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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in Coral (3)


Oriental Poppy Princess Victoria Louise

Perennial gardeners' eternal challenge is finding a local nursery that offers a wide variety of Oriental poppies. Few in my area sell Papaver orientalis , even fewer offer a wide selection and almost none sell the plant in a size that blooms same season.

Adding this perennial to the flowerbed is an excruciatingly painful exercise in deferred gratification: - buy it now, watch it wither and hope optimistically to see flowers next year because reawakening is never guaranteed.

Online nurseries have been somewhat helpful in addressing the above issues especially when they offer hard-to-find new introductions. Unfortunately, plugs of Oriental poppies dislike being shipped by mail and their survival rate in my garden after planting is poor.

Another challenge for this gardener is how to integrate the most beautiful and tallest varieties of these poppies – the red ones - into a predominantly pastel-colored English style garden. It’s not an easy design task unless one replaces standards of beauty with bold and theatrical visual drama.

The more appealing design solution is to plant the variety Princess Victoria Louise because it blends well into most pastel-colored gardens.

One of its attributes is the ease with which light and weather variations transform the color of its petals. Cloudy days make them glow in a fluorescent shade of light coral. Cool sunny days bring out  rich peachy tones and brutally hot weather causes the petals to fade into soft delicate shades of pastel almon-pink.

Another quality is the ease with which it moderately propagates itself by self-seeding. Although many favorite perennials do so, it is thrilling to see this happening to Princess Victoria Louise.  Over several years, if left unattended, it will fill the flowerbed with a riot of large, billowing pastel salmon-pink petals that seem to float above the tops of all other perennials in the spring garden. The results can be breathtaking.

The large oval seedpods of Papaver orientalis offer dramatic architectural and textural interest to the garden after petals have dropped. However, those who desire greater control over the appearance of their flowerbeds are urged to deadhead the plant immediately after blooming to avoid self-seeding.

Finally, this perennial prefers sun and dry growing conditions. Transplanting is frustrating due to deep-reaching tap roots. If it must be moved, expect instant trauma and dormancy. The likelyhood that it will endure to bloom the following year is high.


"Heaven Knows Anything Goes": Coral Pink and Lemon Yellow in the English-Style Flowerbed.

Forground right:Itoh Peony Bartzella. Center and left: Rainbow Knock Out Rose - more coral than pink in the summertime. Far back right: Rose Carefree Wonder..

Coral pink is a very warm, almost hot, color. It never was part of the master plan in my head when I planted the front walkway English-inspired garden.

When it was first introduced, the hype about Rainbow Knock Out Rose was as intense as the coral pink color of its petals. Then, its subsequent performance in my test garden was so awe-inspiring – yes, gardeners do feel awe when a plant out-performs its expectations – I just had to transplant it into the front yard flowerbed.

It can be frustrating for some gardeners to know that an uber-beautiful plant is flourishing in an unseen back yard garden. I prefer to admire such plants as I exit and enter the front door of my home.

Then, only a year after the coral pink rose was moved to the front garden, I acquired Bartzella. The most convenient spot to plant this magnificent yellow Itoh peony was two feet away from Rainbow Knock Out.

In a short while, both plants grew exponentially as they literally reached out to touch each other. That’s how a new, unplanned color combination, one that I never thought appropriate for my English-inspired flowerbed, came to dominate the early summer palette of the front garden.

To my pleasant surprise, this coral pink and lemon yellow composition appeared very pleasing to the eyes, especially with the long view of the grey stone house façade in the background. It should not have been a surprise. After all, the peony is yellow, albeit a cold yellow, and coral pink contains pigments of yellow.

Although the added vibrancy of this color combination upset the cool balance of the flowerbed, it ushered in a new approach to coloring the garden.  In time, the warm color palette would become my inspiration to increase the intensity of tones of future flowerbeds. This change of heart coincided conveniently with increasing requests from clients for me to use bolder colors.

What an evolution this has turned out to be! At the outset of my gardening experience, I adhered to emulating the British palette of polite, cool pastel shades. Now, I am comfortable using brassy color combinations that some might consider clearly American in spirit.

As long as the tones of a home’s façade can accommodate hot colors, there is no longer any protocol preventing gardeners from using them. As time goes on, rules about the aesthetics of garden composition – especially in North America – evolve or change. In some communities, they have been  discarded altogether.

Now, courageous homeowners plant for their personal pleasure; often to the dismay of their more conservative neighbors. As the lyrics of a Cole Porter song recount, now heaven knows, anything goes.


There's Mammoth Pleasure to be Had from Chrysanthemum "Mammoth"

What thrills a gardener most is to see a perennial in bloom exactly the way it appeared on the photo tag, that was attached to the plant at point of sale. The thrill is even greater when the perennial performs according to the media publicity that first brought it to gardeners’ attention.

I experienced that delightful, satisfying feeling last summer when the three Chrysanthemum Mammoth varieties I planted - only two months before - began to bloom. These perennials delivered almost everything the publicity promised.

My experience with the chrysanthemum family - before it was subdivided into new, unpronounceable family names, such as Dendrathema, Leucanthemum , and Chysanthemum -  had not been newsworthy. Dendrathema Clara Curtis, with vivid warm pink flowers that are exciting enough to stop traffic, sprawls too much for an urban garden, where a flowerbed must appear neat at all times. It broke my heart to dig it up and throw it on the compost heap. Not even the neighbors wanted such an unruly plant.

Similarly, Leucanthmum varieties, also known as daisies, need staking and the stigma this family of plants carries is regrettable. Some gardeners believe that a daisy is a wild flower or weed and that there is no place for it in the formal garden. Others, like me, accept the flower for what it is, an attractive perennial with a short life that cheers up any flowerbed. Since we unknowingly grow other flowers that were once considered weeds, why single this one out for prejudice? Besides, in naturalized meadow gardens, this plant grows carefree.

Finally, there are the well-known autumn chrysan - themums. I still haven’t figured out if they are now labeled Dendrathema or not; but it doesn’t matter much because most cannot overwinter here in USDA Zone 4b. In my climate, we buy them in September as blooming throwaway plants to decorate the garden until Halloween, when the night frost kisses them goodbye.

I became excited when I read about the introduction of a new Chrysanthemum cultivar, labeled Mammoth. It was hailed as neat and majestic, and was touted to overwinter in my climate. The hype was almost too good to be true. It promised not to be messy. It isn’t messy. It promised to grow into a large neat mound paved with flowers that completely hide the foliage. It did. It promised not to require staking. It is carefree. It promised large flowers. They were. No pinching, no pruning, and no dead heading required. Yes, Yes, and Yes!  A dense dome of color? Wow, was it ever. Overwinters in USDA 4b? We shall see, after the snow melts. Blooms for more than a month in August, September and October? Well, not quite; at least not last season.

The one-gallon plants I received were too lush when they arrived in May. That’s always a bad sign for an autumn-flowering plant. The pumped-up appearance indicated they were fed too much fertilizer to make them attractive, an action that usually results in perennials with a shortened life cycle in the first year of growth. My Mammoths bloomed too early and faded before their designated time. This coming season, they will have a natural life cycle undisturbed by excessive nutrients. Then, I hope they will provide the three months of bloom promised by the promotional hype.

The interesting characteristic about this plant is that not all varieties bloomed equally attractive. The supplier offered five: - Coral, Dark Pink, Lavender, Yellow Quill, and Matchsticks, [yellow quill with a fluted red tip].

Chrysanthemum Mammoth Coral, a trade photo.I reluctantly vetoed Coral because the supplier flagged it as the only one requiring dead heading. Therefore I can report nothing about it.

Chrysanthemum Mammoth Lavender. a trade photo I nixed Lavender because there are many similar lavender colored asters in the garden that bloom in fall. I cannot comment on this variety.

Chrysanthemum Mammoth Yellow Quill, a trade photo.Yellow Quill bloomed true to hype but not worthy of mention, at least not in the first season. I expect that, when it and the others reach a mature mound height of just below three feet, they will make quite an impression – even on those who dislike yellow flowers. However, I will not be a fan of this plant. The yellow quill-shaped petals are too scrawny for my liking; furthermore, they do not remain front-facing all day long, even when planted with a southern exposure  

Chrysanthemum Mammoth Dark Pink, a trade photoThe Dark Pink variety was magnificent. Its petals were so perfect in bloom that they hardly look real. The image above, while supplied by the trade, is an accurate replica of what I saw growing in my flowerbed. A digital dream factory could not have made them appear more beautiful. In addition, the petal color is so versatile; it blends well into most English style gardens.

C.Mammoth Dark Pink, from my garden.I was unable to photograph my own plants when they were at their best due to recurring, heavy rain storms. However, the image above, taken in my garden, shows the Dark Pink variety, just past its peak, as it is entering the last stages of its bloom cycle.

Chrysanthemum Mammoth Matchsticks, a trade photoMatchsticks, however, was my biggest disappointment. When nature combines red and yellow on one petal, the results can be harsh. Add to this visual uneasiness a flower whose petals are partly quilled and partly fluted and the result is chaos. Even though the bloom pictured above appears tame, multipy that image by hundreds and the result may be unpleasant. All together, this variety appeared unattractive in the flowerbed; and its visual energy was too high. Its frenetic appearance made me uncomfortable.

Furthermore, like Yellow Quill, Matchsticks is sensitive to the path of the sun; in the afternoon, it turned away from view. That only worsened the plants appearance. I expect that I will have to remove it from my flowerbed because not only is it disturbing to see but it also disrupts the serenity of the surrounding plants. In all fairness though, most garden writers have been delighted with Matchsticks bold and aggressive performance, so I suspect that I am the lone voice to reject it.

Now, the only characteristic that remains to be confirmed is whether my favorite, the Dark Pink variety, will propagate as easily as Clara Curtis does. With Clara, one only has to lift up one side of the plant, to remove an easily accessible root shoot. Then, the mother plant is repositioned easily into the soil and the cutting, now a new infant perennial, is transplanted. I can hardly wait for spring to determine if Mammoth Dark Pink will give up offspring as easily. I hope it will cooperate because I’d like several more for my garden – it’s that beautiful.