May 31, 2010

What Color Is This, Anyway?

It's the first of the month, and I am sharing a Garden Oops.  Joene has more on her GOOPS page where she invites us to chronicle our mistakes, so check those out too.

I'm not sure if this is my mistake in placing the wrong plants together, or if it's the plant breeders' mistake in crossing two nice plants and producing a muddled mix of both.

I have a 'Twilite Prairieblues' baptisia that fills the garden with beautiful form, and clean looking green leaves.  I really like it.  But I can't figure out what color the blooms are.  They're weird.

To get this flower effect, the breeders crossed the classic yellow sphaerocarpa and blue australis varieties.  I'm mystified.  What would you call this color? The muddiness of the flowers is echoed in a compact Weigela 'My Monet' right below it, which has variegated foliage in deep pinks and tans, that somehow work to give this shrub the look of a brownish pile of leaves.  The white edged hosta repeats the washed out theme.  Nobody here is stepping up and declaring a color.  In full sun it looks like everything rusted slightly and then faded.

Up close the 'Twilite Prarieblues' pea-like blooms are completely different, a smoky purple.  It's been described as copper purple (huh?) with a yellow keel.

But step back and they become a funny metal / mauve hue.

Its indeterminate shade might look better with a saturated color close by, like the mahogany leaves of a Japanese maple.  Or maybe it needs something deep green with bold foliage near it.  The mound of weigela is echoing the baptisia's corroded color, not contrasting with it.  This whole grouping is a portrait of oxidation.... look at the little iron garden ornament rusting on the right.  Same exact color.  You couldn't plan this stuff.  (Obviously I didn't)

I have another baptisia that has lovely white blooms (Baptisia alba), which are very pretty.  Unlike the 'Twilite Prairieblues', it has a rangy leggy form, doing nothing to fill its space, but its arching spires are nice above the other garden plants.  And the usual blue and yellow baptisias I have seen are beautiful.

But 'Twilite Prairieblues' is a blend that did not get the best from either parent.  By midsummer when it is just foliage and green leaves, it won't be so bad.  But in late May, this plant is a bafflement, with flowers in a color I can't name, and in a shade that won't play with the others around it.

Baptisias don't move well, with their long tap roots, so my best bet might be to move the little weigela.  What would you put beneath the baptisia instead?  What color goes with faded rust?

Curtis suggested cutting them and enjoying them inside.  Oh, so much better:


  1. Maybe you could pick up on the yellow aspect of the baptisia ... or you could invite deer into your yard to remove all the flowers completely - they take the leaves as well. My baptisia are all stick plants right now.

    May be a topic for another GOOPs - thanks for sharing yours.

  2. Sometimes a 'really cool' flower just doesn't translate when put in the landscape. I was tring to imagine them with a darker background to bring out the yellow. Maybe you could use them as cut flowers and bring them indoors where you can appreciate them close-up.

  3. I saw that baptisia in a nursery this weekend and thought the exact same thing...interesting up close but I wonder how it looks in the garden? I would try yellows to see if it pops a bit. I agree that the My Monet is not helping matters. I have one of those in my garden too and was looking for a place for it to 'work' better than its current locale. I love the leaves and am wondering if it is a massing plant so the pinky variegation effect is more pronounced.

  4. I'd put blues and purples with it. Iris 'Beotie' and those with chocolate tones would go well with it too. Even pinks would probably go with it, if you had a graduation from deep rose pink to a girlie pink.

  5. I had no idea baptisia came in so many different colors. Yours are lovely.

  6. Joene, I have lots of destructive deer and they never touch the baptisia -- they must not like the color either. Sorry about yours.

    Curtis, I do like the individual blooms up close, so cutting for bouquets may be the only answer for me to live with this plant.

    Debbie, Like you, I must find a new place for the My Monet weigela. It's a difficult plant to use. I hope my experience with this baptisia helped you stay away from it at the nursery!

    Sweet bay, great color suggestions. I'm not sure how to experiment, but I need to try some different companions, that's certain.

    Fern, thanks! Baptisias are pretty diverse, with lots of colors to choose.

  7. Laurrie, maybe you could try orange as well, (just hold the plants up in the pot, or take a flower with you to the nursery). Orange is a contrasting colour to purple,(or faded rust). It might zing it up a bit.

  8. They sure do look beautiful in your last shot, Laurrie. But I share your frustration with finding a good place for this oddball color outdoors.

  9. Fromteh shot toward the treeline, I'd say a dark color as background would work--god help us, some thuja perhaps? A dark green? I do love this plant, but the blooms don't last long.

  10. Deborah, it's a struggle with almost any color. Orange might work!

    Nan, "oddball" is a good word for this strange color.

    Benjamin, I guess that's the good news, that the blooms don't last long. I'm already liking my baptisia better now that the blooms are fading.


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