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Ask Alfie – JULY 2015

Ask Alfie

Q. Don’t ask me why but I love the colour orange. Is it possible to have something orange performing in the garden all year round?

A. You don’t need a “Why” to justify colour preferences and infact it’s quite refreshing to come across an orange person. Amongst our customers I think orange is probably the colour we’re told to avoid more than any other. The question poses quite a challenge and I think we’re going to have to bring berries and even foliage into the picture to achieve the year round criteria.

Let’s start now in July. Buddleia globosa may not have much appeal other than when in flower, but when it is, the small spherical blooms have the wow factor. You do not say how big your garden is but you’ll need plenty of space for this showy beast which starts in June and continues into this month. If you are tempted by something exotic then Canna Lilies fit the bill. Some varieties not only have orange flowers but have orange flashes in their bold foliage. Protect rhizomes from frost. In the climber department we have the hot looking Campsis radicans, which like wisteria may decide to take a few years to produce flowers but it will be worth the wait.

Moving into August and September the invasive but happy clappy Crocosmia paniculata (Montbretia) does its thing. There are also many orange varieties of Dahlia for September / October if you like these attention seeking show offs. As things become more autumnal , Pyracantha berries become noticeable and these should keep going for many weeks. A typical example is Pyracantha Orange Glow. However pyracantha is not the only producer of orange berries. If you’ve room for a small tree, how about a Sorbus x kewensis which crops reliably.

Autumn leaf colour can be spectacularly orange – Acers, Amelanchiers and Sorbus all have orange representatives. And so we move into the heart of winter. With a bit of luck your pyracantha berries are lingering, but there are heathers, for example Erica cinerea Gold Drop possessing foliage which at the very least can be described as orangey. March got me thinking! Perhaps we’re going to have to hope for an early flowering of orange Wallflowers. These are biennials which garden centres stock for autumn planting.

Into April and the genus Berberis has some great orange flowerers. I think they’re overlooked and underrated at the moment but for me Berberis darwinii is a strikingly flamboyant choice. For May, there are enough orange tulips to produce a bonfire of shades. Tulip General de Wet is a readily available personal favourite. There are also some fantastic orange flowered deciduous azaleas such as Azalea Mollis Spek’s Orange which flower in May. If you want “easy” orange, sow seeds of the annual Calendula (English Marigold) in April for a splash of strong colour in June and into July. For a low growing evergreen “Rock Rose” go for Helianthemum Henfield Brilliant, which in June has orange flowers verging on the fluorescent. I’m sure this should be visible in the dark. Finally, with the annual cycle complete, what about an Orange plant, Citrus x sinensis? Well if you haven’t got an orangery then a south facing conservatory might just help you produce some orange oranges.

Alfie Bines
About Alfie Bines (24 Articles)
I have been tending the gardens of North London for longer than I care to remember accumulating a huge amount of horticultural knowledge along the way.