Magazine article Sunset

Grow a Floral Fantasy

Magazine article Sunset

Grow a Floral Fantasy

Article excerpt

Designers at Sherman Gardens share their planting secrets for a spectacular color show

AS PUBLIC GARDENS GO, SHERMAN LIBRARY & GARDENS IN CORONA DEL MAR, CALIFORNIA, IS small-just 2.2 acres. Lack of space, however, has forced it to be sharply focused; for highest impact, gardeners here devote most of their energy and acreage to a glorious celebration of seasonal flowers.

Massed bedding plants have always been this garden's specialty: Martha Washington geraniums in spring, marigolds in summer, chrysanthemums in fall, primroses in winter. Unfailingly gorgeous, but perhaps a tad too predictable?

That was Janele Wiley's gentle suggestion upon joining the Sherman Gardens team as color specialist. Coming from a floral design background, Wiley longed to see more variation in stem height and a broader spectrum of flower colors. She wanted the bed&-especially the spring ones-to have the giddy exuberance of bouquets. When Sherman Gardens removed a row of overgrown shrubs and offered Wiley the newly cleared bed to plant, she got a chance to demonstrate what she had in mind.

The lavender trumpets of Clytostoma callistegioides, a spring-blooming perennial vine growing on the fence behind the bed, inspired her color scheme. She repeated the pate red-violet hue and bell shape of the vine's flowers by planting the tall, stately spired Foxy strain of foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) in front. Then she mixed in foxgloves with flowers in closely related colors-pink, lilac, and lavender. Sticking to hues immediately next to each other on the color wheel, as Wiley did here, is a foolproof way to ensure a harmonious blend of blooms in a garden planting.

For sparkle, Wiley added a few spires of white foxglove, plus a ruffle of daisies (Chrysanthemum paludosum). "I rarely plant without including some white," she says. "It makes every color scheme look fresher."

In the central flower bed, Wiley continued the color scheme with two shades of Martha Washington geraniums. She edged this border with blue-violet petunias; adding another, but still related, color to the garden provided drama and kept the display from looking monochromatic. "That mysterious deep purple is a great final note, isn't it?" Wiley asks.

You can copy the scheme in a garden of any size; plants are available at nurseries around the West this month. See "Lessons in Color" on page 74.

Lessons in color

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START WITH A FLOWERING BACKDROP. …

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