Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coleus on the deck

One simple solution to the problem of keeping color going in the mid-summer garden  is to rely on colorful foliage. It's hard to beat coleus for this purpose, and so many distinctive and striking cultivars are now available that it's tempting to attempt a coleus garden. In the old days they were sometimes known as flame nettles and were as likely to be seen in the house during the winter gathering dust as they were to be seen in the shady summer garden. It took gardeners a while to realize that to get the best from these plants they should get at least a few hours of sun.

Here they are grown in a medium made up mostly of leaf grow, the local soil and wood chips. If you want really big plants, select varieties which are known to put on size. Many of the traditional seed grown types top out at about a foot no matter how generously you treat them. Some of the clonally propagated sorts easily go up to three feet. And the 'Kong' series is a must if you like huge foliage.

Generations of gardeners knew these plants as coleus. They are currently placed in the genus Solenostemon.

This year there are about a half dozen big pots of them grouped on the deck. They are at their best in late summer, and it is certainly easier to enjoy them  after the weather has cooled down a bit. 

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