Purple & Red add dashing colour to the Summer Garden

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Once we were almost totally reliant on flowers to give us colour in the garden, but there are now plenty of foliage plants that add contrasting splashes. And, even better, many of these plants continue providing colour for much of the year. The striking hot colours of red and purple are particular favourites and there are plenty of popular choices available.

The red-leafed forms of Japanese maple bring a touch of Japanese refinement to the garden. Their soft delicacy is likely to be damaged by strong sunlight, so make sure they are placed where they’re protected from the worst of the heat. Weeping maples grow well in large pots filled with a quality potting mix such as Yates Premium. A monthly spray with Yates DroughtShield right through the summer period will help the leaves to stay looking fresh.

Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ is a small deciduous tree with heart shaped, maroon-red leaves from spring through to autumn. Leaf colour and plant growth are always better in cooler climates but, if well cared for, ‘Forest Pansy’ will survive in warmer gardens. Put it in a spot where it gets morning sun and some shelter in the early afternoon and, before planting, add plenty of organic matter to the soil. Apply Waterwise Soil Saturator into the top of the root area and mulch with an organic layer.

Another deciduous shrub/small tree is the purple-leafed smokebush, Cotinus coggygria, with foliage that turns shades of orange before falling in autumn. It’s an ideal choice to add a splash of colour to a small garden.

The Chinese fringe flower, Loropetalum chinense, is a hardy feature shrub that usually has green leaves and white feathery spring flowers. But a new version, called ‘Plum Gorgeous’, has been winning favour all over Australia because of its deep red leaves (that stay on the plant year round) and its candy pink blooms. ‘Plum Gorgeous’ looks especially attractive when grown to contrast with chartreuse or grey-leafed plants.

When it comes to perennials and accent plants, red-leafed cordylines are some of the most versatile. Broad-leafed tropical cordylines catch the eye in frost free gardens. Coloured leaf forms of their New Zealand counterparts are much more cold tolerant and recent breeding has introduced a range of new cultivars. Use Yates Rose Shield Insect & Disease Spray to treat any fungal spots.

Red-leafed cannas and dahlias (pictured) flourish during the warmer months. Nowadays these late summer bloomers are grown just as often for their foliage statements, as they are for their flower show. Grassy clumps of Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’, variously called ‘purple fountain grass’ or ‘red fountain grass’ make soft mounds that wave in the slightest breeze. Cut these to ground level in late winter, feed with Dynamic Lifer pellets and they’ll produce a new crop of fine, richly coloured foliage. New forms of New Zealand flax and our native Australian dianellas are also available in plum-coloured varieties.

For ground covers in warmer areas look for the deep purple Tradescantia pallida with its delicate mauve flowers. Where it’s cooler, maroon coloured heucheras work well.


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