The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


Feeling Smart, Curious and Happy? Plant Something Yellow

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Clusters of small yellow Mecardonia hybrid get along well with everyone in this bright blue container. From the mid-tone purple of the angelonia to the deep pink petunias to the grayish creeping wire vine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris)

Upbeat, optimistic and friendly, yellow flowers cheer a garden like no other.

Purple and pink dominated the garden a few weeks ago, but now the sunny yellows are popping out and in doing so providing a more uplifting feel to the garden altogether. Yellow is a primary color and sits at the light end of the color spectrum. It’s loaded with energy, and placed in the garden can perk up a combination of plants or absolutely shimmer in the sun. It is clearly a color that says, “Notice me!” And in doing so, causes your eye to slow down, rest and take in its warmth. But too much of it can be irritating, too. Some say that’s due to its high energy value. Introducing other colors, such as green (perfect!) help calm yellow.

Sizzling in the sun, a nice color combination of yellow coreopsis and orange butterfly milkweed.

Shimmering in the sun, the yellow coreopsis and orange butterfly milkweed make a hot combination.

juniper (768x1024)This is a color that knows how to network, going beautifully with several shades of purple, pink, green, blue and and even gray. I have found it to be a wonderful transitional color that is at ease at moving between dark and light hues. I have shots of yellow throughout my gardens. For example, a small citron green juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) at the base of the garden bed that wraps around my family room provides a transition from one side of the bed to the other. Certainly placement is important here but so is its lemon-lime color mix. This shrub is small and a slow grower, but it is mighty in its impact. Standing tall next to it are white Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum superbum) with their sunny yellow eyes and Stella de Oro daylily on its other side. Things cool off, though, with a whispery stand of Russian sage (Perovskia).

The sunny yellow eyes of "Amelia" Shasta daisy mix well with the soft tones of Russian sage.

A pretty combination of sunny “Amelia” Shasta daisy, a rugged sun lover and Russian sage.

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Yellow coreopsis perk up the blue dwarf blue spruce and deep tones of penstemon. It also complements the pink bloom on the yarrow in front.

DSCN1931 (1024x768)Yellow has a high reflectance value. It is the most visible color on the spectrum and that’s most likely why school buses are yellow, as often are school crossing lines on the pavement. It is the color of hazard signs as well. But too much of it can be irritating, too. Some say that’s due to its high energy value. Introducing other colors, such as green (perfect!) help calm yellow. If you’re into the meaning of color, yellow has lots going for it. It’s naturally associated with happiness, creativity, communication and energy. It’s also associate with analytical thinking, inquisitiveness and original thought. On the down side, deceitful, laziness, and cowardice are often used in the same sentence with yellow, as in “He’s nothin’ but a yellow-bellied, no-good, lazy coward!”

What do you think of the color yellow?



Lettuce Season is for Sharing

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Rows of lettuce in Stevan’s backyard garden.

“People don’t know where their food comes from.” You’ve heard this, right? As generations become farther removed from the farm, their experience with with food is, shall we say, less direct. Fortunately there’s a resurgence in backyard gardening to close the widening gap from the farm gate to plate. As more gardeners get their hands dirty they not only produce delicious tasting produce, they learn about the risks/rewards associated with growing food…weather, insects, squirrels and rabbits (in my case), fungus, and much more.

Patio tomatoes thrive 15 stories up. Small space gardening is becoming more common.

Salad fixins’ 15 stories up! The balcony of this city apartment provides enough space to grow lettuce, tomatoes and an assortment of herbs.

Society may have moved further from the farm, but today’s gardeners are successfully growing lettuce, tomatoes and other produce in small spaces. My dear friend Chris takes advantage of small-space living and is growing lettuce and tomatoes growing on her apartment balcony 15 stories up.

Stevan, a friend of mine at work, has a backyard garden. And every year he sends me pictures of his lettuce like the one at the start of this post. This year, I joked that he could feed his entire community with the bounty in his backyard. To my surprise the next day Stevan hand-delivered to my desk a delicious Ceasar salad featuring Romaine lettuce picked from his garden that morning. Apparently he and other colleagues have a Ceasar salad lunch day every spring with the bounty from his garden.

I am not the only one he’s sharing his lettuce with however. A nearby child center is also benefitting from Stevan’s love of gardening. What I learned when returning his empty salad bowl is that he and others at work share their love of growing food by helping children at a nearby child center plant their own garden. Stevan may have provided the seed and the know-how, but he’ll be first to tell you this more than just lettuce-sharing. He’ll say he’s the one who benefitted by enjoying the kids’ happy faces and the connections they are making to growing food from seed. Lettuce season may be nearing an end here in St. Louis but I’m sure this is just the beginning of their garden delights.

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Planted from seed, the vegetable garden at the University City Children’s Center.

I’m inspired by my friends’ vegetable gardens. Truthfully, growing vegetables intimidates me a bit. Stevan (who grew up on a farm) tells me that you start simply with an easy-to-grow plant. This year I have patio tomatoes that the squirrels seem to be enjoying, as they have been plucked from the vine at just the opportune time. I have grown peppers and I always have some herbs planted. But next year I may have to visit Stevan’s backyard and get some first-hand pointers.

Do you grow vegetables?


Up and Coming in the Garden


The garden changes nearly daily now. We have had some healthy doses of rain in St. Louis followed by sunny, warm days. I expect both the humidity and temperatures will warm up significantly in the next couple of weeks, encouraging lots of blooming! And while I absolutely live for the flowers, I love the continuous change that is occurring along with all the green, green, green. Mounds of budding plants make my morning and evening inspections (along with weekend weeding and planting) that much more enjoyable. I am continually delighted when something I planted last year resolves to return this year.

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Buds Stella De Oro Buds coreopsis

Up and coming are the yellows. Until now, the display has been mainly purples and pinks. The yellow and chartreuse blooms of Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Stella de Oro and other daylilies (hemerocallis), both moonbeam and tickseed and coreopsis are just days away from joining the the salvia, baptisia, cranesbill and roses that are in bloom.

Buds Butterfly Milkweed Buds Shasta DaisyAlso on the way are other sunny blooming perennials including a few of my favorites–shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) with their happy yellow “eyes,” butterfly milkweed (Asclepia tuberosa) and gayfeather (Liatris spicata).

There are lots of pinks in the works too. The Chinese astilbe that I moved to the new shade bed has started its flower tall feathery pink spikes and the delicate coral bell (Heuchera) blooms are just about to open. These will provide a nice color to the mainly green garden. I am waiting for caladium to arrive any day now and they will be placed in this bed.

How does your garden grow?
Chinese astilbe




One More…Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, A Day Late

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The window bed in bloom, looking out to the new south fence bed.

It only takes one to bring up the rear in a parade. The parade may have gone by for yesterday’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, but my garden is not out of step this lovely month of May. It is displaying the benefits of the perfect spring weather we are having in St. Louis.

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Baptisia australis


Rosa Radrazz

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Salvia sylvestris and Rosa Radrazz

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Hydrangea quercifolia

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Penstemon digitalis


Biokova karmina and salvia sylvestris


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A Penchant for Purple

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Purple globe amaranth.

Royalty. Passion. Mystery. Purple has come to symbolize these meanings and more. Hard to imagine today, but at one time purple was considered somewhat rare, perhaps lending credence to its mystery and elitism.

There are subtexts to the meaning of purple, as various shades and tones signify different things. Light shades are floral and romantic, while their opposite dark shades represent intellect and dignity. And there are negative meanings associated with this color–decadence, conceit, and mourning, to name a few. Purple is the color of the vestments worn by Roman Catholic priests during the Lenten season, symbolizing penance. The deep royal shade in the Mardi Gras trinity of purple, green and gold represents justice.

But I did not consider any of these meanings when choosing plants for my gardens and containers. For me, it comes down to contrast, texture and light. It seems counterintuitive, but a purple plant can help light up a shady spot.


The dainty, lavender blooms of Biokova Karmina “Cranesbill geranium” mingle easily with the strong tones of “May Night” salvia. Scarlet Knock Out roses in the background are beginning their first bloom of the season.

Just the last weekend while visiting a nursery with my sister and admiring the vivid container combinations containing purple flowers, I said that until recently I had never really thought of purple as one of my favorite colors in the garden. My wardrobe was void of that color and there was no sight of it in my house. However, more and more, I’ve grown to love purple (I even wear it now). Be it a punctuation point, pause or prevalent plant, purple makes a statement in several ways in the beds and pots in my garden.

Let’s take a look.

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Heuchera “Plum Pudding” pops out against the bright chartreuse of Hakonechloa “Aureola”

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I love the interplay of the icy green foliage of Russian sage and “Bloodgood” Japanese maple that is one of the anchor plants in one of the patio gardens. The maple changes its tones throughout the season. It will be this maroonish color until fall.

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“Dark Towers” penstemon is sandwiched between the cool shade of the “Fat Albert” dwarf Colorado blue spruce and the young leaves of Black-eye Susans.

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Low-growing, groundcover Thymus serpyllum “creeping thyme” displays delicate purple blooms.

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Hot, cold and in between. Purple petunia, Pennisetum setaceum “Rubrum,” sweet potato vine “Emerald Lace” and orange gazania mix it up in a sunny container.

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A thriller spiller, Setcreasea pallida “Purple Heart” is a lively component to my window box, which includes creeping jenny, dragonwing begonia and impatiens.

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The (Bare) Gardening Facts

Image courtesy of World Naked Gardening Day.

I’m not being cheeky here when I say you probably didn’t know that gardening in the buff is second only to swimming as family-friendly activities people are most ready to consider doing nude. I won’t beat around the bush about safety exposure associated with gardening au natural; you best be careful with those pruners, and watch what you’re doing with those loppers.

Yessiree readers, today is is World Naked Gardening Day!

If you’re joining the like-minded gardeners determined to free themselves of the encumberment of clothing while you garden today, please don’t forget the sunscreen.