As I show beautiful flower combinations in my seminars, I always warn those in attendance that you can't get that look from a jumbo six-pack. The ladies laugh and the gentlemen chuckle, somehow thinking I've finally got around to talking about beer. The truth is that when it comes to creating our dream flower borders, we have to use enough to make a show.
Recently I had the opportunity to photograph some beds using one of my all-time favorite plants, the 'All Around Purple' gomphrena. The plant commonly called globe amaranth or even bachelor's button is tough as nails.
Sadly, it is one of those plants that many gardeners don't use to its potential. It gets spot planted or used a dab here and a dab there.
'All Around Purple' is an award-winning variety that reaches 18 plus inches in height and seems to persevere through the torrid summer heat like few other plants.
One plant might cause you to glance, but planting a sea of purple leaves you and visitors spellbound.
I am not really talking about planting an acre, just planting boldly. Try buying by the flat and planting in an informal drift.
Lining them up like toy soldiers in straight lines sometimes creates an illusion that says "not enough." One of the beds that stole my heart used a large drift of gomphrena adjacent to a drift of 'Purple Majesty' ornamental millet, another plant often spot planted.
The background to the planting was another fine-textured leafy grass that showed off the multitude of round purple blossoms.
Pink perennial hibiscus was also used to echo the purple of the gomphrena and the purple leaves of the ornamental millet.
In another bed that I loved, a complementary color scheme was used. Again there was a sea of dark purple but used in combination with gloriosa daisies. The golden yellow of the daisies and purple from the gomphrena created visual excitement, causing everyone to stop and take photographs.
Although it is early September, I would not hesitate to plant 'All Around Purple' as a companion with fall-blooming mums. If your garden center has them, you could not create a more stunning partnership.
Space plants about 18 inches apart. Plant them at the same depth they are growing in the container. Add a layer of mulch to conserve moisture and retard weed growth.
The gomphrena is an excellent cut flower for the vase or dried flower for winter arrangements. Also consider using the little ball-shaped flowers around the home in potpourri dishes.
Once the gomphrena and mums are through, it is on to pansies and their pals like dianthus, flowering kale and cabbage. The point is you can create dazzling beds of color for all seasons. Just use enough to make a show.
Norman Winter is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus Ga., and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden." Contact him at gardenguy2000aol.com.