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Diggin' It

Instead of white snow, dreaming of orange flowers

When snow keeps a gardener indoors, her thoughts turn to using colorful orange flowers in the landscape, from dahlias to tulips.

By Donna Williamson / February 1, 2011

Orange dahlias add drama to the summer landscape.

Courtesy of Judy Lowe

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Well, we finally got enough snow to shovel and interrupt life. So, of course, it is time to order dahlias.

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Having read as many garden books as any good gardener can, I have been enchanted by the books of Christopher Lloyd. His bold use of color has been instructive and tempting.

He makes excellent use of the wonderful dahlia ‘David Howard’. It’s a dark-leafed dahlia with a medium-size apricot-orange flower.

This dahlia brings me to orange. I am about to start teaching my winter design classes. Folks typically think pink, purple, and blue shades are acceptable for their gardens.

I think they've seen too many Northern garden pictures where the pale sun makes pastels glow.

I love orange in the garden. In Virginia, the sun is bold and bright. Sugary pinks get washed out. Reds are so dramatic and, at a distance, wash into a magenta-pink that’s unappealing.

But orange … warm, welcoming, cheering, convivial, full of vitality, lively, vigorous, animated, energizing, and spirited!

You need only look at the fiery fall landscape to appreciate the wide range of oranges and how they connect with magenta, blue, grey-green, and burgundy.

When you look at the landscape this summer, notice the way brick homes have vibrant orange tones and then notice the way bright raspberry-pink geraniums or bright yellow marigolds clash with them. If the geraniums were salmon, shrimp, bright orange, or any of the apricot to brown tones available in plants, the look would be charming.

Don’t get me wrong. I grow pink dahlias – they are typically huge. I love purple Verbena bonarienses and magenta Callicarpa spp. I love blue and grow every different catmint variety there is.

But orange is the backbone of summer color for me, in all its tones and range. It lights the way of my garden. Give it another look.

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Donna Williamson blogs regularly at Diggin' It. She's a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.” She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. To read more by Donna, click here.

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