Getting the wow factor in your garden

Published 9:25 am Saturday, July 7, 2012

Column: Carol Hegel Lang, Serendipity Gardens

No matter what type of garden you have a “wow factor” will make your garden memorable. In the photo with this article is a combination of plants I never would have even considered using but I did, and let me tell you it was sensational when you walked into the backyard and caught sight of the riot of colors.

Carol Lang

The tall spiky flower is ligularia, or “the rocket,” and it is bright yellow. This plant alone can give you the “wow factor.” I love the height of the plant and the spikes that really seem to energize you with that bright yellow, I no longer have it in my garden but plan on bringing it back this year. In front of it stands purple coneflower and off to the left is a reblooming day lily in a grape color. The hosta with its light purple and white flowers tones down this outlandish color combination. Off to the right is a rusty orange day lily and the hanging basket with a deep magenta petunia would really make you wonder what I was thinking of when I put all of these plants together.

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I will have to admit this combination really scared me but as people visited the garden they really raved about it and finally I settled down and enjoyed it and the sense of excitement it provided in this corner of the garden against the gray fence. Sometimes it is best not to think too long and too hard when you do color combinations or you will talk yourself out of it. One important thing to remember is that you need something that will tone down a wild color, and the gray fence does exactly that.

Last year when I planted the terra cotta planter that sits on a tall base I kept trying to imagine what would really make this planter come to life. I usually have a burgundy spike in the center, and this planter is neither very deep nor very wide so I am really limited on how many plants will fit into it.

In front are purple coneflowers and grape day lilies, the tall yellow plant is ligularia or “the rocket.” A hosta is in the middle and in the back are crimson supertunia. To the right are orange day lilies. -- Submitted

I finally settled on using three trailing snapdragons that were a cream and burgundy and the other plant choice was several burgundy ivy geraniums which cascaded over the sides. Directly behind this planter is a phlox in a deep magenta shade, “starfire” is the name of it. Also standing behind all of this is a birdbath and shepherd’s hook painted in a deep in lilac color. It really gave me a punch of color as this can be a bit dreary with the Japanese maple shading the area. All of these colors are part of the same color blend just in varying degrees of red/pink or purple/pink when you look at the color wheel.

My entire backyard is surrounded by a 6-foot gray privacy fence which tends to tone down the colors; if the fence was white these colors would tend to jump out more so you really have to be careful about what is the neutral color in your garden. Also if you bring in black for planters it will either make the colors softer or really make them shout out at you.

In the front of my house are two taller containers, again not very wide or deep, but I have found a combination that works very well for them. Depending on the color theme for that year I use non-stop begonias in rich colors (last year they were orange) with Dichondra “silver falls” which have a blue/green cast to it. Then in the center I use a perennial spike called blue arrows juncos. The Dichondra tumbles over the sides of the container and the begonias give it the wow factor.

Deciding what color theme to use is one of the best parts about planning the garden. When you first start gardening it seems we hold back on really expressing ourselves because we lack the confidence of those who have been gardening for years but let me tell you this one piece of information: There is no right or wrong color combination, if it is pleasing to you then do it, this garden belongs to you and only you and this is your time to try something that will really wow people.”

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” — Rainer Maria Rilke


Carol Hegel Lang is an Albert Lea resident and local green thumb. Her email is