Orange: Three Fruits & a Fish – Part Two

In my last colour blog Orange: Three Fruits & A Fish – Part One, we explored some beautiful orange-flowered perennials. Here I’ll offer up some hardy roses, shrubs and vines with orange blossoms or colourful orange fruit, then an assortment of orange-flowered annual and tropical flowers.

Shrubs & Vines

Flowering quince (Chaenomeles sp.) is one of those spring shrubs that appear in April or May, its salmon or tangerine blossoms emerging on spined branches to outshine even colourful tulips and daffodils, and attracting early bees to its pollen-rich stamens. Old-fashioned and much-planted in the 1950s, you don’t see flowering quince in many contemporary gardens today, which is a pity. The ones I’ve photographed have been in the cemetery, like this C. x speciosa at Mount Pleasant Cemetery… 4-chaenomeles-speciosa-2

…or in a botanical garden, like this exquisitely-pruned, little specimen nestled against a rock in the Japanese Garden at Montreal Botanical Garden.4-chaenomeles-japonica3

Spring is also the season for wonderful rhododendrons, and we can find some good orange-flowered examples. For fifty years now (since 1957), the ‘Lights’ breeding program at the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Minnesota has produced some rugged, hardy azaleas (botanically rhododendrons) in a spectacular range of colours. ‘Spicy Lights’ was bred in 1987, and is a beautiful, rich salmon-orange with yellow blotches.4-rhododendron-spicy-lights

I love strolling along the Rhododendron Walk at Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens in May, when the Japanese azaleas are in bloom. Though it’s not hardy for us here in Toronto, Rhododendron molle. ssp. japonicum (USDA Zone 6) is one of my favourites there, especially with its contrasting groundcover of blue Spanish bluebells (Endymion hispanicus).4-rhododendron-molle-endymion-hispanicus-van-dusen-gardens

Honeysuckle vines are super-hardy, bring hummingbirds, and look fabulous with their orange & scarlet blossoms spangled over a wall or fence. This is Lonicera ‘Mandarin’, developed at the University of British Columbia. 4-lonicera-mandarin

And this is old-fashioned Lonicera x brownii  ‘Dropmore Scarlet’, developed as a cross between L. sempervirens and L. hirsuta in the 1950s by the famous breeder Frank Skinner in Dropmore, Manitoba.  It can grow to 12 feet (4 metres) when happy.  Note the eye-pleasing effect of growing an orange-flowered vine on a brick wall – and orange brick is a subject all its own, a backdrop that can make or break a garden vignette. 4-lonicera-x-brownii-dropmore-scarlet-on-brick-wall

One of the bigger North American native vines (to 30 feet or 10 metres) is trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), but it must have a strong support. As its Wikipedia page says:  “The vigor of the trumpet vine should not be underestimated. In warm weather, it puts out huge numbers of tendrils that grab onto every available surface, and eventually expand into heavy woody stems several centimeters in diameter. It grows well on arbors, fences, telephone poles, and trees, although it may dismember them in the process. Ruthless pruning is recommended.”  Hummingbirds and bees love trumpet creeper flowers. 4-campsis-radicans

Roses

Not being a rosarian, I can only suggest a few orange roses that come recommended. One is ‘Westerland’, a large-flowered, repeat-blooming, upright shrub or climber that can reach 12 feet (4 metres). Its highly-fragrant flowers are produced continuously from June to frost. Bred by Kordes in 1969, it is the recipient of an AGM (Award of Garden Merit) from England’s Royal Horticultural Society.  This is ‘Westerland’ at New York Botanical Garden’s fabulous Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden.

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Another tall, fragrant climber with pale, apricot-orange blossoms is ‘Alchymist’.

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David Austin Roses has bred many lovely apricot- and peach-flowered shrub roses. Below is ‘Lady of Shalott’ (4-5 feet tall), an AGM winner and considered to be one of the hardiest and most disease-resistant of the English roses.

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There are too many shrub roses and floribundas with orange flowers to mention, but I very much like the award-winning floribunda ‘Fellowship’.

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Orange Fruit

Apart from the orange, bronze and apricot hues that many deciduous trees and shrubs take on in autumn (see my blog on orange fall colour here), there are many with jewelled orange fruits in late summer and fall, too. One of the prettiest is ‘Afterglow’ winterberry (Ilex verticillata), shown here with purple-fruited beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’).

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And I must mention firethorn (Pyracantha coccinea), which features a number of orange-fruited cultivars, including ‘Orange Glow’.

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Annuals & Tropicals:

Now we get into the fun part of my orange treatment: the flowering annuals, tender bulbs and perennials, and tropical plants. Let’s start with the newish dark-leafed little Begonia ‘Sparks Will Fly’.

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My pal and container whiz, Toronto Botanical Garden horticulturist Paul Zammit, worked this one into a spectacular urn creation, along with Begonia boliviensis and orange-toned cannas, lantanas and coleus.

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And if you had a peek at that container blog, you’ll see that Paul does love a little orange, including the row of window boxes, below, featuring kitchen herbs parsley and sage with a mix of Calibrachoa MiniFamous iGeneration Orange and Can Can Terracotta with the grasses Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’ and Carex buchananii.

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Hardworking calibrachoas (million bells or mini-petunias) have become mainstays of annual container design in the past decade or so. I loved this combination of Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Peach’ and ‘Superbells Blue’ with ‘Purple Wave’ petunias in a window-box in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada.

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And can you say “coral” (i.e. salmon)? The fabulous duo shown below is Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Coral Punch’ and Verbena ‘Superbena Coral Red’.

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I’ve been a fan of the ‘Profusion’ series of zinnias since their launch in the 1990s.  I especially loved the way Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens scattered Zinnia ‘Profusion Orange’ through this intermingled planting with Salvia patens ‘Cambridge Blue’, bunny tail grass (Lagurus ovatus) and purple verbena (V. rigida).

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I’ve included Zinnia ‘Profusion Orange’ in my own container on the deck at Lake Muskoka, below, along with yellow and apricot African daisies (Osteospermum ‘Symphony Series’) and orange nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus).

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African daisies or osteospermums come in a range of orange shades. When I was at wonderful Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania, I was entranced by the combination below of apricot-flowered Osteospermum ‘Zion Orange’ with Diascia ‘Flirtation Orange’, caressed by the grassy, bronze-orange blades of Carex testacea.

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Nasturtiums, of course, offer a serious orange jolt of their own. Here is Tropaeolum majus ‘Alaska’ with the signet marigold Tagetes tenuifolia ‘Tangerine Gem’. And guess what? Both are edible!

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And there’s a plus to nasturtiums: hummingbirds love them.

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Speaking of hummingbirds, you will almost certainly attract them to your containers if you include one of their favourite flowers, hummingbird mint or agastache. This is Agastache ‘Kudos Coral’, and it’s a good hummer lure.

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I also love the little Agastache ‘Apricot Sprite’ – it’s perfect for pots and hanging baskets, and I’ve even found that it reseeds in my USDA Zone 5 containers.

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Back to marigolds, I’ve never been a fan of the big African numbers (Tagetes erecta), so stiff and regimented they seem to be suited only to park plantings. But I’d certainly love to try the willowy (18 inch – 45 cm) Tagetes ‘Burning Embers’, which I found in my friend Marnie White’s garden. Some seed sources refer to this as a selection of a species Tagetes linnaeus, (and say something about it being found in Linnaeus’s Uppsala garden) but that binomial doesn’t seem to be valid.  I assume it’s simply a good form of Tagetes patula.

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When I first saw orange petunias, I was taken aback as they’re a brave, new colour in those old-fashioned annuals.  The one below is ‘Sun Spun Orange’ – what a fabulous container plant it would be!

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Fuchsias can be orange, too, and are a good container solution for partly shaded spots. The creative combination, below, features Fuchsia ‘Gartenmeister’, Lantana ‘Landmark Sunrise’, and purple browallia, along with other annuals.

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Lantanas come in many shades of peach, apricot and orange and, depending what else is in bloom, offer sweet foraging for butterflies.

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Another edible flower that’s a fixture in kitchen gardens is pot marigold or Calendula officinalis.  It comes in singles, doubles and shades of yellow, gold and orange. I liked this simple combo with chives (Allium schoenoprasum).

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Speaking of kitchen gardens, have you noticed the great breeding work that’s being done with amaranths to take them out of the grain field and transform them into bold standouts in the ornamental border? This is Amaranthus ‘Golden Giant’.

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And this is what it looks like backing up purple anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum).

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Gloriosa daisies are deservedly popular and add a little Hollywood pizzazz to common old blackeyed susans. Of the many variations in colour, likely the best selection for adding bronze-orange to the garden (there’s no pure orange) is Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cappucino’.

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This is how ‘Cappucino’ looks with ‘Lemon Gem’ marigolds and purple Verbena rigida in a bed at Van Dusen Gardens. Pretty nice, right? And it’s easy to grow from seed.

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Now, if you want a true-orange ‘daisy’ flower, you need only choose butterfly-friendly Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), either the straight species – which can grow 4-6 feet tall   shown at left and middle, below, or a dwarf form such as ‘Fiesta del Sol’, shown at right with Salvia farinacea.

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The most impressive ‘daisies’ of all are sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), and though none are pure orange, you can find some burnt-orange selections like ‘Evening Colors’, ‘Earthwalker’, ‘Crimson Queen’ and ‘Autumn Beauty’.

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I won’t bore you with orange-flowered pelargoniums (border geraniums) because we’d be here all night, but just a mention of two with stunning foliage. The first is ‘Indian Dunes’, below, – and I do like those salmon-orange blooms.

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The second is ‘Vancouver Centennial’ – invaluable for its wine-brown leaves and delicate orange flowers.

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Tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) has become popular to grow as annual flower in recent years as more gardeners look to attract monarch butterflies to their gardens. Like all milkweeds, its foliage is food for monarch caterpillars, and it does look pretty in combination with plants like annual Verbena bonariensis, below.

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Zingy gomphrenas have seen their popularity surge – and  they’re fabulous as cut flowers and dried flowers, too. If you want to try one in orange, search out Gomphrena ‘QIS Orange’, shown below with purple Ageratum houstonianum.

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Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’ veers a little from apricot-orange towards gold, but I’m including it here because I think it’s an annual that should be grown more. It looked lovely at the Montreal Botanical Garden with Echium vulgare ‘Blue Bedder’.

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I’m finishing my book-length (!) dissertation on orange flowers with a handful of dahlias. Tender tubers, they are easily grown in warm soil in spring and must be stored indoors for winter. Goodness knows there are myriad dahlias of all shapes and sizes in orange, but the array below shows some of my favourites, including the aptly-named cactus dahlia ‘Bodacious’, top; and below, two more modestly-sized border varieties: the bee-friendly ‘Bishop of Oxford’ left, and ‘Pooh’, right.

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Orange Flourishes

Woman does not live by Flora alone, of course. There are other ways to bring the colour orange into the garden without actually growing it. When I visited gardens in Portland, Oregon, I was delighted to see these whimsical orange accessories in Nancy Goldman’s funky backyard lair.

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And do you agree with me that this Toronto garden just amped up the cool factor with bright orange chairs beside all those bobbing purple alliums?

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But really, orange in the garden doesn’t have to be furniture, and it doesn’t have to be splashy. It can be as tiny and perfect as a fanciful glass bird sailing away on an ocean of frothy foliage. (Thank you Michael Renaud of Toronto’s Horticultural Design.)

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And on that final “October is my Orange month” note, I will sail away into November, when we shall reconvene in The Paintbox Garden for a little “wine-tasting”. I’ll bring out some of my finest burgundies for you to sample.

Orange: Three Fruits & a Fish – Part One

Well, it’s now October and I resolved back on January 1st to devote my Paintbox blog this month to the colour orange.  Or, as I’ve called it in my title, ‘three fruits and a fish’, which pokes a little fun at the way the English language learned to describe colours, long before Isaac Newton first focused a prism on sunlight and conjured up the ‘visible light’ spectral rainbow in his college room.

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“Three fruits and a fish” is not a balanced diet, but a plateful of related colour:  orange, peach, apricot and salmon.  (And in the interest of trivia, did you know that the fruit orange is classified as a hesperidium or modified berry? I thought not! Peaches and apricots, of course, are drupes or simple stone fruits. You’re welcome.) We all know what a naval orange or sockeye salmon flesh looks like, but what distinguishes peaches and apricots? Well, Wiki defines apricot as a “pale, yellowish-orange color” (or, as I say, halfway from orange to gold), and  peach as a “light moderate to strong yellowish-pink to light orange colour” (my emphasis on the pink here, but without sufficient blue pigment to tip it completely into that candyfloss hue).

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And what colour is salmon? Wiki says it’s “a range of pale pinkish-orange to light pink colors, named after the color of salmon flesh.” I would disagree with the “pale” part, unless you’re talking about spring salmon J. (Then again, Wiki has this painful, hair-splitting dissertation further down the page: “The color light-salmon is displayed at right. This is a color that resembles the color salmon, but is lighter, not to be confused with dark salmon, which resembles salmon pink but is darker than salmon pink and much darker than light salmon.” Confused yet?)  I think of salmon as being a rich colour, as shown in the tropical plants Acalypha wilkesiana and Abutilon, below, in a container at the Toronto Botanical Garden…

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Placing my colour arrays together, below you can see more clearly the difference in (clockwise from top left): orange, salmon, peach and apricot.

Orange Array:  Tulipa ‘Ballerina’; Florist’s ranunculus (Ranunculus asiaticus); ‘Red Chief’ California poppies (Eschscholzia californica); Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule); ‘Tokajer’ blanket flower(Gaillardia x grandiflora); quince (Chaenomeles x superba); Potentilla ‘William Rollson’; butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa); ‘Bonfire’ begonia (Begonia boliviensis); Dahlia ‘Pooh’; Helenium autumnale ‘Rubinzwerg’; Canna ‘Phaison’   Salmon Array:  Tulipa ‘Mariette’; ‘Bowles Red’ lungwort (Pulmonaria); ‘Spicy Lights’ azalea (Rhododendron); ‘Venus’ opium poppy (Papaver somniferum); ‘Pardon Me’ daylily (Hemerocallis); ‘Coral Reef’ beebalm (Monarda didyma); Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Coralberry Punch’; Rosa ‘Carefree Celebration‘; Echinacea ‘Secret Lust’;  Diascia ‘Darla Apricot’; Zinnia elegans ‘Benary’s Giant Salmon Rose‘; Dahlia ‘Bodacious’  Peach Array: Tulipa ‘Angelique’; Hyacinth ‘Gipsy Queen’; Itoh Peony ‘Kopper Kettle’ (Paeonia); Oriental poppy ‘Victoria Louise’ (Papaver orientale); Heuchera ‘Marmalade’; Dutch honeysuckle (Lonicera periclyneum ‘Serotina’); Rosa ‘Marilyn Monroe’; Lilium ‘Visa Versa’; ‘Comanche’ waterlily (Nymphaea); Chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield Pink’ (Dendranthema ); daylily ‘Designer Jeans’ (Hemerocallis); Alstroemeria Apricot Array:  Narcissus ‘Fidelity’; Tulipa ‘Cairo’; Pansy ‘Imperial Antique Shades Apricot’; Iris ‘Sunny Dawn’: Heuchera ‘Caramel’; Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Peach’; Rose ‘Honey Perfume’; Nasturtium ‘Whirlybird Series‘ (Tropaeolum majus); Dahlia ‘Sunshine’; Gerbera; Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’; African daisy (Osteospermum ‘Symphony Series Orange‘)

Orange Array:  Tulipa ‘Ballerina’; Florist’s ranunculus (Ranunculus asiaticus); ‘Red Chief’ California poppies (Eschscholzia californica); Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule); ‘Tokajer’ blanket flower(Gaillardia x grandiflora); quince (Chaenomeles x superba); Potentilla ‘William Rollson’; butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa); ‘Bonfire’ begonia (Begonia boliviensis); Dahlia ‘Pooh’; Helenium autumnale ‘Rubinzwerg’; Canna ‘Phaison’  
Salmon Array:  Tulipa ‘Mariette’; ‘Bowles Red’ lungwort (Pulmonaria); ‘Spicy Lights’ azalea (Rhododendron); ‘Venus’ opium poppy (Papaver somniferum); ‘Pardon Me’ daylily (Hemerocallis); ‘Coral Reef’ beebalm (Monarda didyma); Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Coralberry Punch’; Rosa ‘Carefree Celebration‘; Echinacea ‘Secret Lust’;  Diascia ‘Darla Apricot’; Zinnia elegans ‘Benary’s Giant Salmon Rose‘; Dahlia ‘Bodacious’ 
Peach Array: Tulipa ‘Angelique’; Hyacinth ‘Gipsy Queen’; Itoh Peony ‘Kopper Kettle’ (Paeonia); Oriental poppy ‘Victoria Louise’ (Papaver orientale); Heuchera ‘Marmalade’; Dutch honeysuckle (Lonicera periclyneum ‘Serotina’); Rosa ‘Marilyn Monroe’; Lilium ‘Visa Versa’; ‘Comanche’ waterlily (Nymphaea); Chrysanthemum ‘Sheffield Pink’ (Dendranthema ); daylily ‘Designer Jeans’ (Hemerocallis); Alstroemeria
Apricot Array:  Narcissus ‘Fidelity’; Tulipa ‘Cairo’; Pansy ‘Imperial Antique Shades Apricot’; Iris ‘Sunny Dawn’: Heuchera ‘Caramel’; Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Peach’; Rose ‘Honey Perfume’; Nasturtium ‘Whirlybird Series‘ (Tropaeolum majus); Dahlia ‘Sunshine’; Gerbera; Sedum rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’; African daisy (Osteospermum ‘Symphony Series Orange‘)

Looking at the artist’s colour wheel, below, which is essentially a rainbow curved into a circle to illustrate in a visual way the relationships between spectral colours, we see 6 hues marked with a letter. The three marked “P” are defined as primary colours: red, yellow, blue.  By combining equal parts of those primary colours with their neighbouring primary colour, we come up with the secondary colours shown and labelled “s”. It is more complicated than that (and of course there are tertiary colours and darker shades and lighter tints) but the point I’m making is that if our gardens were paintings, the visually pleasing ‘complementary contrast’ to the secondary colour orange is the primary colour blue.  Keeping in mind that that artist’s colour wheel is just one of several ways of ‘organizing’ colour (the primary colours of light are an entirely different subject), on my power point slide below, orange wallflowers (Erysimum) are perfectly paired with deep blue forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica).

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And that’s not to say that orange ‘Beauty of Apeldoorn’ tulips, below, wouldn’t look as lovely with yellow or dark pink flowers as neighbours, but the relationship of the colours blue and orange is inherently a pleasing one to our eyes.  And from long observation, I’d add that orange flowers also look good paired with violet, purple and lavender blossoms as well.

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Because I love the colour orange and have spent a lot of time observing this colour in gardens and nature, I’ve collected photos of myriad plants with orange flowers (and colour companions for those), as well as plants with orange berries and orange fall leaf colour.  (Read my blog on orange autumn leaves here.)  I’ve even assigned orange-coloured plants to their growth type and seasons, below.

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Spring Bulbs 

So let’s explore orange in the garden beginning with some of my favourite spring blossoms, then hardy summer bulbs and perennials.  In my next colour blog, I’ll talk about orange-flowered and orange-leafed roses, shrubs, tropicals and annuals. And let’s begin – as the flowering year does – with crocuses. Who doesn’t love a good apricot-orange crocus, like C. x luteus ‘Golden Yellow’?  Honey bees do, I can assure you.

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I’m a sucker for perfumed hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) – I buy a few dozen every couple of years, and love them even better when their form relaxes in years 2 and 3. (But don’t count on them hanging around forever.) If I were planting hyacinths with little blue bulbs like striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides), I’d definitely choose peach-orange ‘Gipsy Queen’, below.

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Then there are daffodils. Have you grown any split-corona or butterfly types? One of the most spectacular is also one of the most pronounced “orange” daffs. Meet ‘Orangery’.

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Since I’m a gardener who enjoys naturalistic, meadow-style gardening, I can’t say I’ve ever been a great fan of the big crown imperial fritillaries – a bit too stiff for me. But you must admit that Fritillaria imperialis ‘Rubra Maxima’ would make a splash, especially in a formal garden.

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Orange tulips like lovely ‘Beauty of Apeldoorn’ pictured above are fairly common, and personally, I love planting them with pink tulips, because winter is just too long and cold not to celebrate with a riot of warm colour in spring.  Here are some of my other orange favourites: 1 – Orange Emperor, 2 – Daydream, 3 – Irene Parrot, 4 – El Niño, 5 – General deWet, and 6 – Ballerina.

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The lily-flowered tulip ‘Ballerina’ deserves special mention. It really is a wonderful dancer.

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And I cannot leave tulips without paying tribute to one of the peacocks of the spring bulb world: the parrot tulip. This is ‘Salmon Parrot’.  It won’t last long – it’s definitely not a ‘perennializer’ – but if you’re this stunning, you don’t need to hang around forever.

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Hardy Bulbs

Hardy lilies (Lilium) in shades of orange are a dime-a-dozen too, and I’ve gathered a few combinations featuring purplish perennials.  There’s old fashioned speckled tiger-lily (Lilium lancifolium), here consorting fetchingly with ‘Fascination’ Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum).

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And one of my newest favourites, Lilium henryi, shown here with hoary skullcap (Scutellaria incana) in the Piet Oudolf-designed Seasonal Border at the New York Botanical Garden.

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Should you desire some knock ‘em dead perfume in the summer garden, you can always plant a few ‘African Queen’ trumpet lilies. Mmmm…..

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But for the world’s most delicate, elegant lilies, you need a martagon or two, especially in conditions of light shade. On the left, below, is ‘Sing Out’, on the right ‘Burnt Orange’.

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Where it’s hardy (Zone 6), Crocosmia ‘Emily McKenzie’, a corm that is planted in early spring, is a wonderful deep-orange hit for the garden. And like all crocosmias, it’s a hummingbird favourite. I loved the double-header below at Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens with ‘Emily McKenzie’ in the foreground and an orange Helenium autumnale (perhaps ‘Rubinzwerg’) in the rear, sandwiching a white echinacea.

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Stately foxtail lilies (Eremurus), though considered a ‘fleshy root’ rather than a bulb, are nonetheless often sold in autumn along with bulbs.  They can be orange, white, yellow and peach and add a gorgeous vertical note to early summer plantings (plus bees adore them). I thought this joyous planting of Eremurus ‘Marmalade’ with corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) in a mixed meadow planting of annuals and perennials at Chanticleer Gardens  in Wayne, PA was one of the prettiest combinations I’ve seen.

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Here it is again, showing the entire Rock Ledge Garden at Chanticleer. That’s dark purple Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ at the bottom.

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Perennials

What about orange-flowered perennials? Let’s begin with a few orange-flowered perennials for spring.  If you haven’t followed the exploding popularity of geums in the past decade or so, you’re missing a great group of plants.  Below is yet another fruit for our colour plate: mango! In the form of Geum ‘Mango Lassi’.

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While on one of my late spring visits to Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens, I was wowed by this mass waterside planting of Euphorbia griffithi ‘Fireglow’.

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And there are beautiful orange primulas for damp places in spring. Look for Primula bulleyana, below….

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… and the rich orange form of cowslip (Primula veris).

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The best peonies can do in the orange department is coral, which is just a teensy bit redder than salmon. But there are some beauties, including the four below, clockwise from upper left: ‘Constance Spry’, ‘Coral Sunset’, ‘Coral Supreme’ and ‘Lorelei’.

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There are some luscious peaches in the Itoh Peony group (hybrids between tree peony and herbaceous peony), including ‘Kopper Kettle’, below, with Salvia nemorosa ‘May Night’.

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The genus Papaver boasts many orange-flowered species, but none are more flamboyant than old-fashioned Oriental poppy. This is Papaver orientale ‘Prince of Orange’.

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And you will always find bees and hoverflies on wonderful little Moroccan poppy (Papaver atlanticum ‘Flore-Pleno), which is surprisingly hardy (USDA Zone 5) and easy to grow in all soils.

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Bearded irises are the prima donnas of the early summer garden, and you can find them in the most wonderful shades of peach, bronze and clear orange, like the tall bearded ‘Orange Impact’, below.

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I was intrigued to find beautiful copper iris (Iris fulva) growing on New York’s High Line.  Honey bees had found it too, but its natural pollinators in the Mississippi Valley are hummingbirds. This orange-flowered member of the Louisiana Iris group likes damp (even wet), slightly acidic soil and is supposedly hardy to USDA Zone 5.

2-iris-fulva-high-line

Verbascums can be found in apricot-orange (‘Helen Johnson’ among others), but this delicate June pairing in pale peach caught my eye at Toronto’s Casa Loma: Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’ and Sicilian honey lily (Allium siculum, formerly Nectaroscordum).

2-verbascum-southern-charm-allium-siculum

One genus that’s seen a lot of hybridizing in recent decades is red-hot poker or torch lily (Kniphofia). Since they grow naturally in hues of orange or yellow, there is an abundance of choice here.  I loved this fun mingling of Allium ‘Lucille Ball’ and Kniphofia ‘Flamenco’ at Chanticleer, in Wayne, PA.

2-kniphofia-uvaria-flamenco-allium-lucille-ball-chanticleer

And don’t forget about heucheras; they’re a treasure trove of peach and bronze-orange foliage possibilities.  Here’s Heuchera ‘Caramel’ with dwarf Kniphofia ‘Mango Popsicle’.

2-kniphofia-heuchera-caramel

Daylilies, of course, offer a motherlode of orange choices, not just in orange, shown in a few samples below (Clockwise from top left:  Hemerocallis fulva ‘Kwanso’, Kansas, Challenger, Lady Lucille, Rosalind, Furnaces of Babylon)….

2-hemerocallis-array-orange

…. but there are loads of peach (left) and apricot (right) cultivars, below, too.  And note that in the daylily world, “lavender” is often (peachy) wishful thinking. (Top, left to right: Uptown Girl, Strawberry Candy, Chicago Peach, Second Glance; Middle: Empress Josephine, Designer Jeans, Scatterbrain, Ellen Christine; Bottom: Lavender Illusion, Lavender Patina, Brookwood Double Precious, Fan Dancer).

2-hemerocallis-array-peach-apricot

Daylilies are so prolific and varied in colour, they can be forgiven their need for constant deadheading and propensity to browning foliage in late summer, etc.  So they’re best paired with other plants, like this duo at the New York Botanical Garden: Hemerocallis ‘Poinsettia’ with balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorum).

2-hemerocallis-poinsettia-platycodon-new-york-botanical

The vast daylily collection at Montreal Botanical Garden offers lots of brilliant ideas for partnering, including this bronze-orange ‘Chelsey’ helenium (Helenium autumnale) with lovely Hemerocallis ‘Cherokee Pass’.

2-hemerocallis-cherokee-pass-heleniumchelsey

One of the best perennials for dry gardens is hybrid blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora). Provided you keep it deadheaded, it will flower from early summer well into autumn, and the bees will thank you. Though most are bicoloured red-yellow or red, I have grown a beautiful orange one: G. x grandiflora ‘Tokajer’. It lasted for three years or so, and I missed it terribly when it didn’t come back one spring, possibly after a winter without sufficient snow cover.

2-gaillardia-x-grandiflora-tokajer

I’ve written before about my favourite orange-flowered perennial, butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), which is simply unparalleled for attracting pollinators (including the monarch butterfly, which uses it as a larval food).

2-asclepias-tuberosa

And it’s fun if you want to create a little heat, colour-wise, as I’ve done below, pairing it at my cottage with bright-red ‘Firebird’ echinacea.

2-asclepias-tuberosa-echinacea-firebird

Speaking of heat, orange flowers are often the backbone of hot-coloured schemes in the garden, whether paired with reds and golds, as with Echinacea ‘Tangerine Dream’ and ‘Secret Glow’, below….

2-echinacea-tangerine-dream-secret-glow

… or with hot-pinks, below. On the left is butterfly milkweed with the pink ‘Orienpet’ lily ‘Robina’, on the right is the double daylily Hemerocallis ‘Kwanso’, with a bright pink summer phlox.

2-asclepias-tuberosa-lilium-phlox

That’s a good first look at hardy orange bulbs and perennials. Next time, we’ll explore orange-flowered shrubs, annuals and tropicals, and a few design touches to add a little orange punch to your garden.

Butterfly Milkweed: PPA’s 2017 Plant of the Year!

You know that feeling of pride you get when a friend receives a well-deserved award? I feel exactly that way about an outstanding prairie wildflower that I’ve been growing here in my meadows on Lake Muskoka for many years. So, when I heard that The Perennial Plant Association chose my very favourite perennial – butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa — to be their 2017 Plant of the Year, I decided to honour it with my own blog.

Asclepias tuberosa-Apis mellifera1

The PPA award is not the first laurel to be bestowed on this lovely wildling. In 2014, it was awarded the Freeman Medal by the Garden Clubs of America, as a native deserving of wider garden planting. And the GCA president asked me if I would donate my photo of a monarch butterfly on the flowers, below, which I was happy to do (see down this page).

Asclepias tuberosa-Monarch butterfly

Despite the plaudits, butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is not the easiest perennial to grow, unless you happen to garden on a sand prairie. It has a deep tap root that makes it rather difficult to transplant. And seeds are often notoriously slow to germinate and grow, sometimes taking 5 years to grow enough to set flower buds.  But give it a little rich, free-draining, gravelly soil and lots of sunshine, and watch the pollinating insects pile on. Foremost, of course, is the beautiful monarch butterfly, which uses it – as it does all milkweed species – as food for its caterpillars. If you’re lucky, you might see the female monarch ovipositing on its leaves or flowers.

Asclepias tuberosa-Monarch ovipositing

Come back and you’ll see the little egg on a leaf….

Asclepias tuberosa-Monarch egg on leaf

… or perhaps right in the flowers.

Asclepias tuberosa-Monarch egg on flower

Follow along over the next few weeks and you’ll see the various instars of the developing caterpillar munching away on the leaves….

Asclepias tuberosa-Monarch caterpillar

…. and the flower buds.

Asclepias tuberosa-Monarch larva

But monarchs aren’t the only butterflies fond of butterfly milkweed. Many others love the nectar-rich flowers, including the great spangled fritillary…

Asclepias tuberosa-Great Spangled Fritillary

…. hairstreaks, below, and many others.

Asclepias tuberosa- hairstreak

Bees love it too. On my property, I often see the orange-belted bumble bee (Bombus ternarius) nectaring….

Asclepias tuberosa-Bombus ternarius

….and the brown-belted bumble bee (Bombus griseocollis), too.

Asclepias tuberosa-Bombus griseocollis

Here’s a little video I made of the brown-belted bumble bee foraging on my butterfly milkweed. In the background, you can hear a red squirrel scolding and a lovely Swainson’s thrush singing its flute-like song.

Naturally, many native bees seek nectar from butterfly milkweed.  I’ve seen long-horned (Melissodes) bees….

Asclepias tuberosa-Megachile

…. and tiny, green sweat bees (Auguchlora pura), all enjoying the flowers.

Asclepias tuberosa-Augochlora pura

Honey bees are avid foragers, too.

Asclepias tuberosa-Apis mellifera3

Okay, you get the picture. This is one superb pollinator plant!  But how should one grow it, and with what companions?  I have grown it in both reasonably rich, sandy soil, and very dry, lean, sandy soil, and I can attest that it prefers more moisture than other prairie plants, such as gaillardia and coreopsis. This is what it looked like near my septic system this July. I managed to keep it watered by running two hoses up the hill behind my cottage, but it was a struggle until a few rains came.

Drought-Milkweed

However, if summer rains are abundant, it’s happy with those more drought-tolerant natives.  Here it is growing very wild in dry soil with Coreopsis lanceolata.

Asclepias tuberosa-wild planting

And it does well in fairly dry conditions with Anthemis tinctoria.

Asclepias tuberosa & Anthemis tinctoria

On the other hand, it does well in reasonably rich soil with my Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, where I can run the hose if rains don’t come (like this summer)…..

Asclepias tuberosa & Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

…. and peeking up through my grassy monarda meadow, near a lush pink lily.

Asclepias tuberosa & Lily & Monarda

I’ve grown it with Penstemon barbatus ‘Coccineus’….

Penstemon barbatus & Asclepias tuberosa

…and with blackeyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta).

Rudbeckia & Asclepias 2

And I’ve seen it looking pretty with daylilies and catmint in a friend’s garden, too.

Asclepias tuberosa & Hemerocallis-Nepeta

Butterfly milkweed’s blooming season is so long, it counts numerous July and August plants as companions. Here is a bouquet I photographed on July 17th, 2010 with blackeyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta), false oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides), veronica (Veronica spicata ‘Darwin’s Blue’) and blue vervain (Verbena hastata).

Asclepias tuberosa & bouquet companions

… and a collection of little bouquets I made on August 16th, 2013.

Asclepias tuberosa-August 16-Bouquets

If you want to know absolutely everything that might flower at the same time, here’s a montage I made one year on July 7th, 2014. Yes, that’s butterfly milkweed near the lower right corner. See if you can guess the rest!

Asclepias tuberosa & plant companions-July 7-2013

I have planted dozens of young butterfly milkweed plants here at Lake Muskoka over the years, like these ones offered by the Canadian Wildlife Federation (along with suitable nectar plants), as an encouragement to ‘bring back the monarch butterfly’. Most took, provided I irrigated them for the first summer; a few didn’t.

Canadian Wildlife Federation-Milkweed

But I have also managed to grow many from seed, which is harvested from the typical milkweed fruit capsule.  The ones that were most successful were those I guerilla-sowed, using the toe of my boot to kick them in along the edge of a gritty, community pathway midway down the hillside on a neighbour’s property. Under that granitic gravel, below, there was actually rich sandy soil and adequate moisture, given that the path sits mid-slope on the hill. But this tough environment best replicates the natural ‘sand prairie’ that butterfly milkweed likes.

Asclepias tuberosa-growing in gravel

You can also buy a seed mix in multiple colours:  ‘Gay Butterflies Mix’, below.

Asclepias tuberosa 'Gay Butterflies Mix'

Want to try your hand sowing butterfly milkweed? Follow these seeding instructions in a propagation guide in the Minnesota newsletter of Wild Ones:  “Collect when pods are cracked open. Remove down; cold stratify in fridge in damp sand for 90 days. Broadcast on soil surface in spring when soil is warm.

Best of luck growing this worthy award winner!  You and the pollinators – including the lovely monarch butterfly – are worth the effort.

Not a Blog!

This is not a blog. I repeat: this is not a blog.  It is merely a taste of blogs to come this year. And they will be about COLOUR!  Or color (if you prefer it without extraneous British/Canadian vowels).

Flower Colour Array-ThePaintboxGarden

Yes, I thought it might be time for The Paintbox Garden to adhere to its stated theme. So each month of 2016 will be devoted to a different hue, beginning with JANUARY, which will be white as the driven (or walking) snow. White as in wonderland, appropriate to the season. White as an even paler shade of pale. And of course, white as in perfume – coming up soon.

White Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

FEBRUARY will be red, as in better — than dead, paint the town —, roses are —,  and UB-40s favourite beverage.  And the longest, boldest wave length in Isaac Newton’s spectral light arsenal. Plus, of course, swamp hibiscus.

Red Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

MARCH will be green (yes, I know, hackneyed Irish trope for St. Paddy’s). But it is the only really important colour in the garden paintbox, as all chlorophyll-lovers know.  Nevertheless, as Kermit is fond of saying, it ain’t easy being green.  My March blogs will help dispel that notion.

Green Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

But being Kermit-green is definitely easier than being chartreuse, which is half-green and half-yellow. I will squeeze some limes… and chartreuses…into my March blogs as well.

Chatreuse Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

Because it’s the cruellest month, as T.S. Eliot reminded us, APRIL will be blue. Actually, I chose blue for April because of all those lovely little azure bulbs that spring up from the snow. But there will be azure blues….

Blue Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

….and lighter sky-blues for the entire gardening season, too.

Sky-Blue Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

MAY will be pink, as in the darling buds. Think crabapples, weigelas, columbines, peonies, and phloxes and hydrangeas for later in the season. There will be lusty pinks…

Pink Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

…and delicate, light pinks.

Light Pink Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

I’ll skip magenta because I wrote a love letter to that neon hue in 2014.

JUNE will be purple. Riots often break out about what purple means (for the record it comes from the Greek word porphura, for little murex sea snails that bleed that dark crimson ‘purple’ dye). So let me say June will be about lilac-purple..

Lilac-Purple Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

.. through lavender-purple…

Lavender-Purple Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

… into violet-purple…

Violet-Purple Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

… and finally rich, royal, Seagram’s Bag, Tyrian purple.

Purple Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

JULY will be all sunshine: lots of yellow…

Yellow Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

… and gold.

Gold Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

AUGUST will be black(ish). And hopefully some good thunderstorms!

Black flowers & leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

SEPTEMBER will be every lovely shade of brown, as in grasses and seedheads.

Brown Flowers & Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

OCTOBER will be jack-o-lanternly, clockworkly-orange.

Orange Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

And I’ll throw in peach (even though it likes to party with pink, too)…

Peach Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

…and apricot (even though it sometimes hangs out with the gold crowd)…

Apricot Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

… and salmon for a well-rounded fruit & fish diet.

Salmon-Orange Flowers-ThePaintboxGarden

NOVEMBER will be wine or burgundy, because who doesn’t fancy a little vino in dreary November.

Wine Flowers & Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

DECEMBER will be silver, as in bells, hi-ho, and Long John.

Silver Leaves-ThePaintboxGarden

And that’s a promise!

Fall Foliage: Orange, Apricot & Bronze

What would autumn be in the northeast, without the blaze of sugar maples in our forests and gardens?

Acer saccharum-Sugar maple

In Ontario such a thought is inconceivable, but they’re just one species of many whose foliage turns salmon, orange, apricot, peach or bronze, once chlorophyll disappears in autumn and exposes the secondary pigments, whose role it is to harvest sunlight to feed the plant. Now that I’ve escorted you through the red part of the hardy autumn trees & shrubs in my last blog, let’s have a look at some species that turn those spectacular orange shades.  Sugar maples (Acer saccharum), of course, are so predominant in northeast North America, they seem like the iconic poster child for colour change. Rarely, however, do they turn a solid orange like the tree below…..

Acer saccharum-sugar maple2

Instead, their leaves transform to yellow, orange and scarlet according to conditions of sun and shade, and also according to how much sugar has been metabolized to bring on the synthesis of anthocyanins seen in the colour change of many red maples (Acer rubrum).

Acer saccharum leaves-Sugar maple

A few of the Asian maples take on orange hues as well. Just outside my own Toronto living room window is my nearest and dearest connection with orange autumn foliage – a common Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) that has now been with me long enough for its branches to caress the 2nd floor guest room windows (much to my window-washer’s dismay), and to offer, absolutely free, the most beautiful fall colour show each October or early November.  This lovely tree has been growing against my old house’s front wall for more than 25 years, and is protected from fierce north winds while enjoying the warmth of the sun from the south.  That’s not to say it’s entirely happy; it always loses a few young boughs in an unusually cold winter, and freezing rain after a heavy snow has sheared off a big limb. But it’s this autumn transformation that makes it such a treat, with colours ranging from deep scarlet to the softest apricot.

Acer palmatum-Japanese maple

From inside the living room, it’s like looking through a tracery of amber lace, which is why I’ve never wanted drapery or blinds on my windows and instead decided on a fringe of blown-glass witches’ balls to catch and refract the sunlight.

Acer palmatum-Witches' Balls

There is nothing more beautiful than those delicate leaves – the subject of so many fine Japanese woodblock prints over the centuries.

Acer palmatum-Japanese maple leaves

Another beauty from Asia – this time from central China – is the elegant paperbark maple (Acer griseum) with its glossy, peeling, copper-toned bark, and its wonderful deep orange-scarlet autumn colour. I grow this species in my own garden, but this beautiful specimen is in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery. It is simply one of the best trees for a small garden and, if possible, should be placed where its lovely bark can be seen in winter.

Acer griseum-Paperbark maple

There’s another little Asian maple that is rather rare in gardens in North America, but seems perfectly hardy and should be used more: ivy-leaved maple or vine-leafed maple (Acer cissifolium). Multi-stemmed and used as a small tree or large shrub, it’s especially beautiful in October when its foliage turns a gold-suffused-apricot.

Acer cissifolium-Ivyleaf maple

Then there is Manchurian maple (Acer mandshuricum), yet another small, fine Asian maple that takes on soft orange-yellow tones in fall.  I am so fortunate to have these rarer maples in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Acer mandshuricum-Manchurian maple

From Korea comes a lovely shrub with waxy, fragrant, white spring flowers called Korean abelia (Abelia mosanensis). In autumn, the foliage turns a rich salmon-orange.

Abelia mosanensis-fall

Many Japanese cherries turn colour in autumn.  Sargent’s cherry (Prunus sargentii) often turns a spectacular mix of deep salmon and dusky rose-pink….

Prunus sargentii-Sargent's cherry

…while the hardy Japanese cherry hybrid ‘Accolade’, below (one of whose parents is Prunus sargentii), usually develops a good peachy-orange colour.

Prunus 'Accolade'-Japanese cherry

Even the hardiest and most common of the Japanese cherries, Prunus serrulata ‘Kanzan’ – shown here in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery – puts on a pretty, soft-apricot show each autumn.

Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan'-Japanese cherry

What else comes from Asia and turns orange in fall? Korean mountain ash (Sorbus alnifolia), also called the alder-leafed whitebeam, is a small, hardy, underused tree with small red fruit and apricot-orange leaves.

Sorbus alnifolia-Korean mountain ash

European mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) also puts on a good orange show in fall, both the leaves and the fruit clusters (until the birds finish with them).

Sorbus aucuparia-Mountain ash

What about oaks? Though there is great variability in the colour of senescing fall leaves, a number of hardy oaks pass through spectacular shades of orange and copper. Perhaps the most dependable is pin oak (Quercus palustris), with its finely-cut, narrow leaves. To see this tree on a sunny October day is to celebrate the joys of autumn. Coupled with that, pin oak is fast-growing, easy to cultivate and pollution-tolerant.

Quercus palustris-Pin oak

Red oak (Quercus rubra) is a majestic tree that will infuse the forest canopy with honey-gold and russet-orange, sometimes with wine-red highlights. Indeed, all these colours can sometimes be found on a single red oak bough in autumn.

Quercus rubra-red oak

We scarcely need to look outside our native flora for oaks to use in our gardens, but there’s one half-native-half-exotic hybrid pyramidal oak that’s perfectly suited for very small gardens, given its narrow, columnar bearing.  It’s the Crimson Spire™ oak, (Quercus x bimundorum), a hybrid of English oak and white oak, which gives beautiful russet-orange autumn colour.

Quercus robu -'Fastigiata'-columnar English oak

Besides oaks, beeches are the quintessential stately autumn tree for bronze-gold-orange fall colour. That holds true for our native American beech (Fagus grandifolia), below, alas currently experiencing the deadly ravages of beech bark disease in my area…

Fagus grandifolia-American beech

…. or the European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and its various cultivars and forms, including copper beech.  I particularly love the fernleaf beech (F. sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’), below, one of the most graceful of trees, with soft apricot fall color;

Fagus sylvatica 'Asplenifolia'-Fernleaf beech

And there are a few rare Asian beeches, like Fagus orientalis,below, with its rich fall colour.

Fagus orientalis-Oriental beech

Another beautiful, large tree is the Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata), which always turns colour in autumn, though it can be red, soft orange, as below, or yellow, depending on the tree and the exposure.

Zelkova serrata

Not all ash trees exhibit colour change in fall, but white ash (Fraxinus americana), below, can often be counted on to make a beautiful show.  (Sadly, the emerald ash borer is wreaking devastation on this genus in my part of North America and no one will be planting ashes for a long time.)

Fraxinus americana-White ash

What about a conifer that turns orange in autumn before shedding its needles? There are two, actually, but since bald cypress isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, let’s give a cheer for the lovely dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).

Metasequoia glyptostroboides-Dawn redwood

A small and rather rare tree that often inspires a curious double-take in autumn is the pillar crabapple or Chonosuki crabapple (Malus tschonoskii). Its fall hues are much more vibrant than most crabapples, a gorgeous mix of gold, apricot and salmon, on a tidy tree that should be grown much more often.

Malus tschonoskii-Pillar apple

From the forests of eastern North America come two smallish trees that turn apricot-gold in October. Both are members of the large birch (Betulaceae) family and much-loved for their hard wood – a  trait commemorated in their respective, and confusingly similar, common names.  Let’s start with American hophornbeam or ironwood (Ostrya virginiana). an understory component of forests from Nova Scotia to Texas. That genus name comes from the Greek word ostrua for “bone-like”, which gives a clue as to its hardness; traditional uses have included tool handles and fence posts.

Ostrya virginiana-Ironwood

The second small North American native is Carpinus caroliniana, also known by the similar common names of American hornbeam, ironwood, musclewood and blue-beech. I really love this tree, and if I were starting my garden from scratch, I’d make sure it included one. Look at the beautiful honeyed-apricot fall colour below….

Carpinus caroliniana-American hornbeam

I cannot talk about orange fall colour without mentioning smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria).  Some autumns, the leaves of this large, multi-stemmed shrub are almost a neon orange and are especially thrilling when backlit by the sun.  This is the wine-leafed cultivar ‘Purpureus’ – note the little wisp of left-over “smoke”.

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal-Purple'-Smoke bush

I mentioned fothergillas in my blog on red fall colour, but in fact they can also be among the best orange-leafed shrubs in autumn; it just depends on the season. And often, all colors are present in the shrub. In fact, I can promise you that if you plant one, you will be delighted with its foliage change in fall. Here is Fothergilla gardenii at the Toronto Botanical Garden.

Fothergilla-gardenii-(1)

Taking a page from its red-hued cousin, the burning bush, the common European spindle-tree (Euonymus europaeus) has excellent salmon-coral fall colour when grown in sufficient sun. The one below has decided to re-flower in autumn (something that happens in many plant families, given a long summer and enough time for a few of the current year’s growing buds to mature within a single season, rather than waiting for the following spring).

Euonymus europaeus-Spindle tree

And though I’ve mentioned the ‘Rosy Glow’ Japanese barberry in my discussion of red fall colour, common barberry (Berberis vulgaris) – despite its bad reputation for invasiveness and alternate-hosting of disease – is no slouch in the autumn fireworks department.

Berberis vulgaris-Common barberry

When I was designing gardens in the 1990s, I would often include Peking cotoneaster (C. acutifolius), a serviceable shrub for hedging or screening that was off the radar of most gardeners, but one I appreciated for its ease of cultivation in any soil and its beautiful mottled autumn leaf colour.

Cotoneaster acutifolius-Peking cotoneaster

Many spireas take on soft peach-apricot-gold tones in fall. Given their ubiquity –especially Van Houtte spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei) hedges, below — it’s a good thing that they have something to offer long after their spring flowers fade.

Spiraea x vanhouttei

I have a soft spot for my final shrub, given that it grows in my back garden and its fall colour change is part of a dramatic duet with a stunning neighbouring perennial – a “twofer” (well threefer, if you count the white fall snakeroot, Actaea simplex) that extends the season well into November.

Rhus-typina-'Bailtiger'-Tiger Eyes sumac-my garden

Not that Tiger Eyes™ sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’) doesn’t hold its own through spring and summer: no, those ferny, chartreuse leaves add a luminous pool of light to a shady corner in my garden for months on end. But in October, when the autumn monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’) finally opens those cobalt-blue flowers atop tall, thick stems just in time for the sumac to transform itself into a lacy, apricot confection, it is simply my favourite moment in the garden.

Rhus-typina-'Bailtiger'2-Ti

My final plant for orange fall colour is a perennial grass, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), below.  In October, this wonderful, warm-season grass takes on soft-orange hues that speak of autumn on the prairie. And like all fall colour change, it signals a stirring last hurrah in the growing season, a time for cheering before the frosts of November subdue the garden palette and the snows of December finally subsume it. Until next year.

Schizachyrium scoparium-Little bluestem