Plants of different hues but with similar form and intensity complement each other and make effective partners. Drought-tolerant ‘Mainacht’ perennial salvia (Salvia nemorosa ‘Mainacht’ a.k.a. ‘May Night’) and its compact form, Marcus (S. n. ‘Haeumanarc’), are loaded with violet-purple flower spikes that are attractive to butterflies, and either can stand by its sister plant, ‘Rose Queen’, with fragrant wands of warm rose pink florets from summer through early fall. All three salvias are good matches in intensity for the yarrow ‘Summerwine’, which has flat-headed blooms of tiny, vivid, crimson-red flowers, each with a light purple-pink eye. A deeply coloured, violet-pink, mildew-resistant phlox such as ‘Robert Poore’ could be added to the backdrop to provide height.
And then there is apricot. I’m besotted with the colour. It’s the warmest tone in the orange range, and a graceful companion to warm pink and rosy coral. For example, in mid- to late spring, the soft orange flowers of ‘Orangekönigin’ barrenwort—a good plant for moist, shady corners—are enhanced by the lovely rose-pink plumes of ‘Federsee’ astilbe, which prefers the same growing conditions. That’s a good way to introduce apricot into the season. For continued warmth, I plan to employ the deeply saturated oranges of crocosmia—peachy yellow ‘Venus’, apricot orange ‘Solfatare’ (with bronze-copper foliage) and apricot yellow ‘Star of the East’—and combine them with two striking summer phlox: ‘Orange Perfection’ and ‘Becky Towe’, rose-pink with a small magenta eye and variegated yellow-and-green foliage. Mid- to late summer brings the irresistibly named ‘When My Sweetheart Returns’ dwarf daylily, a creamy apricot repeat bloomer with a rich rose-pink eye, partnered with two lovely, old-fashioned mulleins—‘Jackie’, soft apricot yellow with contrasting butterscotch eye, and ‘Helen Johnson’, copper orange flushed with cream, with contrasting violet stamens. And to set this all off, I’ll add a few rose-purple ‘Atropurpureum’ bonesets, along with the distinctive ‘September Charm’ Japanese anemone, which, come late August, has rose-pink flowers with darker pink on the reverse of each petal.
Considering the massive display of orange tuberous begonias and scarlet coleus on my doorstep this past summer, I seem to be conquering my colour-timid ways. As for next season, I feel a wave of fuchsia and chartreuse coming on.