Warm Talls and Cool Shorts

Bed 16 Zone 1 ( MG 9972)
Four plants come together in a sophisticated but simple design

This little corner garden appeared in our Long Bed next to Greenhouse 10. It’s a simple and easy design to assemble, but it blends colors and heights effectively. Our plant selection includes two shorts to cover the front and two talls for height in the back—just four plants in all but the colors are key.

Of the four, the short ones are cool—a blue and a purple, and the tall ones are warm—a yellow and a red. As far as the arrangement is concerned, we simply placed the lower plants in front and the higher ones behind them. This makes the garden easy to drape over almost any kind of bed we encounter. Let’s go through the ingredients so you can see how they fold together to make a harmonious whole.

 MG 9795Begin with Ageratum ‘High Tide’—familiar fuzzy blooms in cool light blue

We planted Ageratum ‘High Tide’ in the front. It’s a low-growing plant—you probably recognize the soft, fuzzy-looking flowers. The blooms can reach about knee high with sturdy stems that stand up to harsh weather, but the foliage stays down under the flowers. Blooms on this cultivar are a light shade of cool purplish-blue.

 MG 7664
Add Alternanthera ‘Little Ruby’ for deep, dark drama in the front

To add more interest in the front, we chose Alternanthera ‘Little Ruby’ as our other low-grower, which comes in at around 15–18 inches. It’s an eye-catching foliage plant in deep, rich burgundy so it adds another layer of contrast to our mix—light versus dark against the paler ‘Blue Horizon’. This groundcover also helps fill a bed out quickly with a spread of about 30 inches.

IMG 9779
Red Whopper Begonias in back put the blooms up high where we can see them

In the back we placed Begonia ‘Whopper Red with Green Leaf’. It stands upright in the garden—taller, at around 34 inches, than typical Cocktail Begonias. Strong, sturdy stems hold the big blooms up high where everyone can see them. We needed a Whopper here because we wanted the bold red to be visible above the blue and the purple.

 MG 9031
Red variegation of Coleus ‘Pineapple Splash’ plays off the red Whopper blooms 

As a warm contrast to the Begonia, we chose ‘Pineapple Splash’ because it’s an upright Coleus that’s around the same height as the Whopper, about 36 inches tall. Its bright yellow leaves add a warm glow to highlight the other components in the bed. We especially like the way the Begonia picks up the vibrant red variegation in the Coleus.

By this point, you might have noticed that we used two flowering and two foliage selections—one tall and one short of each—to vary the texture and keep the color going as long as possible. This design can work with different varieties as long as you have a balance of short/tall and warm/cool. It's a simple garden to install and results in a very sophisticated look.

To recap, these are the four plants we used (planted in equal amounts):

  • Tall=Begonia ‘Whopper Red with Green Leaf’ (flower; warm tone; dark color)
  • Tall=Coleus ‘Pineapple Splash’ (foliage; warm tone; light color)
  • Short=Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’ (flower; cool tone; light color)
  • Short=Alternanthera ‘Little Ruby’ (foliage; cool tone; dark color)

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Diefenbacher Greenhouses is a supplier of annuals and creative green goods. We sell directly to Garden Centers and Landscapers in the Cincinnati Area. 

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