A Passion for Purple

I didn’t realize how useful the color purple is in landscaping until I was 40 or 45 years old. Now, it’s the starting point in most of my own color programs. That’s how much I enjoy it.

Purple harmonizes with other colors. It cools down the hot summer sun. It’s unusual enough that we don’t get tired of it. But it’s also common enough that it comes in many forms.

Here, then are some of my favorite sources of purple color for summertime gardens across Texas.

Your eye may go first to the Goldsturm gloriosa daisies, but the groundcover called “purpleheart” will stay with you for years. It’s a relative of wandering Jew, but it’s definitely perennial. It dies to the ground with the first freeze, but it comes back from its roots the following spring (even after this past winter). Sun or part sun. It grows to 10 to 12 inches tall.
Persian shield brings an other-worldly look to the landscape. It can be used in beds or in patio pots. Sun until mid-morning, but shade thereafter. Persian shield grows to be 15 to 20 inches tall. It’s a tropical annual.

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Catawba crape myrtle was introduced 55 years ago from the United States National Arboretum by Dr. Don Egolf. Unlike most of his later work, it is not a hybrid with another species. It grows to 15 to 18 feet tall, and it blooms several times each summer. It is my personal favorite crape myrtle.
Purple fountaingrass is an annual except in the most southern parts of Texas. It grows to 18 to 24 inches tall and produces purple leaves topped by purple and tan flowerheads. It makes the perfect backdrop to other plants in your annual and perennial gardens, in this case pink and purple pentas.
It’s called “autumn sage” because Salvia greggii blooms in the fall. However, this great perennial salvia also blooms heavily in spring and through the summer. Most people go for red, pink and even white varieties, but this purple type really caught my eye.
Posted by Neil Sperry
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