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Coleus partners well with garden flowers
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Garden centers are bringing in new flowers by the truck full, and choices may seem a little overwhelming. One thing you should consider is incorporating plants grown for foliage, such as the coleus, in combination with those you pick for flowers.
One stunning planting I saw late last summer would be easy for anyone to duplicate. It had rudbeckias, petunias and coleus.
The tallest of the flowers were Prairie Sun rudbeckias. These green-eyed rudbeckias are large gloriosa-type daisies, similar to the brown-eyed Indian Summer, which is a past Mississippi Medallion award winner. Prairie Sun has the same gold of Indian Summer in addition to primrose yellow tips on each petal. Both reach 24 to 36 inches tall and are well suited to the back of the border. They are also excellent cut flowers.
The garden went with the opposite, or complementary, color scheme -- choosing the almost iridescent Easy Wave Blue petunia as the low plant in front of the Prairie Sun.
Just like spouses who complement each other because they are so different, the same can be said for choosing colors that are opposite one another on a color wheel. In this case, the blue from the petunias is from the cool side of the wheel and is directly opposite from the warm orange and primrose colors found in Prairie Sun.
When shopping for Wave petunias, remember there are now Waves, Easy Waves and Tidal Waves. While the old Pink Wave and Purple Wave were both outstanding plants, they had different characteristics. The Purple Wave was more ground hugging, spreading and prostrate. The Pink Wave was mounding and didn't spread as much.
The name variations simply group the Waves into categories where they will have the same growth habit: Waves are spreading and prostrate, Easy Waves are spreading but more mounding, and Tidal Waves are the tallest. In fact, the Tidal Wave's enormous size prompted the naming of a new class of petunia called hedgiflora.
The foliage from the coleus in this garden really set off the floral display. The coleus used was a new one called Wild Lime, available to the public this spring. It is a product of Ball FloraPlant and is indeed wild and lime in color. Its lime-green margins pick up the green eye of Prairie Sun while the yellow in the center matches the primrose yellow tips of the daisy. This means it, too, is complementary to the Easy Wave Blue.
Consider also that if it was partnered with petunias and rudbeckias, then it is a sun-tolerant coleus. This is just one example of how coleus can be partnered with flowers. They also combine wonderfully with ornamental grasses. The season is very young, so make sure you prepare your beds for good drainage and aeration and then be bold in your plantings using different textures.