In Good Soil, Everything Grows Fine Together

Cestrum 'Newelli'

Cestrum ‘Newelli’

I saw the two of them cheek by jowl in the nursery and could not resist the temptation of having them both. Their colors contrasted completely and perfectly with one another. To the extent that opposites attract, I thought they should get on famously together.
Now, several days after planting, they look just fine – a few feet from each other – in the front yard. So anxious was I to plant them together that I overlooked their cultural differences. One needs regular water and fertilizer, and the other needs a minimum of moisture and may be killed by too much fertilizer. One benefits from some shade, while the other is supposedly happier in full sun. I am trusting their having been planted in a heavily composted, well-drained raised bed and the moderately sunny exposure of the front yard to minimize their differences and harmonize their lives together.
The two plants in question are Cestrum “Newellii” and Correa “Ivory Bells.” The cestrum is from tropical Mexico, and the correa is from dry Australia. Each plant is finicky in its own way. The tropical cestrum demands some moisture in the soil at all times and a constant mineral feed, whereas the correa is typically killed from too much kindness, as in overwatering or excessive fertilization.
Although the plants face west, which means they will bear the brunt of afternoon sun, there are many mature trees in the vicinity that will mitigate the sun’s harshest effects.
Even though the correa is recommended for full sun, I know it will do better with some sun protection.
Where contrast as a principle of landscape design is concerned, placement of these plants together makes sense. The correa’s flowers are creamy ivory white bells, while the cestrum has deep scarlet, almost wine-red tubular blooms. The leaves also contrast, with the correa possessing hairless gray-green foliage, and cestrum showing hirsute leaves that are a deep sea green in color.
What these woody perennials have in common is a long bloom period that starts about this time of year and will continue throughout the winter months.
Rose Schiff has a shadowy problem on which I will try to shed some light. She e-mailed me as follows:
“I have a small, mostly shady area in my back yard. In the center of this area I would like to put a birdbath surrounded by some flowers. I am 79 years old. Do you have any suggestions for some shade plants that grow quickly so I will be alive when they reach a decent size? If they are drought-resistant and need little water, it would be better still.”
Three reasonably drought-tolerant plants in the buttercup (Ranunculus) family may work for you, as long as you have a modest amount of light filtering into this mostly shady area. The first I would recommend is columbine (Aquilegia), a native to the Western United States that blooms in virtually every pastel color. The word columbine is derived from “columba” (dove in Latin) and refers to the flowers, which are supposed to resemble drinking doves. Columbine will produce lots of seeds that will germinate where they fall.
The second shade-loving plant in this family is the hellbore from Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. It blooms in white, green, red, purple or yellow.
The third shade-lover is meadow rue (Thalictrum polycarpum), a California native with long spires of cream-colored flowers. Each of these plants has finely lobed leaves that, even in the absence of flowers, would be a worthy choice for the shade garden.

Photo credit: edgeplot / / CC BY-NC-SA

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