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

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Entries in red flowers (4)


This Oriental Poppy is a Turkish Delight.

This image is the property of America's Wonderlands, Virtual Bouquet-Flower Pictures, and Screensavers. Copying the photo for commercial purposes is prohibited. Click on the image to link to the owners site for usage permission.

Some gardeners have no favorite colors. Any will do as long as the flower is pretty. Others, like me, are fussier, and they seek out plants that fit into their preconceived color schemes.

I used to consider red -  the color of apples, hydrants, and fire trucks -  difficult tones to include in my garden. For many years, I shunned magnificent red tulips and romantic red roses because I did not feel comfortable using them in my English-inspired flowerbeds where pastels reigned supreme. That is no longer the case. I am much more adventurous now.

Two years ago, towards the end of the planting season, when one red Oriental poppy, Papaver Orientale Turkenlouis, or Turkish Delight, remained unsold, I placed it in an empty spot in one of my flowerbeds. That was a bold decision. Never before had I planted red or scarlet flowers in my garden, nor did I remember what color plant would bloom next to it, the following season.

By planting haphazardly, with total disregard for composition, I created the unusual but rather attractive color scheme shown above and below. My personal sense of color balance would never permit me to intentionally combine pastel yellow [Siberian Iris Butter and Sugar] with red, yet here it is and it is remarkably refreshing. Like the chaos and unpredictability of nature, sometimes the unexpected and the unplanned can be as beautiful as the deliberately arranged.

Oriental poppies like Papaver O. Turkenlouis bloom in full sun, during May to June in Zones 3 to 6 and prefer a poor, dry soil. While its coarse, rugged grey-green foliage tends to grow like a miniature fountain closer to the ground, its flower stems reach 24 to 30 inches in height and support 4 to 6 inch-wide lustrous and fringed scarlet-red petals.

This feathery effect on any flower is a delight to enjoy in the garden, no matter on which plant it may be found. It is an added visual pleasure, where the eye skims the edge of the flower to experience soft texture.

When poppy blooms are spent, gardeners have two choices: either to allow bulbous black seed heads to form at the top of the stems so that plants can self-seed, or to remove the browning stems and heads with a hand prunner. In either case, after a poppy has flowered, its leaves will turn yellow as the plant reverts to dormancy. This will occur long before most summer perennials have begun to bloom.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to plant summer flowering perennials close to the poppies so that the foliage of these later-blooming plants can hide the yellowing of the poppy leaves and fill in the empty space created by the eventual and total disintegration of the slowly shriveling foliage. For some gardeners, this disappearing act necessitates recording the location of the hidden plants; it’s easy to forget they are underground when digging the flowerbed in mid-summer. By autumn, new foliage will have popped out if the ground, thus creating fresh markers for the gardener.

Oriental poppies do not like being transplanted. These perennials grows deep and when lifted, their foliage crowns risk being separated from most of their fleshy roots. Propagation is more successful with the shallow planting of root cuttings that is best done during the summer.

A cautionary word: - If budget permits, plant more than one of this Oriental poppy. In the spring, when it is in bloom, gardeners are so bowled over by the synergistic combination of sensual fringes and intense scarlet-red that they regret having planted only one and not several.

A grove of this dramatic perennial may also be created, over the course of several years, by allowing Oriental poppies to self-seed. Novice gardeners should bear in mind that mulching near and around this plant will prevent this from happening.


Composing with Red Flowers

Photo by Sue Hasker, is the most frequently used color combination in industrial societies; it is everywhere, from stop signs, to billboards to retail marquees. It is attention grabbing, and its commercial prevalence makes it challenging to use in the garden. Try to create a perennial flower bed using red, and if the wrong shade has been chosen, the results may appear harsh, commercial, industrial, or a combination of all three. Select the correct shade and the final composition can be impressive.

There are many shades of red among the vast number of perennials and choosing one that is inappropriate for ones climate or color scheme may produce disappointing results. In hot climates, reds look amazing because they are unbleachable by the intense sun and, under that condition, any shade of red will do. However, in temperate climates, the nature of the daylight and the proximity of other colors need to be considered.

In the above photo of a flower border at Elvaston Castle in the UK, the shade of red is just right. It modifies a white perennial that is subtly tinted with pink, it enlivens the pale blue flowers in the distance, and enhances the surrounding foliage and the vine covered wall in the background. In my climate, Zone USDA 4, the sunlight of Central - Eastern Canada is too bright to use red perennials in such a color composition; yet in the daylight of the UK, it is most appropriate.


Trifolium rubens a Little Known and Under Used Perennial are many plants in my test garden that were purchased merely because I stumbled upon them accidentally at the nursery. Of course, it was no accident that I saw them. Some merchants strategically place new or underused perennials so that the consumer may be tempted to try something different. I like that. It is impossible to catalog and absorb all of the perennials that are available in one’s climate zone. Nurseries do us a favor when they display unusual yet eye-catching plants for our consideration. It makes the journey of the hunt a more pleasant experience.

I first saw Trifolium rubens on display last year. I was attracted first to its fuzzy texture and then to its subtle shade of light red - a rare color in the perennial garden.  It is a rather attractive tone that is neither too deep nor too intense. Such a transitional color allows me to place it anywhere in the garden without creating drama. It simply slips into place and integrates itself into the flower composition.

Photo: Jardins Michel CorbeilI tested Trifolium rubens in my own garden and in the flowerbed of a client who appreciates warm colored flowers. It performed well in both as a filler plant. It overwintered easily and re bloomed this season. Because it is commonly known as ornamental clover, I expected that it would self-seed aggressively, but it did not. However, just as a precaution, since I am at the getting-to-know-you phase and I am still unable to determine its self-seeding capabilities, I deadheaded the fuzzy blooms as soon as they were spent.

I recommend this perennial for the soft texture of its flower head. I promise that, once the large silver heads open red, there will be a strong desire to stretch out one’s hand to stroke the fuzziness. This perennial blooms June to August in climate zones 3a to 8b, in full sun to part shade, and grows 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide. It is attractive to bees, birds and butterflies.


How Gardening Made my Sad Parents Smile.

This is one of the finest photos of a perennial garden on the web. It is the front lawn sign of a nursery in Peterborough Canada that specializes in Daylilies and Hosta Hemerocallis Venetain Fringe, never saw a real flower up close until my sixteenth birthday. All things beautiful existed, for me, only in books and magazines; that's because my parents cared little for material possessions. They had no need to surround themselves with objects of beauty or comfort. Those were things that I would see in movies or in the homes of friends and relatives.

While still a young boy, I came to realize that I enjoyed looking at anything that was colorful, patterned, textured or faceted. I would spend hours trying to figure out what happened to light when it refracted off the beveled edge of a mirror and turned into a color spectrum. I was curious to know how snow crystals on the ground converted the rays of neon lights into scintillating stars. I could study the pattern of an Oriental rug for hours wondering where its sinewy lines might lead. My eyes have always yearned to see all things beautiful. To this day, they never tire of looking at anything; even the label on a soup can stimulates my curiosity.

I spent my childhood in a densely populated neighborhood that, to my mind, resembled a grey concrete jungle. Everything around me was hard and cold. All that I remember was the rhubarb that grew wild out of the crack that separated the foundation of our home from the sidewalk. The colors and aroma of flowers were merely something my mother talked about when she spoke of her childhood. They were nothing I had ever experienced.

On my twelfth birthday, my family moved to a residential town with lots of trees and lawns where I hoped to see color. But that didn’t happen. In our new neighborhood, trees were so mature that they created green canopies that overhung the streets. As a result, sun and rain barely touched the ground; consequently, all the lawns were bare.

Then, when I turned sixteen, we moved to a newer town where green lawns were bathed in sunlight. To my excitement, empty flowerbeds prepared by the previous ownersurrounded our home. Since they knew nothing about gardening, my parents gave me free reign, to learn what I could from the neighbors who gardened, and to replicate their successes in our back yard. All that my father asked for was red flowers.

The first summer, when I saw my garden in bloom, marked the first time I saw real flowers, up close. It was also the first time that I saw my father smile. It happened one day when he returned home from work to see his red flowers in bloom. Up until that day, my father had been such a somber man that I didn’t recognize the happy person admiring my garden. When I got used to his brightened disposition, I promised myself I'd garden forever if only to keep him smiling.

One day, my mother discovered the strong aroma emitted by Lilies of the Valley growing wild in our back yard and she became enchanted.  Never before I had heard my mother sigh with such pleasure. Happiness had been erased from her life by childhood tragedies. When she sang to my brother and me, the songs were cheerful but her vocal chords sobbed with grief. At last, thanks to plants, there would be real joy in her voice and under our roof. The aroma of my flower garden had brought newfound happiness both into her life and into our home.

That family transformation compelled me to expand my gardening horizons and I began to experiment, rather successfully, with fragrant plants such as roses, irises and nasturtium, and with every red plant that would grow in my climate zone. The greater the number of aromatic perennials that I could find, and the more varieties of red flowers I planted, the longer my parents' happiness endured. What an enormous burden for a young teenager to carry. Nevertheless, from that day onward, whenever they stepped into the garden, my mother would sigh with pleasure while a huge smile would explode across my father's face. That made me happy.

My parents' reaction gave me some measure of accomplishment. I felt useful and proud to give them a renewable source of happiness. Now, when I look back upon those formative years of gardening, I recall that I never planted flowers to please myself. I gardened to see my parents smile.

I continued my quest to bring happiness to others, through gardening, after I married. When I became a family man, my subsequent  gardens were filled with pink and yellow flower because those were the colors my wife had chosen for her wedding bouquet. Later on, when my daughters grew old enough to speak, one of them would ask for blue flowers. That began a hunt for blue perennials that goes on to this day. I still have not decided what my favorite color flowers might be. I spend too much time ensuring that those who admire my gardens will find happiness there.