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Lifestyle

Royalty in the garden

Delphinium is the quintessential royal plant.
Delphinium is the quintessential royal plant.

Since ancient times, the color purple has been considered the color of royalty. Color dyes were difficult to manufacture, limited in supply and therefore scarce. Only the Roman elite, kings and queens could afford to possess purple garments. Although no longer rare, the color purple still symbolizes royalty today. Would you like to have a little royalty in your garden?

Color can evoke a mood. Purple is a regal color with many uses in a garden design. Masses of dark purple plantings can form a dramatic, sweeping landscape display. A mellow touch to your garden can be achieved by the use of some of the softer purple shades. Purple also plays well with other colors, forming attractive combination plantings.

Purple plants are formed by combining various shades of the primary colors, red and blue. The different color combinations can result in purple shades presenting from the light shades of lavender and lilac to the deeper shades of royal purple and indigo.

Let’s talk about how purple can help us successfully create a beautiful home garden. Many forms of purple plants including annuals, perennials, vines and shrubs can be used as we explore ways to incorporate purple into our landscape design.

Attractive annual plants in the purple color range are ageratum, lobelia, pansy, petunia, scented nicotiana and heliotrope, and self-sowing cornflowers, larkspur and violas.

Some of the more dramatic purple plants are found in the perennial plant choices. Queen of the regally purple perennials would have to be the delphinium, presenting a bold statement with its 5-foot-plus height in both light and dark shades of purple. Bearded iris and Siberian iris are signature plants recommended for use as accent plants. Smaller plant selections for placement in mid to border locations in the garden include bellflower, salvia, verbena and veronica.

Clematis, morning glory and wisteria are vines that display vertical uses of purple.

Bulbs are another good source of purple for use in seasonal bloom. Allium, crocus, tulip and dahlia are all options to consider.

Are you interested in growing native plants? A few native/wildflower choices are common violet, spiderwort, crested iris and New England aster.

Butterfly bush, lilac, hydrangea and rhododendron are shrubs that can be used in all landscapes for purple accents.

Often overlooked is the leaf color from foliage plants providing a support system of shades of purple. Placement is key with these plants. A sunny location is best with placement in the mid section of the flower bed. Recommended foliage plants are coleus, sweet potato, ornamental millet and shrubs such as smoke bush and nine bark.

While a monochromatic garden displaying all purple plants would be stunning, most gardeners probably will be using other plants of a variety of colors. So how can purple plants best participate in the creation of a harmonious garden result?

Purple plants blend easily with other garden flower colors. Dark purple and indigo shades can be used with hot colors like red and orange to produce a vibrant color display. When a softer looking blend is the goal, lavender and lilac shades can be combined with pastels such as pink, mauve, pale yellow, silver and white. The magical combination is blue and purple, resulting in a sophisticated, regal garden display.

The creation of a flower bed is filled with personal decisions and choices. Hopefully, the diverse purple plant family will find a home somewhere in your garden. Have fun!

• The Master Gardener Help Desk is closed because of the coronavirus. Gardening questions can be emailed to uiemg-dekalb@illinois.edu.

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