And now, some gratuitous plant porn.
Do I have your attention? (Common writer’s trick: throw an inflammatory word like “porn” in your lead if inspiration deserts you.) To be fair, the only one naked in this story is our porch. Container plants are a garden’s fashion accessories, the final, glittering “lookatme” touch. Our porch has been naked as a jaybird since we moved to Seattle last May.
For a full year, our porch has looked so sad, all unadorned. My husband likely disagrees, but I don’t count the gas grill as decor. The floorboards were unpainted. The doormat once had a design but now has only rubber gray stubble. No chile pepper string lights, chinese lanterns or hanging baskets were hung. We didn’t even get TP’d for Halloween. That might have been an improvement.
That situation could not stand. Call them what you will – serendipity, feng shui, or Martha Stewart – the forces of good taste and self-respecting pride of place took over.
Why I was forced to buy $hominahomina* worth of annuals:
*”homina homina” – A Ralph Kramden-ism: if your life has been bereft of “The Honeymooners,” move directly to youtube .
- Our landlady had the floor painted! The color is commonly called “park bench green” or “porch green” – darkest green with a hefty glop of blue in it – to match the door. The house is pale gray – an odd choice when the sky is that color 297 days a year. *Dear Landlady, If you can’t change the house color yet, please paint the door red next, please please.*
- A new doormat flew into my arms at a yard sale. It was porch green with red and yellow flowers. I don’t need an engraved stone tablet; I know a message from the cosmos when I see one.
- My generous mother-in-law handed me down four empty hanging baskets and took me shopping at Molbaks – which is the Seattle gardeners’ equivalent of FAO Schwartz.
There was no turning back. (I was already at the nursery cashier.)
The existing colors limited my palette choices considerably – the way I saw it, with all that porch green, I could go pale lemon yellow or reds and oranges. I wanted to announce the entry, shouting a welcome from our hilly perch, so I went with red. Yes, green and red, like a Christmas card. Or a stop light.
Far from subtle, but it’s got a 1940s-honey-I’m-home-ooh-is-that-pie? vibe that makes me smile. I should be answering the door dressed like Myrna Loy in an apron with red cherries on it. Here’s my soul sister Myrna as Mrs. Blandings choosing colors.
Anyway, back to the garden.
I usually go for multiple rainbow like combos of three – five colors (indecisive much?), but this time I went for an analogous look, sticking to one section of the color wheel. I also loosely followed Keeyla Meadows’ color strategy from her book: “Fearless Color Gardens: The Creative Gardeners’ Guide to Jumping Off the Color Wheel “.
Meadows recommends picking one main hue as a starting point then going to either side of it for supporting colors, and picking one accent to a supporting color. The farther away the accent and supporting color are from each other, the higher the ooomph factor.
Mixing in some black sweet potato vine and dark coleus for spice, and some honey-scented white alyssum for leavening, here are some of the container combos I came up with. I found a Martha Washington geranium with excellent gray-green leaves edged in cream, and some coral diascia, and I was off and running.
After choosing those two at the pricey nursery, I headed to the other side of the tracks for fillers. As an anti-clash measure – not because I’m a borderline OCD perfectionist – I brought samples of the geranium in a baggie for comparison.
Scarlet was my main color (red verbena), gray-green was my accent color, and coral my supporting color. Since blue-green is the complement to orange-red, so this was a near-complementary combo. Stand back, you might get blinded by the boldness! (Thank you for taking me outside my color comfort zone, doormat – I’m liking it.)
When I ran low on supplies I poached from my in-ground perennials, taking emergency divisions from sprawly sedum and purple-leafed geranium “Victor Reiter.” It wasn’t a “M*A*S*H-style tracheotomy with a pen, but it made me feel bold. I was a MacGyver Gardener – although if the divisions croak, my efforts were more like Macgruber.
See how the coral diascia picks up the cherry red edging on the sedum? As a muse, Myrna is genius!
No, I don’t know what’s with all the nostalgia and old TV references. Perhaps because we haven’t seen the sun in a week – after being spoiled by a great winter and a lovely spring. I’ve gone all misty.
[Music up, roll credits]
Will I be able to stop? If not, what characters will I stoop to mentioning? Will Arnold the Pig or Eddie Munster show up? Tune in next time to find out….