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Creative combo in pink and gold

A cutting-edge garden in Washington State displays winning combinations of perennials.

By Craig Summers BlackCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / August 13, 2008

VIGNETTE: Gateway joe-pye weed (center) is framed by Bowles golden grass and a gold-leaved dogwood bush in Linda Cochran’s Bainbridge Island, Wash., garden.

Photos by David McDonald

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Linda Cochran was once a talented, driven lawyer. Then she gave it up – to become a supremely talented, highly driven plantswoman. Now her garden on Bainbridge Island, Wash. – a short ferry ride from Seattle – has become the acknowledged capital of this garden-frenzied community.

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Taking advantage of the warm maritime climate, Ms. Cochran salts her garden with cutting-edge perennials (think blood orchids, reedlike restios, and highly toxic veratrums) and integrates them so well that they become more than a panoply of plants. They invoke a feeling.

While this is obviously a plant collector’s garden, it is first and foremost a landscape, a yard, and a home. This column is the first of three in which we’ll take a look at small vistas in Cochran’s yard and see what makes them invoke, well, artwork.

You may know the Gateway joe-pye weed (Eupatorium), the tall native that does yeoman duty in the back of so many borders. But how often have you seen it thrust forward, bookended by golden foliage – as it is here with Bowles golden grass and a gold-leaved dogwood bush?

The contrasts in color and silhouette are amplified by the little red rockets of fleece flower (Persicaria), usually a ho-hum plant used far too often as filler.

Here it actually performs a design function. As they say on the runway: Work it!

NOTE: This is one of a series of short articles about interesting combinations of plants. Previous entries include A palette of garden grasses and Creative plant combinations.

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