I'm sorry. There's really no excuse for a "joke" that awful. Let's blame the final vestiges of Giants euphoria, shall we? Add a whopping great giddiness at Tuesday's election results, and my sense of humor takes a nose dive.
Having looked at black last week, let’s swing to the other end of the Halloween/Giants color spectrum and discuss orange. While black in the garden creates subtlety and drama, orange shouts "FIRE!!!" from the rooftops. In good design conscience, I can’t recommend you go overboard in the way of orange furniture, barbecues or containers. A little orange goes a long way.
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Having said that, this gorgeous lounger – best for couples who like each other – may be the only soporific orange item in the world.
Orange radiates heat and, accordingly, it's a color that tends to herald summer and autumn, unlike spring's primarily pastel blooms. Nature offers exceptions to every rule, however: see Tulipa ‘Dordogne’ and T. ‘Ballerina’ as evidence. Both are gorgeous in pots, either on a patio or balcony or sunk into the ground.
One of the most magnificent and orange of all orange plants is Fritillaria imperialis (even the name is imposing), painted in all its glory by none less than Vincent van Gogh. Fritillarias need a fair amount of water and fertile, well-drained soil, and unlike other bulbs, fritillaria imperialis prefers to be planted on its side. On the mundane side, if you sniff it too closely, you’ll find it redolent of a skunk.
Forthwith, a few orange flowers and their potential plant companions, keeping in mind that almost infinite plant combinations are possible. The only parameters to consider are cultural requirements (sun, water, hardiness, etc), bloom time, and your own aesthetic preferences.
In order from softest apricot to hottest pumpkin...
Dahlia "Gwyneth" + Ceratostigma plumbaginoides The warm-climate dwellers among us – take note Californians, Australians and Mexicans – can plant this, sit back and enjoy. In colder climates, dig the dahlia tubers in fall and store them in a dark, dry place until the frosts have passed. Dahlias are native to Mexico and Guatemala; the Aztecs used them as both a treatment for epilepsy and as an edible delicacy.
Achillea "Terracotta” + Nasella tenuissima + Rudbeckia hirta or Helenium ‘Waldtraut’ This is a low-water combination that can easily tolerate poor, dry soil. It must, however, have good drainage, so please don’t plant it at the bottom of a muddy hill. “Terracotta” yarrow blooms peachy yellow and matures to copper. It resists deer but attracts butterflies and is a fabulous addition to any garden, particularly one with edibles growing elsewhere within it. (Butterflies are pollinators and may well help your fruit and vegetables grow.)
Lilium henryi + Inula magnifica Recommended by Paul Williams in his excellent Garden Color Book, this combination creates a late summer contrast in texture and harmony of color. The lily is a Chinese native, "discovered" by Augustine Henry in Yichang in the 1880s. I tend to prefer white lilies to the brightly colored hybrids, but this species lily and the fascinating Lilium martagon have an authenticity of color lacking in the "Buy-3-Get-1-Free" varieties of the big bulb merchandisers.
Orange as it appears in late summer blooms is the forerunner to its autumnal foliage counterpart. As the leaves of many deciduous trees end their annual life cycle, they explode into a blaze of colors, ending not with a whimper, but a bang.
You don’t have to live in New England to achieve a fall riot of color, though it doesn’t hurt if you want to grow sugar maples, Acer saccharum (above). In milder climes or smaller spaces, try the Japanese maple instead. Though it can be prone to verticilium wilt and is often overused at real estate offices and dental practices, Acer palmatum is an exquisite specimen that comes in a wide range of varieties and a kaleidoscope of exquisite colors, sizes and textures. We'll look here at orange varieties, keeping in mind that the color is a mixture of yellow and red, both of whom tend to vie for attention. For a smaller Japanese maple, try "Waterfall," "Mikawa yatsubusa," "Seiryu," or "Koto no ito." They all hover around six to twelve feet, with the exception of "Mikawa yatsubusa," which is only three feet tall.
For a tall, magnificent specimen or grove of Japanese maples, plant "Sangokaku," which is typically yellow-leaved but does range into bright orange. "Sangokaku" reaches 20 feet in height and needs excellent drainage to avoid disease.
There is an orange jewel in the autumn crown that surpasses A. p. "Sangokaku," however, and it is also a prized Japanese specimen. The Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is not a plant to be plonked unceremoniously in the outskirts of your garden. Honor this exquisite workhorse by placing it somewhere you can admire it year-round. The Katsura tree’s new growth emerges red and purple in spring, morphing to glaucous green in summer, and blazing on to an eventual and triumphant apricot, orange and yellow in autumn. Cut back slightly on its late summer water to enhance fall foliage color.
And as if the Katsura tree’s sophistication and constant visual interest weren’t enough of a sell, consider its autumn fragrance: on a warm, dry day, its fallen leaves smell like burnt sugar and fill the air with the scent of caramel. Surely this is a tree worthy of more elegance than this blog post’s feeble title?