The Purple-and-Gold Bed

– Posted in: Plant info, What's up/blooming
2 comments

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.
The view from the kitchen door

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 sylvestrisBibor Felho,’ and Monarda ‘Bluestocking.’
seedling from Bibor Felho malva'Bluestocking' bee balm
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.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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Oldroses July 27, 2006, 4:25 am

My best beds/flower combinations have all been “unplanned”, stuff that was just thrown together. But still I persist in coming up with elaborate designs!

Sandy July 26, 2006, 5:23 pm

The color combination is lovely.