Over fifteen years ago, my very first plant order had an error in it. I had ordered coral bells (Heuchera) and I was sent Heliopsis ‘Summer Sun’ instead. The mail order nursery very quickly remedied their mistake, sending me the coral bells and advising me to keep the false sunflower. Great, I thought, free plants.
Only, I really don’t care for that yellow-orange color that all the plant catalogues call “gold,” but to me looks like no jewelry, cheap or otherwise, said to contain that precious metal. Being a long-time fan of the adage, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” I tried to think what I could do to make the color more pleasing to me, and thus was born the Purple-and-Gold bed.
This is what I see from the kitchen door these days. In early spring, there are gold crocuses and purple hyacinths. Siberian irises start blooming in early June, and there used to be a gold bearded iris and some purple columbine. The ‘Stella d’Oro’ daylily, another misinformed purchase (the catalogue said it was canary yellow–does Stella look like a canary to you?), has just finished its first flush. But right now the ‘Summer Sun’ is in its glory, with purple notes from the Campanula rapunculoides (yes, Zoey, I have that plant) , progeny from a long-ago planted Malva sylvestris ‘Bibor Felho,’ and Monarda ‘Bluestocking.’
The ‘Bluestocking’ bee balm isn’t blue any more than the ‘Stella d’Oro’ or ‘Summer Sun’ are gold, but the bee balm and the malva are almost perfect color matches, the same reddish-violet.
It’s actually a purple, gold, and white bed. You can’t see them from any of these shots, but there are some daisies (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) and Achillea ptarmica blooming beyond the heliopsis, and earlier in the year snow-in-summer, and then my Seneca Hill Perennials find Cynanchum ascyrifolium, were blooming. In the left foreground, a big clump of white phlox will be blooming soon. And then in the fall, some double white colchicums.
I should point out that I inadvertently created a bed of thugs. Almost all of these plants, given the right conditions, are, shall we say, bullies. Pitted against each other, they find their own equilibrium, though after several dry years the bee balm is almost extinguished, and what did happen to that gold bearded iris? At any rate, it wins the prize for Most Blooms after Least Weeding. Not every bed can make that claim.