On Gardening: Nothing like copper in cool season baskets and containers


This winter we are seeing copper in baskets, containers and even landscapes all thanks to new Heuchera varieties. There seems to be nothing that today’s flower breeder can’t do with Heuchera or its common name coral bells.

You have to admit there is something about winter copper. Copper is a color we most often associate with fall and the changing of the leaves. But when using it in cool-season baskets and containers you can let your artistic imagination run wild.

The obvious is a fancy foliage pal with blue pansies for a complementary color scheme gone wild. In actuality, pansies and Heuchera of all colors look like they were meant-to-be married together.

Copper-colored Heucheras like Southern Comfort and the new Primo Peachberry Ice will excel with the dark-colored Redbor kale and Swiss chard. To be bold, for cool-season try combining with Lemon Coral sedum or Goldilocks lysimachia both offering a wonderful partnership of lime.

My Color Guru son, James, pushed my comfort zone to the max this year with several baskets and containers at the exclusive shopping complex known as The Landings in Columbus, Ga. Here he combined copper with silver and my first thought was NO. We see it every day in pocket change but cool-season foliage?

Holy Smokes and Shazam, I can’t take my eyes off them. The silver comes from what you may have already guessed, the much underappreciated, Dusty Miller. Oh my, they seem to bring out the best in each other. Kind of like my bride Jan and myself who will always be polar opposites.

There are other partners in the baskets like Rockin Red dianthus and various pansies. Your eyes, however, will be glued to the copper and silver combo and probably thinking you can’t do that. But you’ll look back and think by George you can.

All Heuchera species are native to the United States and most often judged by hot summer survivability but there is an incredible romance happening in the South as gardeners are falling in love with them as pansy pals.

As I mentioned above all Heuchera species are native to the United States, including the Heuchera villosa native in the Southeast from Arkansas to Georgia and north to New York as well as Heuchera americana being the other, that are used in breeding many of the new cultivars. These two species alone have led to over 80 varieties. There are so many new hybrids coming from breeders all over the world they are revolutionizing our native plant.

Southern Comfort coming from Terra Nova and Primo Peachberry Ice from Proven Winners both claim shades of peach and/or apricot in their description and this would certainly be truthful. In the winter, however, you can’t help but think copper. When I received my shipment of Primo Peachberry Ice last summer they took my breath away. They performed perfectly through a miserably hot end to summer.

Heucheras are considered perennial in zones 4 to 9 and tend to be evergreen in warmer climates. They prefer moist, fertile organic-rich soil that drains freely. In the landscape, we suggest sun to part sun in the north and part sun to shade in the south.

As I have been touting by planting in the fall in the South, they become excellent component plants for sunny cool-season mixed containers, boxes and even the landscape like you might do for flowering kale, cabbage or mustard.

While I am touting the foliage, the plants also produce tall airy flowers in pink, coral, red or white spikes of blossoms that will bring in hummingbirds. The plants reach 16- to 24-inches tall and should be spaced 15- to 28-inches apart or as recommended per your variety tag.

No matter where you live there is a season where Heuchera will add untold beauty to your containers as well as the landscape, I hope you will give them a try.

(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

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