Saturday, 26 September 2015

Tulipa `Queen of the Night' in the Silver Bed

Tulips have begun blooming as perennials wake up in this wonderful spring sunshine. In the garden bed near the back door, initially planted for silver and raspberry-coloured plants, the plum additions are showing wonderful contrasts.
Here, silver Artemesia is growing as the perfect foil for Tulipa `Queen of the Night' (other dark tulips should follow later) but there's subtle colouring going on too, from glaucous leaves of a burgundy columbine, purple foliage of Arthriscus `Ravenswing' and a form of cranesbill (a Geranium phaeum with chocolate blotches on the leaves and lovely lilac flowers).
Painter Margaret Olley once said that photographs lie: they show everything at once; while the human eye moves from one object to another. Certainly it's hard to see the cranesbill's pretty little plum flowers or the raspberry primula, and at the front is a burgundy hellebore or winter rose (Helleborus).
There's a fair bit of silver here so, while silver is banished from the rest of the garden  (I've moved a Centaurea that looked wrong and was too big, too close to a path) I seem to be planting some - but not too much - grey leaf-plants either side of the silver bed to lead in, and not have the silver-and-raspberry bed (should that be high tea bed?) a sudden, odd intrusion. Plants like interesting varieties of  Salvia officinalis, Marrubium, dwarf Lamb's ears (Stachys), a nice white Sedum and Caucasian Cornflower (Centaurea bella) with its lovely, slightly ragged mauve flowers. Even pink-flowering Californian poppy (Eschscholtzia californica) works well. One side is blues and purples; the other is pinks and a little purple (mauve, lilac).
I've added Caper Bush, for its purple leaves, towards the back, to break up the silvers and greys (Centaurea, Westringea,  Guichenotia). Best of all, a plant or 2 of Angelica gigas for its rounded heads of purple Queen Anne lace-like umbels on tall stalks.
Plum and raspberry coloured-flowers have been wonderful against the silver foliage - and the perennial season hasn't even begun. Since there are strawberry-coloured lilies too,  I am thinking of calling this garden bed a summer pudding bed. Or is that too confusing?
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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