Guest Article for the Tallahassee Democrat
May 22, 2015
By Deborah Lawson
Photo by David Marshall
Color in the landscape – I immediately think of the beautiful beds at the entrance to Tallahassee Nurseries on Thomasville Road. You can’t drive past there without noticing the ever-changing and beautiful demonstration of what can be done with mass planting of annuals to paint a colorful outdoor picture. Go a step further and think – Disneyworld. If you’ve been there you know — Disneyworld does it spectacularly.
But color in the landscape means more than that to me. It means blending color and texture to create an outdoor painting, sometimes bright and colorful, but also in the subtle hues and textures that nature owns. If you have a shady landscape, you are not going to have lots of bright color, but you can have an amazing blend of subtle color and texture. The mix of a bright green Japanese maple with the darker green of a bed of evergreen fern; the green and white of variegated ginger or cast iron mixed with the graceful branches of creeping plum yew; these bring beautiful color and texture to a shady area.
There are a few plants that with some filtered sun, can give you color in shady spots. My favorites include several varieties of the justicia family – shrimp plant and jacobinia, hydrangeas, and Persian shield. Caladiums planted in mass are another great shade plant for our area.
To me, color in the landscape also means having a landscape that has something blooming at all times. We have one of those climates where that can happen – camellias bring fall, winter and spring color when many other plants are dormant. You can have everything from the low growing varieties such as shishi gashira which are great alone or in groupings, sasanqua that are more free form, to the traditional large shrub variety. Each of these blooms at different times from fall to spring.
The wide variety of fruit trees that grow here give us beautiful blooms throughout spring and early summer. Popcorn and bridal wreath spirea give you gorgeous cascading white spring blooms to compliment our spring azalea blooms. Planting one or more fall cassia will give you the most incredible display of yellow blooms around October, just when other plants are fading. And of course, perennials like the wide variety of salvias, firespike, butterfly bushes, Mexican fire bush, guaras, durantas and ornamental grasses (I could go on and on), give us beautiful color all summer long in a sunny location.
Whether your landscape is colored with subtlety and texture, or bright vivid sun loving blooms, you can have a beautiful painting in your outdoor space here in north Florida all year long.
Deborah Lawson is owner of Rejuvenation, LLC landscaping and design and a Master Gardener volunteer with the UF/Leon County Cooperative Extension Office. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov