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Strong Colors

Some flowers have intense sounding names to match their hues.

strong color

Photo: Kristi Decourcy (flickr)

Strong color: green metallic bee on red geum.

This summer I have really been enjoying plants with strong-colored flowers.

This is a departure for me because I rarely plant them in my garden since I habitually favor pastels. But in mid-summer when the light is bright, strong colors seem to glow in the sunshine. They even look compelling on grey cloudy days.

Some flowers have intense sounding names to match their hues.

Geum ‘Double Bloody Mary’ holds its scarlet blooms erect above its interesting foliage. It tolerates full sun but prefers part shade with moisture in zones 4-8. All geums, however, hate wet feet especially in winter so always ensure good drainage for them. ‘Double Bloody Mary’—I just love that name!—grows to 14 inches.

And there is another—Geum ‘Flames of Passion’—that has a more extended bloom season than Mary as well as more upward-facing red blossoms.

An added bonus is that deer avoid all plants in this genus!

Another plant with strong-colored flowers is Helenium ‘Mardi gras’, which grows 36 – 40 inches tall in zones 4 – 8 and blooms from late June through August. It produces flowers with yellow petals splashed with red and center cones that are brown.

I am also more attracted to annuals such as zinnias than I used to be, as well as to brassy colored large marigolds. I think their deer resistance has made me value them more than I used to, and of course, more shapes and colors are available nowadays than in the past. They will keep blooming until frost.

Many of my zinnias this year have short stems however, so next year I am going to seek out varieties that are better for cutting.

The really dark-red clematis blooms that ‘Rebecca’ produces are also catching my eye, as the flowers don’t wash out in the hot days of summer.

And, of course, I am savoring my cardinal flowers with spikes of red and the big blue lobelias this month too. They beckon to swallowtails and hummingbirds, who enjoy their nectar.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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