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Orange Overload: Featured Garden Design

Posted By Ashleigh Bethea on Feb 17, 2014 | 0 comments


We’ve all got our favorite color, that one that just seems to “pop” for us more than all the others. For me, that color is orange; nothing seems quite so vibrant as a bright orange bloom on a sunny day. Whenever I come across a particularly beautiful tangerine colored specimen. I think about how good it would look in a whole orange themed arrangement. That’s why I put together this garden design. To serve as a planner for myself and the other orange-aholics out there.
I used the garden planner function from the Better Homes and Gardens website to approximate the look of my backyard. Then I laid out a simple structure with perennials and shrubs. Throwing in blue and purple plants around the edges to create some contrast with orange’s complementary color.

This arrangement might be a bit too formal for your taste, what with its rigid symmetry. I wanted to do something more eccentric than your average formal garden, without topiary or fountains or too much structure, while still keeping the strong symmetry.  Feel free to break up the pattern a bit for a completely informal vibe.

This planner function is pretty nice, but it has a limited selection of cultivars you can play with (especially if you do not pay to upgrade it), so the design came out more of a flat yellow-orange than I intended. For a more striking effect, I’d suggest varieties with a more varied, fiery coloration, with tinges of gold and scarlet setting off the orange, like what Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ achieves en masse or what Dahlia ‘Fire Pot’ does on just one bloom!

Peach, Lemon, and Fuchsia tones on Dahlia 'Fire Pot'

Dahlia ‘Fire Pot’

When trying to fill a garden up with color, you have to take into account the different bloom times of your varieties. To keep a constant display of orange going all season, we need some early-season options and some late-season options (mid-season tends to take care of itself). For early-season color, the best options are usually bulbs like Tulip or Daffodil. The most striking tulips and daffodils I have come across are ‘Little Princess’, ‘Sensual Touch’, ‘Moondragon’, and ‘Bella Vista’. These are all fine options for the front of the border, forming the foreground while the back of the border grows taller plants like Rhododendron “Gibraltar” or a background purple flower.

Orange Azalea Rhododendron 'Gibraltar'

Rhododendron ‘Gibraltar’

Dahlia ‘Firepot’ is a good way to keep the color going late in the season. Other beautiful late-season perennials are Crocosmia ‘Sunglow’, Gaillardia ‘Oranges and Lemons’, and Helenium ‘Short and Sassy’. Incorporating these perennials throughout the garden will keep the display going well into fall.

Another great way to get yellow, red, and orange color in the fall is the natural process of leaf senescence (reddening) in deciduous plants. Two lovely foliage plants for this are Acer ‘Moonrise Full Moon’ and Redbud The Rising Sun<TM>. Chartreuse, Gold, and Red tones play across these leaves all season long, but really blaze to life in the fall. The vibrant foliage of Coleus ‘Rustic Orange’ makes a wonderful underplanting for taller plants or the backbone of a mixed planter of orange tones. Another fine border plant for the garden is Arkansas Blue Star, which has a lovely yellow color all year, but takes on its best glow in the fall. One last fine foliage plant is the succulent Sedum ‘Coppertone’, a brand new cultivar that will make a big splash with its introduction this year.

Japanese Maple with lovely chartreuse-to-ruby tones!

Acer ‘Moonrise Full Moon’

Last of all, to make the heat of all these warm-colored cultivars read as scintillating as it should, you have to contrast it with some judicious use of cool-colored blue or purple cultivars. For purple/blue accents I recommend Allium ‘Millenium’ because of its distinctive texture, Delphinium ‘Lilac Ladies’ because of its height (great for creating a row behind perennials), and Clematis ‘Sapphire Indigo’ because of its climbing habit, creating a lovely cool-and-dark backdrop.

Lovely cool purple tones on a 3-foot spire!

Delphinium ‘Lilac Ladies’

BONUS: You might have already been thinking this, but the truest orange color comes from . . . oranges! Grow the Washington Navel Orange or the ‘Nagami’ Kumquat to enjoy their vibrant-colored, delicious fruits. Both of these varieties fit well in a container, so that you overwinter them indoors in colder regions.

I will share pictures of how my orange gardens come along this season—pending wife approval, of course. Feel free to share your favorites, too!

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