourite” with deep purple foliage, clips well for a dwarf hedge or pot specimen. 

Berberis thunbergii “Little Favourite” as a low hedge or trimmed for a container.
Berberis thunbergii “Little Favourite” as a low hedge or trimmed for a container.

Fleming’s Nurseries, of Victoria, recently introduced Lagerstroemia “Plum Magic”, a semi-dwarf crepe myrtle growing to about two metres.

Its leaves are a rich, deep-plum colour when it comes into leaf in spring and changing through the season to rich, deep green with pink flowers.

Then there’s a plant that’s taken gardens by storm, the perfectly named Loropetalum “Plum Gorgeous” with its purple leaves and masses of tiny, pink spidery flowers in spring and into the summer.

In our garden, I under-estimated its size, so allow for it to grow up to 1.5-metres tall with a metre-plus spread. It responds well to clipping, as shown in the photographed hedge in Manuka.

Purple-foliaged plants act as a foil for other plants. For instance, purple next to a plant with orange flowers makes a stunning combination. These are just a few of the purple-foliaged plants, all with a variety of flower colours.

THE majority of plants in British gardens have been introduced. Many have “English” in the name but are anything but English.

Buxus sempervirens (English box) was introduced into Britain by the Romans. Similarly, Quercus robur (English Oak), like many oaks, originated from the Mediterranean.

Many smaller shrubs such as lavender, rosemary and many perennial plants originate from harsh climates such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and North Africa. These all grow well in our local climate.

Jottings…

• Now’s the time to cover the fish pond with a fine mesh to catch the autumn leaves, which can cause problems for fish as they rot.
• Trim evergreen shrubs before Easter (March 25) to spare new growth being burnt by early frosts.
• Now that most perennials have finished flowering, it’s time to divide them. Pot up some for the next school/church fete and others for filling in blank spaces in the garden.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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