Cape Town - Green is the colour traditionally associated with St Patrick’s Day (March 17).

Green is not only the signature of the Irish, it is the colour we use to provide stability, as a background, and as a foil among brighter colours.

There are many shades and textures of green in woodland – in the upper-storey trees, in the shrubs that furnish the middle layer, and in the low-growing plants that carpet the floor. We can learn from nature and use similar shades of green to create a beautiful and interesting garden.

Green softens hard landscaping, particularly in small gardens. It adds a touch of freshness and coolness to hot gardens, and green foliage is a useful lightener in shady gardens.

Deep green appears to recede – and so increase distance – but should not be restricted to the background, as it can also create focal points. When darker shades of green are combined with lighter ones they create patterns of light and shadow.

It is the use of clipped evergreens in a formal garden that gives it its hallmark orderly and disciplined appearance. In a formal design, where proportions are important, more emphasis is placed on foliage and less on flower colour.

Foliage:

Plants with leaves that vary in size and shape add interest in a garden. These can vary considerably in appearance – large (elephant’s ear), small (thyme), feathery (fennel), spiky (sedge), lacy (ferns) and smooth (bergenia).

Become aware of leaf textures and use combinations of these to provide additional interest – dull (rhododendron), glossy (camellia), leathery (strelitzia), furry (lamb’s ear) and velvety (peppermint geranium or Pelargonium tomentosum).

There are times when a beautiful leaf is banished to the back of a border simply because of its size. Acanthus has large, dark green, sculptured leaves with flowers of secondary importance.

Instead of banishing large-leafed plants such as this to the background, occasionally bring them to the fore to make a bold statement.

Shades of green:

There are many variations in the colour green and these can be used as background or as focal points in the garden.

There is the green of camellia and parsley, glaucous green as seen in the blue-green leaves of rue (Ruta graveolens) and some hostas, and the grey-green of echeveria.

Yellow-green in Duranta “Sheena’s Gold”, golden marjoram (Origanum vulgare “Aureum”), Helichrysum petiolare “Limelight”, “Boston Gold” fern and creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia “Aurea”) add a freshness to the garden.

While green foliage has always been an integral part of a garden, green flowers were not often seen in the average garden. This has changed in recent years, and the value of green flowers is now appreciated.

Placing green flowers in a garden is no different to using other colours. Grow them among foliage that complements or contrasts with them in texture and shape, in an all-green planting, mixed with fiery orange and sultry red, to perk up pastels, or to create drama with a combination of purple and lime-green.

In spring there are the green-flushed-pink blossoms of the flowering cherry, Prunus sargentii “Ukon”, and green flowered hellebores for shady places.

The indigenous spring flowering Ixia viridiflora has turquoise-green blooms.

As spring becomes summer, more green flowers appear. Clematis florida var flore pleno (alba-plena) has double pale green flowers ageing to white. Summer borders are made more interesting with bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis), lime-green Zinnia “Envy” and the trumpet-shaped flowers of Nicotiana “Lime”. There are day lilies in greenish shades or with green throats, and Nicotiana langsdorffii has tiny lime-green bells on tall stems.

Irish luck:

Roses with “greenish” flowers include “Irish Luck”, also known as “St Patrick”, “Limelight”, or cream-green “Limbo”. “Penguin” roses have a soft tint of green in petals, miniature “Green Ice” has open white blooms that age to a pale green, “Greensleeves” is a floribunda with green and pale pink flowers, and Rosa chinensis viridiflora with green-tinged-brown “flowers” that are really sepals.

The latter is grown more as a curiosity in the garden, and to add interest to floral arrangements.

Among indigenous plants, none is more spectacular than the green arum Zantedeschia “Green Goddess” with its sculptural green spathes, or more unusual than the dainty chartreuse green bracts of autumn-flowering Protea scolymocephala.

Gladiolus tristus has yellow-green blooms, Kniphofia rigidifolia has lime-green and burnt red flowers, Galtonia viridiflora, a native of mountainous damp places, has pendant green bells, and Eucomis humilis has green flowers with its distinctive pineapple topknot.

And finally, a harlequin of the plant world is the annual creeper cathedral bells, or the cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea scandens), with bell-shaped flowers that open apple green, turn mauve and finally purple.

 

GENERAL GARDENING TIPS

* Major Garden’s clivia (Clivia gardenii), named after Major Garden who discovered this species, blooms in autumn. Slightly pendulous flowers are usually orange-red, but there are also apricot and yellow forms. The curved petals are tipped with green.

* The evergreen, graceful growth habit of autumn-flowering sasanqua camellias makes them suitable for screening or as accent plants. Water regularly, as camellias are prone to bud drop if they don’t get sufficient water.

* Rejuvenate soil in the vegetable patch by incorporating generous amounts of compost. Plant beet, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, cauliflower, leek, peas, Swiss chard and turnip.

* Lift and divide overcrowded summer-flowering perennials such as achillea, agapanthus, day lily and dianthus, and replant the vigorous outer growths in enriched soil.

* Stake chrysanthemums to avoid damage from wind and water.

* As autumn-flowering plectranthus and the ribbon bush (Hypoestes aristata) begin to flower, they should be watered once a week in dry weather.

* To keep insects, fungi, bacteria, viruses, slugs and snails at bay: grind two handfuls of ripe chilli pods. Soak in a litre of water for 24 hours, shake well and filter the liquid through a cloth. Add five litres of water and a little soap. Spray on to the plants.

* Sprinkle a handful of granules (60g) across each per square metre of lawn. Use an organic fertiliser or any of the lawn fertilisers (3:1:5 (26) SR). Water well after application.

Weekend Argus