Alligators, Kongs make for wild garden weekend

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Alligators and Kongs might sound like perfect subjects for a horrific science fiction movie, but in reality I saw both last weekend and they were mesmerizing gardeners with their striking beauty. These plants are the ColorBlaze 'Alligator Tears' coleus and the supersized Kong 'Salmon Pink' coleus.

I was viewing plants at one of the prestigious trials in the Southeast when a seasoned gardener asked aloud what in the world was that beautiful plant. It was the award-winning Kong 'Salmon Pink' coleus. You could not pick a better name for it. It reaches around 20 inches in height with an almost equal spread. Your first thought may be that you have seen a lot of taller coleus, and I would agree. The one thing you haven't seen, however, is one with larger leaves.

While some coleus dazzle in the full sun, the Kong series must have filtered light to shade to look its best. In the bed that we were all photographing, the combination featured the coleus and elephant ears for a perfect Caribbean-style garden. Another incredible partner to try with Kong 'Salmon Pink' is another great coleus called 'Dark Chocolate.' This is a really deep, dark chocolate color that you would think would get lost in a shady location, but the way it works with the Kong 'Salmon Pink' makes them both grab your attention. Impatiens with salmon to orange flowers also makes a great partner.

I often tell attendees to my seminars just remember to plant coleus: Plant coleus with foliage plants and plant coleus with flowers. My next stunning partnership did just that. It features the green ColorBlaze 'Alligator Tears' coleus and the new and exciting 'Sanguna Red' petunia.

The ColorBlaze 'Alligator Tears' coleus doesn't claim to be lime or chartreuse, but it certainly was showing off with these bright colors and the creamy teardrops in the late afternoon sun. This coleus hasn't been out but for just a little over a year, and yet it has already received enough awards to thrill any plant breeder. Kong was for the shade, but you'll like this one with a lot more sun. Both coleuses will perform better in fertile organic rich soil.

ColorBlaze 'Alligator Tears' reaches about 20 inches in height but spreads more, reaching outward to around 30 inches. Its partner in the planting was 'Sanguna Red' petunia, a showy new color in one of my favorite series. 'Sanguna Red' is vegetatively propagated and packed with vigor. It reaches 10 to 16 inches in height and has a spreading habit. Even though the red looked stunning, I assure you almost all colors would look even showier when combined with ColorBlaze 'Alligator Tears.'

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Norman Winter is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus Ga., and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and the highly acclaimed "Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden." Contact him at gardenguy2000aol.com. First Published June 30, 2012 12:00 AM


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