The Plant Man column
for publication week of 09/26/04 - 10/02/04
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
Lights... Camera... COLOR!
There seems to be one thing that almost all of us can agree upon: One
of the most important aspects of any landscape is... Color!
Yes, we might disagree about specific colors. Some of us love to see
vibrant primary colors such as vivid reds and yellows. Others prefer
the restful aspect of serene pastel shades. But color is definitely a
deciding factor when selecting trees and shrubs.
In response to several readers who have asked about colorful plants,
I’ll describe a few of my favorites in this week’s “color commentary!”
Daylilies just seem to blaze with color and they make me happy just
looking at them! There are a number of varieties, but here are two of
my favorites. First of all, you almost need sunglasses to look at the
variety known as Hybrid Lemon Yellow Daylily, particularly when you
have an entire border of these beauties in full bloom. They put out
large (5" to 7") blooms and keep coming back year after year with even
My second pet daylily is the Hybrid Blazing Red, which of course looks
spectacular when interspersed with its Lemon Yellow buddies. The
Blazing Red also produces large blooms, and when they’re all swaying
together it looks like the entire bed is on fire!
Okay, you can take off the sunglasses and give your retinas a rest for
my next selection which is a lot more subtle. Rosa rugosa is
sometimes called the living fence and I’ve mentioned it here before.
It grows quite quickly, around 2 feet per year, and tops out around 6
feet, making it a useful and colorful choice for a hedge. The blooms
usually range from deep pink to a delightful mauve and create a
wonderful fragrance that the honeybees and I both find delightful.
The color doesn’t end in the fall with Rosa rugosa which produces
large orange-red hips that last all through the winter. As a bonus,
Rosa rugosa is very disease resistant and tolerates a variety of soil
Red Bud Forest Pansy
If you’re looking for an ornamental tree that stays colorful from
spring through fall, take a look at the Red Bud Forest Pansy. Yes, it
does have blooms. But the incredible color I’m talking about is in the
leaves, which aren’t green but instead emerge in spring as a deep,
dark red and mature to a rich maroon and even purple shade. This is
an ideal ornamental tree for modestly sized landscapes because it will
reach a height of only about 20 feet with a spread of fifteen feet.
While I think of it, if you have any specific questions about color
for your landscape, drop me an e-mail at email@example.com and
I’ll get back to you with some ideas. Now back to my list...
Viburnum “fragrant snowball”
Here’s one you might not immediately think of! This particular
Viburnum produces little white buds tinged with red that burst into
small snowy-white blooms that are delightfully fragrant. In summer,
you’ll notice red and black fruits, and by fall the foliage color will
be turning to purple. All in all, a nice range of colors throughout
Nikko blue Hydrangea
If you’re planting a garden with the accent on “cool” colors such as
pale purple, pink and white, consider adding some Nikko blue
Hydrangeas. The spectacular blue-mauve blooms seem to emphasize all
the other colors surrounding them. If you have acidic soil, you’ll
really notice the unusual Dutch blue coloring!
Buddleia “Royal Red”
Here’s a puzzle: Butterflies and the botanists who named this plant
must be color blind, because the blooms on this Buddleia are actually
a deep violet, rather than red! In any case this hybrid butterfly
bush has been around since the late 1920's and is still popular today.
Regardless of what the color really is, it definitely belongs on a
list of colorful creations for your landscape.
Of course, there are many more and I can provide some specific,
personal suggestions if you write to me with a few details about your
location, soil type and design preferences. Let’s get colorful!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit