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annual gardening, annual garden design
APRICOT NOTIONS

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Elisabeth Ginsburg
You need this in your perennial border.

 

Dianna Vreeland, celebrated editor of Vogue magazine, was fabled for the pronouncements that she made about all kinds of things. One of the most famous was, "Pink is the navy blue of India." Of course this statement came at a time when navy blue was one of the perennial "neutral" colors in women’s fashion in the United States. Mrs. Vreeland has long since gone to the great fashion show in the sky, but you still hear pronouncements of all kinds about colors. A few years ago, all the fashion and shelter magazines sought to convince us that "gray is the new black." Two years ago, brown became the new gray. This year I truly believe that apricot is the new brown.

Evidence of this trend is plentiful in the shelter magazines. It is also evident in the new garden catalogs. Since I am fond of peach myself, and use it as an accent color in my front borders, I was pleased to find so many recent introductions in that shade.

Peach, apricot, salmon, and similar shades work well in the garden because they get along so nicely with a host of other colors. They pair naturally with yellows and shine against a backdrop of dark green foliage. Peachy blooms that hug the yellow (as opposed to the pink) side of the spectrum pair wonderfully well with true blue flowers. I would not combine them with anything purple, pink or red unless I also had an awful lot of white blossoms or green leaves on hand to act as a buffer.

For a long time it was so hard to find anything colorful for shady spots that it didn’t pay to be choosy. Hostas are lovely, but the flowers are either pristine white or, more often, washed out purple. When I look at the purple ones I can sympathize with the people who simply cut them off. But help has arrived for peach-loving shade gardeners. Last year and possibly the year before, several of the seed and plant purveyors came out with apricot strains of foxglove (Digitalis). Now you can also get some peachy-tinted begonias to put in a pot in the middle of the shady border. And, as if that isn’t enough, Thompson & Morgan (800/274-7333 or www.thompson-morgan.com) has introduced a new violet, ‘Famecheck Apricot’ (Viola sororaria ‘Famecheck Apricot’), that can hug the ground at the front of a shady display.

Brugmansia, so lethal, yet so alluring, is a glorious shrubby plant that is tender in the northeast, but can be grown outside year round in more temperate climates. I have long coveted brugmansia’s drooping trumpet-shaped blooms. Now I am excited to see that I can have them in peach. I may just buy another huge ultralight plant pot, along with an appropriately-sized saucer on wheels, so that I can roll my brugmansia indoors each year just before snow flies.

Vivid orange roses leave me cold, except when they are planted in absolutely over-the-top "hot" hued gardens. Softer apricot shades, on the other hand, warm my soul. ‘Abraham Darby’, one of David Austin’s English Roses, is big, strong, fragrant and floriferous with a peachy glow. I am also drawn to 'Celtic Pride’, a rose I found in the Heirloom Roses catalog (503/583-1576 or www.heirloomroses.com). ‘Celtic Pride’ has an old-fashioned look to it, and produces golden apricot blossoms in fragrant clusters. It is no surprise that ‘Just Joey’, a hybrid tea rose first introduced in 1973, was voted "The World’s Favorite Rose" at the 1994 Roseworld Convention in New Zealand. The long-stemmed blooms are perfect for cutting, and the soft copper color is something special.

If you like peach tones, then you have undoubtedly already filled your sunny spaces with snapdragons, dahlias, sweet alyssum and possibly even chrysanthemums in that shade. You probably have tall spires of ‘Chater’s Double Apricot’ hollyhocks as well. This year, you can also sow seeds of a new agastache, ‘Apricot Sprite’ (Agastache aurantiaca). This plant, which grows to be 15-18-inches tall, sports flower spikes with lots of elongated apricot-colored florets. It is what Thompson & Morgan calls a "half hardy perennial", which means that it is best treated as an annual in the northeast. Seeds should be started indoors in February for summer bloom. Mimulus ‘Apricot’ (Mimulus x auranticus) (available from Select Seeds860/684-9310 or www.selectseeds.com) is another beguiling plant. A sun lover, its flowers bear a faint resemblance to single hollyhocks, rising on sturdy 2-foot stems.

If peach gives you a thrill, fill your garden with it now while it’s still in vogue. In no time flat, mauve or puce or chartreuse may become next year’s peach.

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