FANTASY FOLIAGE: Season after season, anything I planted under a grove of three coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) in our backyard failed. Too much root competition and insufficient irrigation were the cause. Then this past summer I discovered this mostly shaded patch offered the perfect growing conditions for my small collection of potted begonias. So I placed those as the anchor plants among in-ground native fern, thimbleberry and wild ginger. As the begonia grew, the foliage concealed the pots, creating the effect that the plants were growing out of the ground instead of in containers. Around the same time that I was gathering all my begonia in this particular spot, I became obsessed with showy-foliage plants and was bringing home a new coleus (or several) every other day. It was super fun to play with a diversity of colors, heights and growth habits, ultimately creating a technicolor tapestry/dream coat effect. This effect intensified beautifully as the plants grew, providing a gorgeous view adjacent to a small seating area framed by a collection of Japanese maple in large containers. “The more the merrier” certainly applied, too, because the more I added, the more wonderfully fantasy-like my new understory became. I should mention that grouping the plants this way also makes it a cinch to water them. A friend noted how fantastic my vignette looked and marveled at how the vibrant colors popped against the background of enormous redwood trunks and drew the eye upward. A side effect to this design, which I lovingly call my Willa Wonka garden, is that I now have commitment issues. In other words, I’ve grown considerably more interested in growing plants in containers than committing to installing them in the ground. Container planting offers me the versatility to move the plants around whenever and wherever I want. Talk about instant gratification!

(Photo by Paul Lee Cannon)

WICKED LITTLE BLOOM: I never buy Dianthus at the nursery but this one (Dianthus chinensis heddewigii ‘Black And White Minstrels’) grabbed me by the eyeballs for obvious reasons. Depending on the light, the petals appear deep-dark Cabernet in color or almost black. So stunning, especially with the ruffled white edges. Being a huge “Hedwig & The Angry Inch” fan and all, I was a bit tickled by the variety/subspecies name, heddewigii. In the above image, Ms. Hedwig bears a striking resemblance to the flowers, wouldn’t you say?

(Dianthus photos by Paul Lee Cannon. “Hedwig & The Angry Inch” promotional photo by New Line Cinema Fine Line Features.)

OH, THE SMELL OF IT! On this cool, autumn morning I discovered that my scented selection of plants is thriving. My nose told me so. So, seized by spontaneity, I turned them into a wonderfully fragrant bouquet to enjoy indoors. What’s in it? Magic Mountain basil, ‘Jessica’ blushing pink rose, Osmanthus fragrans (Sweet Olive), Pelargonium crispum ‘Variegatum’ (variegated lemon geranium), Calamintha nepeta (calamint), and Prostanthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata’ (variegated mint bush). Ahhh …

(Photo by Paul Lee Cannon)

TYP-O MY GOODNESS! I can spot a typo a mile away. It can be pretty amusing at times. The proof is in this proofreading.

(Photos by Paul Lee Cannon)

FABULOUS FOLIAGE & FRAGRANCE FOR FALL: I’ve been contemplating what to plant in front of this Punica granatum ‘Nana’ (dwarf pomegranate). The space has poor soil and gets a lot of sun. I’m gonna try ‘Meerlo’ lavender, which I’m super excited about because of the bright, beautiful variegated foliage and wonderful fragrance. Plus I love the contrast it provides. Plus, plus, I think it’s great to combine edible ornamentals. I’m hoping the lavender will stay lovely through the colder months when the pomegranate sheds its leaves. Stay tuned.

(Photo by Paul Lee Cannon)

THREE CHEERS FOR POLLINATION! Side view of Hibiscus trionum (Flower-of-an-Hour). The stigma emerging from the golden burst of stamen reminds me of cheerleaders raising their pom-poms in victory. Hooray!

(Photo by Paul Lee Cannon)