If Orange is the New Black …
If orange is the new black, then at this moment my front garden is very fashionable. For now the blues of early June have given way to an orange July.
Orange is supposed to be a difficult color – too bright, too strong, so you’re not supposed to have too much of it. But I like it. It’s a warm, exciting color.
The most notable source of orange in my driveway border is the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). I love this plant. Not just the color, but the unusual shape of the individual flowers. It’s a host plant for monarch butterflies, of course, but also for queen butterflies and gray hairstreaks. And it’s a nectaring favorite for all kinds of pollinators.
Butterflyweed is an easy plant that forms big clumps. All the flower power in these pictures is from just two plants. You might notice one of them is a straight orange and the other is a brighter yellowish orange. The bloom period is very long, especially if you deadhead the umbels before the seed pods form.
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) is the other source of orange in this border right now. Only the first few blooms are open at this moment, but many more are coming and they will last until frost. Tithonia has a deeper orange with more red mixed in.
Mexican sunflower is an annual that likes heat and sun. This year I mixed a lot more annuals into the Driveway Border and I’m happy that I did. They offer lasting color, of course. But more than that, many annuals like Tithonia and annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) have strong, upright stems that help the floppier perennials stand up straight (or straighter, anyway).
Not everything in the Driveway Border are orange right now. That could be a bit too intense. Fortunately there are the soft, curvy blue spikes of Culver’s Root ‘Fascination’ (Veronicastrum virginicum). Judy says they look weird, but she likes them. The soft blue is good for balancing all that orange.
There’s also ‘Prairie Sunset’ early sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), with it’s yellow flowers and purple stems and leaves. I like this plant, but it seems just a bit sickly this year.
And I shouldn’t forget the soft yellow of ‘Italian White’ annual sunflower, as well as the yellow and maroon rings of another sunflower whose name I can’t remember.
The other annuals were not as successful. The Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ just hasn’t put out many flowers. This is my second try with ‘Black and Blue’, and I’m not giving it a third chance. There is also Mexican petunia (Ruellia britoniana), which has done well but tends to get swallowed up by bigger plants. It’s more successful in containers. Both of these annuals were supposed to provide more balancing blue in this border.
Across the driveway, in the Crabapple bed, there are lots of orange Asiatic lilies. About ten years ago I planted an Asiatic lily “naturalizing bulb mix”. Most of the descendents of those bulbs are orange, though there are some yellow, red, and one magenta. At the suggestion of some readers, last year I limbed up the ‘Donald Wyman’ crabapple at the center of this bed.
All the plants beneath (including the lilies) seem much happier now. Duh. This was one of those things that requires someone else to suggest but that seem obvious after you do it.
Oh, also adding to the orangefest are the ‘Empress of India’ nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus). I’m growing them in containers this year. They’re supposed to be red, but they look orange to me. I’ll write a post on the front garden containers soon.
That’s all for now. Do you like orange flowers? If so, what are your favorites?