Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Return to the Frelinghuysen

I spent some time at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum yesterday (Tuesday, August 26) to check out the big raised-bed planting (see “Do you still think . . .” from August 5 for more info) and to see how the other coleus were faring. Nicely, I'm glad to report. But first, I'd like to recognize someone who helped plant the raised bed: thank you, John Lazenby, for your efforts and interest in this project.

Remember: picture first, then words.

The coleus in the raised bed are thriving, except for 'Tiger Lily' (which never kicked in and is growing backward, really), and 'Velvet Mocha', which has developed a herd of livestock, aka mealybugs. Mealybugs happen. A quick horticultural-oil spray probably took care of most of them, though. While some people have offered that the dark-stemmed cultivars attract and perhaps even foster mealybugs - I'm one of them - the adjacent and equally dark-stemmed 'Black Trailer' was apparently free of the bugs. Go figure. By the way, the numbered squares correspond to the segments of the cell-phone tour that to date has been heard by more than 180 people. The “Do you still think . . .” post from August 5 gives info on the tour, narrated by yours truly.

A few Lantana flower clusters peek out from a mass of 'Freckles', with a bamboo providing a clean green backdrop. Sharp!

Here's what Pam Harper calls a color echo: the pink of 'The Flume' picking up on the flowers of a Fuchsia magellanica selection. Cool and very sophisticated, I think.

The yellow flowers of a Lantana selection provide a sharp color contrast with the wildly cut and colored (sounds like a hair style!) foliage of 'Merlin's Magic'.

Note how the dark purple of Alternanthera 'Gail's Choice' precisely echoes the dark tones in 'Swiss Sunshine'. Depending on the light, moisture, fertility, and whims of 'Swiss Sunshine', its coloration can include shades of red, yellow, green, and purple-black. It sports like crazy, too, and a couple of them are on display at Atlock. Will they remain stable so that we can propagate them? Who knows?

‘Meandering Linda’ (also known as ‘Trailing Plum’ and ‘Saucy Sally’, among other names) creates a color lesson with a variegated selection of Ficus elastica. The complex tertiary colors of red-violet and blue-green interact with much simpler-looking black and white – do you see all of them and how they relate to each other? Can you imagine how this would look if the red-violet were paired with white on the coleus foliage, and the blue-green sat against black on the Ficus?

Finally, here’s a single specimen (yes, one plant) of ‘Gay’s Delight’ growing in a bed at the Frelinghuysen. To the left and right are shoots that most closely resemble (but aren’t exactly) ‘Gay’s’ familiar, darkly smudged chartreuse pattern, but notice the all-chartreuse shoots at the top, which look like ‘Lifelime’ and ‘Green Giant’, among others. Then marvel at the spattered leaves in the upper left and the blotchy ones in the center, which remind me very strongly of ‘Antique’ (and ‘Cranberry Salad’, for that matter) and the “standard” pattern of ‘Careless Love’, respectively. So which came first? Later on this blog I’ll explore the fascinating subject of sporting and reversion, which are expressions of mutations - instabilities, if you will – that occur deep within the cells of many coleus.

16 days to Coleus Day at Atlock!