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Cornucopia - Don't be scared of Orange

Don't be scared of Orange
Lys de Bray

Many of the people that I meet here in the garden are afraid of orange - they skirt round it, as it were, pretending it doesn’t exist as a colour. (These folk are often the blue/mauve/pink lot, so you can see what I mean.) I point out the fine Helenium 'Chipperfield Orange' and they turn away and won’t even look at its beautifully tri-coloured flowers of bronze, orange and light scarlet. It’s the same with what used to be called montbretia, now crocosmia. As an artist I like the two-tone colours of orange and red, and as a gardener I love the late-season varieties in all their many tones of orange, red and yellow. I am also grateful for the tenacity of montbretia-as-was because it grows and flowers here in a really nasty bit of clay as you come up the drive. Crocosmia 'Star of the East' is a beautiful variety with large orange flowers that look marvellous alongside the early-flowering mauve-purple Aster x frikartii 'Mönch'. The soft orange-yellow Crocosmia 'Gerbe d’Or' is pleasing in the gravel garden here, next to a steely blue eryngium. Gazanias come in several colours, most of them bright. The orange ones are very orange, and, when they close at the onset of dull weather, it’s like the sun going in. Tagetes - African marigolds - come in various heights and tones of yellow, orange and cream. They are still flowers that look good in a formal planting and the orange varieties are uncompromisingly orange.

Tulips give a good jolt of large-flowered colour to start the season, this year the single early 'Generaal de Wet' - shaded orange-yellow, mid-April, was wonderful in all the front-of-house pots. The taller fosteriana tulip 'Orange Emperor' is best in a more sheltered place. Two easily-grown buddlejas are B. globosa and B. x weyeriana. The semi-evergreen B. globosa has dark orange and yellow ball-flowers in early summer. This is a positive shade of orange, whereas B. x weyeriana has panicles of softer, paler orange pom-poms and flowers later, from July to September; both look good in a big vase with the dark red foliage of Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii' as a foil.

There’s a good orange geum, G. 'Prince of Orange', which will brighten an early summer border, plant it with the acid-green fluff of Euphorbia cyparissias. Nasturtiums come much later, in all shades of red, dark crimson, pink, lemon, gold and, of course, orange. Packets of one-colour seeds can be got (admittedly with difficulty these days), sow half in separate pots in the greenhouse in early May, plant these out and when they’re established, poke the remaining half-packetful into the ground among them. Orange roses are beautiful, notably the repeat-flowering 'Remember Me', a large-flowered bush rose with fully double copper-orange flowers that look fabulous in a vase. Another repeat-flowerer is 'Fellowship' which has deep orange, clustered, scented flowers.

First published in the Dorset Group Newsletter, 2010-2011
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 29.
© Copyright for this article: Lys de Bray

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2012. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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