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Gardening in the Sierra Foothills with Carolyn Singer

The seasoned gardener

published in The Union in Grass Valley CA

I love orange!
A much maligned color deserves special recognition

by Carolyn Singer
July 16, 2011

CA poppies with NigellaOrange. The color in the most breathtaking of sunsets. A fruit that brings the citrus orchards of the valleys and lower foothills to life from mid to late winter. And of course, there's the California poppy, a delight wherever its vibrant flowers appear in late spring. Also the native lily, Lilium humboldtii (photo, bottom left). And what would fall be without orange thrown into the palette? Imagine Hallowe'en without orange pumpkins. Persimmons of another color? Unimaginable!

fall pumpkinYet orange is the one hue that many people do not want in their gardens, especially when color choices are being considered for spring and summer. Some go so far as to express stronger emotions. Others disdain any color with a hint of orange (such as gold). Some may not even want their neighbors to have orange in an adjacent garden.

Filoli Gardens in Woodside CAI'm in the minority. Orange is a favorite. Contrasted with blue and purple hues, orange adds a vibrancy to the summer palette. At Filoli Gardens in Woodside CA one fall, there was a splendid display of orange with just a touch of blue-violet pansies on one edge.

I'm considering the purple-flowering Clematis 'Polish Spirit' with its long season of bloom, trailing over the fence corner at my garden entry, as a backdrop for annuals with tall habit and orange flowers, such as Tithonia and Zinnia. Since the Clematis will stop blooming by midsummer, I could have blue morning glories as a late summer into fall contrast with a blast of orange nearby.

Oriental poppyOr perhaps a bed of orange Cosmos or Zinnia with blue and purple larkspur or blue love-in-a-mist (Nigella, photo above with CA poppies). The range of orange shades and size of marigolds offers opportunity for this warm color from tall to dwarf. Other small annuals provide fun for playing with color combinations in containers. Orange Impatiens and deep blue Lobelia in a hanging basket? Dwarf Zinnia with dark blue Lobelia?

As I was writing today, clients south of Grass Valley CA sent photos of the orange daylilies along both sides of their front walk. The form and foliage soften the hardscape of the walk, and when the daylilies open, the flowers welcome visitors. I knew it would be very striking in bloom. I'm glad they remembered my desire to see it!

CA native lilyIn fall, orange blends with red, yellow and gold, turning the foothills into one of the best areas for viewing fall color in our state. My favorite orange tree is the tupelo or sour gum, Nyssa sylvatica. The leaves are already glossy, and when they turn in autumn, the entire tree glows. It's one of the later trees to change color, well after the reds of maples. As a shade tree in a lawn or irrigated area, the tupelo adapts well to our climate.

Pyracantha berries are red or orange, and both are a great addition to the fall garden, carrying this season of color into early winter before the birds feast.

NasturtiumsIn my vegetable garden, Nasturtium are now in full bloom. Some are bright orange, some soft and pale orange. All are volunteers from last year's seed, which germinated when conditions were favorable in early spring. The cold spells that slowed the growth of many vegetables did nothing to discourage this cheerful annual. I use the sweet younger tender leaves for salad, and the flowers to add a spicy taste as well as --- you guessed it --- an orange touch to all the greens, an echo of the grated carrots.

©2011 by Carolyn Singer. All rights reserved.

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