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Here’s the colour, pass it on

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Red Prince Weigela carries the red from late spring until mid-summer.

PHOTO BY CARLA KEAST Enlarge Image

Red Prince Weigela carries the red from late spring until mid-summer. Photo Store

Annuals are the go-to plant for a specific summer-long colour.

If you have a limited budget for annuals, or limited time for planting and watering annuals, but still want a specific summer-long colour, consider teaming up a combination of trees, shrubs, and perennials in a game of pass the colour.

This type of planning is for the low maintenance-minded, so I’m going to focus heavily on trees and shrubs, and use flowers as added perks. The main idea is to "move" the colour from flowers to leaves to flowers over the course of the growing season. It’s always there, but it’s moving.

As always, choose plants to suit the growing conditions. I’m listing a few as examples. Use them as a guide, but certainly look for substitutions.

Red is almost always game. I’m aiming for a nice deep middle red, but a range from deep pinks through to burgundy will do the job. The brilliant pinks and fuscias can be hit and miss.
Start the spring with red flowering tulips followed by a red peony such as "Felix Krause." Flaming Mound Spirea or Red Prince Weigela will take it from there and pass it along to the ninebarks "Little Devil," "Summer Wine Ninebark," or "Tiny Wine." Their leaves are a deep red that settles in for the duration of the season. Come summer, keep the red going with roses such as "Adelaide Hoodless," "Emily Carr," or "Winnipeg Parks." For foliage lovers, both "Gladiator" and "Purple Spires" Rosybloom Crabapples have deep burgundy disease-resistant leaves. Perennials such as Fanal Astilbe or Ruby Stella Daylily will happily get in on the action.

It’s hard to avoid red fall colour. From our selections so far Flaming Mound Spirea and Winnipeg Parks Rose have great fall foliage. Autumn Blaze Freeman Maple, Amur Maple, or Bailey Compact Highbush Cranberry will only make it better. A couple perennials, Morden Garnet Mum or Autumn Fire Sedum, keep some red on the ground. A final flourish? Little Devil Dogwood picks up the red with great fall colour and carries it through the winter with bright red stems.

Pass the colour works equally well with yellows. There are golden yellows and lemon yellows. Pick one and stick with it as they won’t play nicely together.

Blue is potentially the lowest maintenance scheme, as blue coloured evergreens can feature prominently. Be sure to add a generous number of perennials, in mass plantings, to keep it playful!


Carla Keast has a master’s degree in landscape architecture and is a Winnipeg-based freelance landscape designer. She can be reached at contact@carlakeast.com.

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