Changing My Mind

August 31st, 2010

by Tom Fischer

No one will ever accuse me of being a consistent gardener. No sooner have I settled on a color scheme or plant combination than a dandy new idea occurs to me and I want to change the whole thing. Maybe it’s a horticultural version of ADD. Its effects on the garden are probably not altogether fortunate, but at least it benefits the nursery industry and whoever happens to be around when I’m yanking something out of the ground.

Here are a couple of recent examples. For years, I loudly proclaimed my dislike for cannas to anyone within earshot. When they started showing up in trendy gardens, I reveled in my contrarian stance. Crass, I called them. Vulgar. Strident. Graceless.

Then I came across Canna ‘Intrigue’. Released in 1978 by California canna breeder Herb Kelly, it is decidedly not vulgar, strident, and graceless. It is, in fact, choice, elegant, and graceful. Its leaves are most un-canna-like (maybe that’s why I like it)—they’re long and tapered and a wonderful blend of purple and blue green. The two clumps I have in my back garden make a definite Statement, in a lilting tropical accent. The plant’s apricot flowers are perhaps a bit understated by canna standards, but again, I see that as a point in its favor.

'Intrigue'--the canna that made me stop hating cannas.

My other example of flagrant inconsistency has to do with the color pink. I’ve said terrible, terrible things about pink, and swore I’d never have it in the garden. But then I was seduced by the description of Schizostylis coccinea ‘Oregon Sunset’ at last fall’s Hardy Plant Society of Oregon sale. When it bloomed this summer, I was hooked. Its color was warm and sensuous—not at all weak or cloying, the two qualities I had hitherto associated with pinkness. The schizostylis was quickly followed by other warm pinks and corals: Gladiolus oppositiflorus var. salmoneus (a gem that will make you swoon, and hardy to Zone 6), Salvia ‘California Sunset’ (which has been blooming for months), and the majestic Kniphofia ‘Timothy’.

Schizostylis coccinea 'Oregon Sunset'. Can you blame me?

And so it goes. Once there’s a crack in the dike, a flood will surely follow. Now, what would look good with all those pink flowers?

4 Responses

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  2. Jayne Rogers says:

    Same! Hater turned lover about 3 years ago. Must grow in pots and I overwinter in the garage. They are blooming now – LOve love the purple and green leaves that point boldly heavenward! The blossoms are okay but the seed pods make me laugh – love them!!!

  3. Funny this is the same topic I am going to blog about tomorrow. I hated Verbascum for years, positively hated it. Then, after seeing it in a book, and then in a garden everything changed. Glad to know it can happen to you to.

  4. kate says:

    Tom, Canna ‘Intrigue’ did it for me, too. Same story. Hater turned lover! Also, same story for me with pink, although Phygelius ‘Sensation’ was my pink epiphany. Now, what about dahlias?

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