Sunday, August 24, 2008

Photo Extravaganza!

Today I'm posting pictures that I hope will whet your appetite to attend Coleus Day at Atlock on September 13, or certainly to check out the pictures I'll post of the event. Less than three weeks to go! I'm going to be conservative with the words and liberal with the pictures (hmm, are the national political conventions about to take place?).

First I hope you'll enjoy the picture, then the words - the caption - below it.

The Red Border (I still can't bring myself to call it the Tropical Border) contains a few coleus. This pic was taken in the early evening after a nice long sprinkler session, so the colors are punched up a bit from the flash and the water. That's 'Burgundy Wedding Train' at the bottom and orangey pink 'Fanatic Radish' in the lower right-hand corner.

The other end of the Red Border isn't at all red (or very tropical, for that matter), but it does contain a refreshing coleus combo for shade. 'Buttercream' offers a cool contrast with the chartreuse tones of golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea') and the black-green foliage of one of the very hardy Meserve hollies (Ilex x meserveae).

A bit of anxiety here: the coleus in the formal garden behind the shop are taking their good old time filling in. I think I just might let that cursed quickweed (Galinsoga) grow up and make a nice green filler among the coleus. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Most of what you see are 'JoDonna' on the left and 'Meteor' on the right. Similar here but quite different elsewhere.

Four ancient lemon plants hold forth on one side of the formal garden and provide extra shade for lighter-colored coleus that burn in more sun. Front to back: 'Schizophrenia', 'Max Levering', 'Lemon Chiffon', and just a bit of 'The Line'. The quickweed is mercifully a bit more slower-growing here.

Another flash-altered picture, this time of the Paintbox. The coleus are very happy here - I suspect this bed might end up being photographed as much as the Red/Tropical Border. 'Max Levering' stands out as the bright yellow one with the red flecks. Dark-blotched 'Stormy' next to it is distinctive but much too eager to bloom . . .

Check out the Long Border for some bold color combinations and textural contrasts. There are some coleus here, but they're not easy to see in the picture. A bit of 'Sedona' glows in the lower left corner, and there's a dark streak of 'Lancelot Velvet Mocha' back and to the right. 'Yalaha' is filling in farther back, as is 'Royal Glissade'. 'Red Coat' is not happy.

Now for a few containers: here's 'Inky Fingers' mingling beautifully (I think, anyway) with a Carex and a Cordyline in an assertively orange container. This pot will be placed strategically in the gardens to show it off; right now it's associating with a whole lot of other containers in a holding area. Look for it.

'Swiss Sunshine' provides a transition from the cream-colored pot to the much darker Pennisetum 'Prince'. Don't take a cultural cue from the name: 'Swiss Sunshine' shrinks from too much sun and looks its best where given afternoon shade. We also have it in a vivid green container, but those plants are still recuperating from a case of sunburn. Dumb me.

Into the greenhouses: here are 104 different stock plants all in one place. A duplicate collection grows in the adjacent house. Those plants were cut back recently and will not be as lush and colorful on Coleus Day as these plants, but they probably will turn out to be denser, stockier plants when the time comes to propagate them next year.

The adjacent house - where the other block of 104 grows - holds an exciting mix of specimen plants and cultivars under evaluation for possible inclusion among the anointed ones. White-centered 'South of the Border' continues to hold my interest, as does the flashy 'Stella Red' near the top right corner.

'Odalisque' is without doubt my favorite of the traditional trailers (I don't consider 'Inky Fingers' a trailer but more of a leaner; otherwise, it would be at the top of the list for sure). This behemoth started out as one little cutting 17 months ago and now demands daily watering and more than a just casual glance.

Three specimen plants that I'm paying special attention to: 'Freckles' in the upper left corner, 'Solar Flare' in the upper right, and the ever-amusing 'Careless Love' at the bottom. 'Freckles' has become my signature coleus, appearing on (so far) the T-shirt I sell, on my "fancy" business card, and as the pattern for a sumptuous cotton throw I had made. More later.

Last is a before-and-after treatment of one of the coleus topiaries being cosseted for the Big Day. I admit that not not everyone likes the smoldery look of 'Lancelot Velvet Mocha', but that don't bother me none. It makes a very willing topiary subject. This one is descended from the first batch of 'LVM' cuttings rooted at Atlock last summer.

After the cut. I'm certain I've cut this head back at least six times in its relatively brief lifetime, and it keeps coming back thickly and eagerly. Much of this plant literally fell off last April, but you've never know it when looking at it: new growth quickly sprouted and created a fine-looking new head.

So there's the three-weeks-and-counting preview of Coleus Day. Please visit Atlock Farm ( on September 13 from 10:00 to 4:00, or check in on this site soon afterward!