Glorious Corals

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

I know what you’re thinking: I’m showing you a tree in all of its autumn splendor. Actually, this is what a flamingo Chinese cedar (Toona sinensis ‘Flamingo’) looks like now, with its fresh spring leaves.

When I saw it (at the University of CA, Davis, Arboretum last week) it made me realize that coral is my probably my favorite color for leaves or flowers. It’s gorgeous combined with shades of green, especially those with a hint of blue. Or in the case of the flamingo tree, with blue sky behind it.

Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’ (above), depending on the time of year, might be chartreuse, pink, green and/or orange. Here, the turquoise pot really makes it stand out.

…As does this purple-blue lobelia alongside a shrimp-hued tropical cactus (Hatiora sp.).

Warm colors work as well. Here, orangey protea flowers shimmer between sunny yellow ones and magenta bougainvillea.

Brighter—or at least redder—are the flowers of this Euphorbia milii hybrid. This prickly-stemmed succulent couldn’t be more different than the trumpet vine below, yet their color is identical. Which do you prefer? If the trumpet vine, consider: the flowers of the euphorbia last for weeks.

If it stood a chance of surviving in my dry, hot, Southern California garden, I’d grow the fuchsia beauty below in a heartbeat. I mean, look at that combination of coral and pink!

Or, how about a ruffled, cabbage-sized echeveria in a pot the same orange-coral? I did a double-take when I saw this one.

Best of all, it combines several shades of pink and orange, with a lovely dollop of teal in the center.

So, what is your favorite leaf and flower color?

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored the Timber Press bestsellers Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified. Debra is a regular contributor to Sunset and other publications, and her own half-acre garden near San Diego has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens. Debra specializes in showing how to use architectural, waterwise and easy-care succulents in a wide variety of appealing and creative applications.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin

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catmint April 26, 2011, 6:49 am

lovely colours – i think my fave colour scheme is grey leaves with purple and pink flowers. Recently I started to like and include orange as well.

Well, then, we look forward to a blog post from you on that very topic! — Debra

Tovah April 26, 2011, 7:52 am

In the Northeast, it seems as though the growing season begins and ends in smoldering, fiery shades now that you mention it. Thank you for helping us see that Debra. I’m looking out my window and noting the new leaves of the spiraea suddenly punctuating the garden and giving it form again after winter.

Hi, Tovah — How your descriptions delight me! There’s a hedge plant that’s very common here in Southern CA—hop bush (Dodonea) — that has vibrant, glossy red leaves in spring. When I see them up close, I can’t resist touching them. Don’t you love it when a plant turns you into a child, captivated by what you’re seeing? — Debra

Cathy April 26, 2011, 8:38 am

With the vast rainbow of colors available in nature and indeed, in our own gardens, I have to admit that my absolute favorite combination of leaf and flower color is creamy white blossoms against glossy dark green leaves. One of our beds is devoted to just this combination – we built an all white shade garden.

As did Vita Sackville-West, at her famous garden in England, Sissinghurst. I agree, nothing can match white petals against dark green foliage, but I’m a lazy gardener who wants things to look pristine, and as soon as a white flower shows signs of aging, I want it deadheaded—yet invariably I procrastinate. I do think a white garden needs more tending. I have spent calla lilies in the garden right now that make me cringe! — Debra

Cathy April 26, 2011, 8:39 am

And while white may be my personal favorite, I must say, the images that Debra captured for this article are not only stunning, they are a treat for the senses!

Cathy, that’s so good to hear. What a lovely compliment. That first shot, of the flamingo tree, makes me want to paint it (and that’s when I know an image is truly special). I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! — Debra

Donna April 26, 2011, 11:34 am

How about the coral tree (Erythrina), the chosen tree for Los Angeles?

Hi, Donna — I adore coral trees, which are beautifully in bloom right now, but from a distance. The roots are thugs, and will lift concrete. I’ll bet they could even lift cars. — Debra

Elephant's Eye April 26, 2011, 4:39 pm

Thanks – you have given me the species name for Fire-sticks, and Wikipedia tells me I can count it as one of my wildflowers.

To clarify: Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’ is a succulent with pencil-thin branches and insignificant flowers. — Debra

Mary Ellen Gambutti April 27, 2011, 12:20 pm

Deborah you color sense is amazing! Your combos make me swoon! 🙂 My favorite foliage colors are bronze and reds and this preference extends to succulentsf course!

Thanks, Mary Ellen! I love bronze and red, too, especially in combination with lime green. — Debra

Sharon April 27, 2011, 3:06 pm

Don’t know this tree. It’s gorgeous.

I am enjoying a love affair with corals at the moment, too. It started with Marmalade heuchera, which I bought on impulse and didn’t expect to do well because I don’t have usually have luck with anything but native species. But Marmalade is doing great and has lead me to add Campfire crassula, and Orange Flirtation diascia and I want to keep going. I’m loving my orange phase.

Hi, Sharon — I’m so glad you stopped by! The flamingo tree was growing near the river’s edge, so it may not be suited to our dry climate. Re your “orange phase,” now you’ve got me thinking about doing a post on searing orange—nothing coral about it. Like neon-bright calendulas, which come up every spring in my garden. They’re common and uncouth, but I love them juxtaposed with blue babiana, which also has naturalized. And they repeat the orange of California poppies, which I can’t get enough of! — Debra

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