Terrific Trios

July

Season after season, our horticulturists come up with amazing plant combos for the beds, borders, and containers in their gardens.

And season after season, we see visitors pulling out smartphones and cameras to photograph and document those gorgeous combinations.

In this month's Smart Gardener, we bring you a few of the newest, hottest, most visually exciting summer combinations, some of which were just recently installed by our creative garden staff. These seven terrific trios can translate easily to your own yard, garden, deck, or patio. (Click the image of each triplet for a larger view.)

A "Wow" Trio

Even insiders at the Garden look to the entrance bed at the Visitor Center for great combo ideas. For summer, horticulturist Dan Dion has come up with a stellar grouping of plants, including this gorgeous yellow/coral/burgundy trio:

  • Kale 'Redbor' (Brassica oleracea 'Redbor')
  • Bishop of Llandaff dahlia (Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff')
  • Cherie hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Cherie')

Dan's full roster for the bed also includes:

  • Diva dahlias (Dahlia 'Diva')
  • LITTLE LUCKY™ Red lantana (Lantana camara 'Balluced')
  • FANFARE™ Orange trailing impatiens (Impatiens 'Balfaforg')
  • Storm Blue petunia (Petunia x hybrida 'Storm Blue')
  • Garda Fireworks pepper (Capsicum annuum var. annuum 'Garda Fireworks')

PHOTO: A snapshot of the Garden's entry beds.

The colors and textures of Redbor kale, dahlias, and Cherie hibiscus are the focal points of a bed that also includes a profusion of lantana, impatiens, petunias, and ornamental peppers.

A Trio That Sings

Once you've crossed into the main Garden via the Visitor Center bridge, turn left at the Crescent Garden toward the Heritage Garden, and find the Asia bed. There, horticulturist Tom Soulsby has assembled a strong trio he based on the interesting foliage of burnet:

  • Burnet (Sanguisorba tenuifolia purpurea)
  • Trusty Rusty coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Trusty Rusty')
  • MAGILLA™ Purple perilla (Perilla frutescens 'Balmagpurp')

A note on burnet: because our photo was taken early in the season, it has yet to set its distinctive, catkin-like purple flowers, or to show its brilliant orange and gold fall color. While waiting for the burnet to bloom, Tom accents with Wildcat Mandarin pimpernel (Anagallis monellii 'Wildcat Mandarin'), an unusual peachy-orange pimpernel.

PHOTO: A snapshot of the Asia bed in the Heritage Garden.

Not yet displaying its distinctive catkin-like inflorescences, the serrated edges of the burnet leaf complement the coleus leaf; perilla mimics coleus's coloring as the transition plant in the trio. Tiny, peachy pimpernel flowers complete the look.

Triplets Multiplied

Just past the Linden Allée, a trio of containers at the Rose Garden Café starts with one key plant: banana. Tom Soulsby added the deep burgundy leaves of Abyssinian banana 'Maurelli', which are striated with nearly-iridescent green—inspiring him to look for other foliage plants that complemented banana's large leaves, such as cordyline and heuchera. Light-colored flowers add relief. When the containers are massed together, a visually stunning color and texture story is revealed.

Container #1

Mauerelli Abyssinian banana (Musa ensete 'Maurelli')

Million Kisses® tuberous begonia (Begonia 'Yadev')

Foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Mysersii')

 

PHOTO: Musa, Begonia, and foxtail ferns.

Container #2

Alumroot 'Black Beauty' (Heuchera 'Black Beauty')

Coleus 'Giant Exhibition Chivalry' (Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Giant Exhibition Chivalry')

Joseph's Coat 'Sommelier Pinot Gris' (Alternanthera 'Sommelier Pinot Gris')

PHOTO: Heuchera, Coleus, and Alternanthera.

Container #3

Bauer's dracaena (Cordyline 'Baueri')

Million Kisses® tuberous begonia (Begonia 'Yadev')

Silver Falls silver nickel vine (Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls')

 

PHOTO: Cordyline, Begonia, and Dichondra.

1 + 1 + 1

In the Circle Garden, horticulturist Dale Whiting simplifies the idea of a trio by planting one big, healthy, interesting plant in a single pot, then clustering three pots together.

This easy-to-execute solution for a dull garden or patio corner has big extra benefits: glory flower sends up fantastic spikes in late summer, curry plant packs a powerfully spicy fragrance, and the variegated Swedish ivy trails luxuriously down to the ground as summer goes on.

  • Blue glory bush (Tibouchina grandiflora)
  • Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum)
  • Variegated Swedish ivy (Plectranthus coleoides 'Aurea-marginatus')

PHOTO: A gathering of single plantings in pots creates a great tiered effect.

A Handsome Threesome

At the top of the stairs to the Dwarf Conifer Garden, horticulturist Ayse Pogue suggests a permanent trio—two dwarf conifers and one perennial—that could be the solution for lightening up a dark corner of your yard with bright, golden color.

  • Repens Gold creeping Norway spruce (Picea abies 'Repens Gold')
  • Krakus arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis 'Krakus')
  • Thriller lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis 'Thriller')

PHOTO: Varying colors and textures keep the Dwarf Conifer Garden landscape interesting.

A Tiny Trio

Even a single trough can make a big statement. In the troughs at the English Walled Garden, horticulturist Heather Sherwood designed "mini-landscapes" by combining small plants with powerful textures:

  • String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)—those "pearls" are actually the succulent's modified leaves!
  • BLACK SCALLOP™ bugleweed (Ajuga reptans 'Binblasca')
  • Swedish mosaic ivy, or spurflower (Plectranthus oertendahlii)

Horticulturist's tip: String of pearls grows quickly and trails beautifully—and is easy to share with fellow gardeners!

PHOTO: A tiny groundcover trio makes this container pop.

Three in One

And for those who have the smallest spot of sun on the smallest balcony of the smallest apartment, distill the idea of a trio all the way down to a single plant. Rosa 'Savalife' is better known as RAINBOW'S END™ for a good reason: it combines three of the colors of the rainbow in one gorgeous flower.

Wish you had room for pink roses, coral roses, and yellow roses? The clustered flowers of RAINBOW'S END™ give you all three in one. Check it out at the Rose Garden.

PHOTO: No room for a trio? Try a single plant with multiple bloom colors.

On your next visit, tour these trios, which will continue to grow, fill in, and flower through the summer. Smart gardeners will take later-in-the-season photos, too!