Which is what makes me turn my mind to how the garden should develop over the next ten years. Sure, we'll continue our experiments with perennials - pushing the envelope for hardiness to see if we can overwinter such zone 4 plants as astilbe, iris, phlox, and hydrangea.
But the really exciting challenge is how we can 'paint' the beds with drifts of color combinations that are going provide the real 'wow' factor. The natural choice, it seems to me, is to do it with pansies.
In 2007, Susan and I visited the Keukenhof gardens near Amsterdam, Holland. Of course, I have a bias since I was born in Holland, but the Dutch know a thing or two about flower gardens and arranging color combinations. Case in point:
We were impressed! The summer before last we planted pansies in alternating blue and yellow ribbons. And it would have worked had it not been for a really wet and dreary summer. So last year we planted the bed full of disco series marigolds instead.
But with this new year, and new decade, it's time to give it another go.
And here's another thing - did you know that colors can be tied to the notes on the musical scale? I'm reading a book by Jeff and Marilyn Cox entitled 'The Perennial Garden - Color harmonies through the seasons'. In it they devote a chapter to the meaning of color. They introduce Klein's Color-Music Scale which is quite fascinating for those of us who have an involvement with music.
In the 1930's A.B. Klein assigned the following colors to the notes on the musical scale:
C - Dark Red, C# - Red, D - Red-Orange, D# - Orange, E - Yellow, F - Yellow-Green, F# - Green, G - Blue-Green, G# - Blue, A - Blue-Violet, A# - Violet, B - Dark Violet.
So, as a for instance described in the book, the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth (da-da-da-DUM) rendered as E-E-E-C, would be Yellow-Yellow-Yellow-Dark Red; the dark red being the perfect color to punctuate the yellow.
I'm thinking a C major chord, done in pansies, might also work: C (Dark Red), E (Yellow), G (Blue).
Mr. Klein isn't the only one to develop such a system of color and music. The book also includes similar systems by Isaac Newton, A. Wallace Remington, Taylor and Scriabin.
Pansies are really versatile. You can use them as feature plants, like the ones at Keukenhof. Or as edging for a garden bed, or in a planter. Our favorite pansy variety for pots and planters is the 'Chalon' pansy. We were introduced to this variety by my sister who discovered it when she was gardening for the town of Faro in the central Yukon.
In a word, it's awesome! The first thing you notice is the unique frilled edges to the petals. Then, it's the striking color and size of the blossoms. And an added bonus is that it's highly fragrant.
But, pansies it is! Definitely the feature flower of 2010 for our garden. What will yours be?