Even though it is September already, we Virginians still have a solid two months left to our growing season. This year, I planted in early May and never even had the time to do my “second round”, i.e. replacing those plants that had seen better days and that are now 50% off at all the nurseries. Damn. Not having been able to take advantage of the “end-of-season” sale this year nearly did me in. Nevertheless, the garden looks no worse for my benign neglect.
Over my 24 years of learning what grows best and where on my little piece of Paradise, I have an enormous appreciation for the textures, patterns and unbelievable color of non-blooming ornamental shrubs such as golden threads, any bush related to the pine family that has that distinctive Southwestern blue tone and the hundreds of choices of different Hostas, Nandinas and Burning Bush which, in autumn, turns into such a flaming red that I will bet you a hefty sum that the local fire departments get plenty of false alarms for rampant, out of control fires. Overall, what I am trying to convey is that a garden, or any overall landscape vision, can be just as vibrant and deeply colorful without even one flowering shrub or flower.
Let’s face it: the richness of the hues and lushness of big, fat blooms in flowering shrubs, such as azaleas, rhododendrons and hydrangeas will take your breath away. Plus, the sheer number of different variations within the group of azaleas, for example, can send you reeling. The beauty and variations of these flowering ornamental shrubbery is a wonder to behold. However, it is these non-flowering, multi-colored bushes that have enthralled me in recent years.
I discovered Croton plants about five years ago during my haunting of my favorite nurseries. I use them in the ten huge “anchor” pots all around the back yard and decks. I throw in some Creeping Jenny, whose lime green color is out of this world, and some decorative begonia leaf plants, and you couldn’t find a more colorful spot on earth. Crotons are actually tropical plants and thus, can be found in my neck of the woods, in greenhouses. We Northerners use Crotons as houseplants. The amazing thing about these Crotons is their indescribable blast of electrifying color. Even (or I should say, especially) on rainy, cloudy and sunless days, these Crotons emit a bright neon aura. These luminescent Crotons look like they are plugged into electrical outlets and used as lamps. Hope you enjoy the views from my backyard.