There are many forms of contrast in the garden, but the first one everyone thinks about is color. Color contrast can be between plants, flowers or objects. Today I’m going to discuss how to use plant colors as a contrast in your garden.
Contrasting plants are used in a landscape to highlight a plant or to show off a plant against a contrasting background. Not all backgrounds have to be plants. This Kansas area homeowner did a great job using contrasting plants in her garden. The light color of this home makes for a perfect backdrop for the Purple Leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena). This shrub can get about 7’-10’ tall and wide. It should be pruned in the spring after it blooms and kept in an oval shape. April is when you will see flowers that are either pink or white, and then the leaves follow. Yes, the plant is deciduous, which means it will loose it's leaves in the winter months. Make sure the spot you pick is full sun or at least part sun. The perfect place for this plant is the corner of the house where it can grow tall and not block windows or views. Purple Leaf Sand Cherry is drought tolerant and does well in most soils. Plants with this purple leaf color are a great contrast to all the green plants in the garden. I love flowers, but I really love plants that provide great color and contrast, without having to plant additional flowers every year.
Being from Texas, Purple Leaf Sand Cherry is not a plant we use here, but there are several that are similar. One is the Loropetalum or Chinese Fringe Plant. This plant is a great contrast in the garden because of the purple color of it’s leaves.
It is a low maintenance plant that prefers sun but will take some shade. I have used these plants in landscape designs from Houston to Dallas but much north of Dallas and it will freeze. The new growth on the Loropetalum is purple and will turn to green later in the season. The long arching branches will provide pink to purple flowers in the spring. This plant will grow in a large range of soil conditions, is drought tolerant and deer resistant. There are several varieties that will grow to 5’ or more and some newer dwarf varieties will grow only up to a 1’. As you can see either of these plants provide the same contrast in the garden and most people can find one or the other in different areas of the county. So experiment a bit in your garden. Any mistake you have made can always be dug up and transplanted somewhere else. That's the beauty of plants they are rather forgiving so don't be afraid to make changes in your garden.