Using the color green in your railway garden

Use green as an accent color
"Green" comes in many shades, from yellow to silver and blue.
Liz Miller
Chocolate Chip ajuga, with its dark green and brownish leaves, forms a tight mat.
Liz Miller
Dusty miller form a row of trees.
Liz Miller
Before you put your layouts to bed this fall, take a moment to step back and ask yourself--What is the color of my layout? Many of us have favorite color combinations and annuals that we plant year after year. Our choices are governed, for the most part, by our designated Hardiness Zone and the amount of sun or shade that the plant will tolerate.

The theme of our layout will also dictate the kinds of flower or foliage that we choose. A dessert layout, for example, may be dominated by sand and rocks with some cactus and other dry-area plants and tend to use browns, yellows, oranges, etc. A more formal theme might feature sculptured trees and bushes using more delicate flowers with your whites, pinks, fuchsias, blues and yellows. An informal focus will allow you to combine all the colors of the spectrum dependent only on your own preference.

As look at your garden railway, what do you see that was planted not for its flower, but for its foliage? What was planted for its texture and shape, such as a painted fern? Have you ever noticed how many shades of green there are? I invite you to think of GREEN as a color. From lime green to blue green to gray green, from variegated to solid, from speckled to smooth, there is a whole new world of plantings just waiting to be discovered.

We tend to think of green for lawns, meadows, open areas and of course trees. Many green plants do put out a flower, but for the most part it is their unique color combination such as tiarella or Chocolate Chip ajuga that holds the eye. Did you ever think about using Dusty Miller, with its silver green color, as a tree line? I have used this in my layout and it is wonderful. Those of us in colder Zones can get two or three seasons out of it by just cutting them back in the winter. They look like birch trees with a lot of character.

Another green suggestion is the use of herbs in your landscaping. Sweet woodruff, although invasive, looks wonderful in an open area and under trees for that woodsy look. Woolly thyme, prostrate rosemary, miniature lavenders, sages, etc. can be pruned into low mounds. Rosemary can be used as a tree when it is pruned and shaped and the bottom leaves stripped to make a trunk. The advantages of using herbs is that they are hardy, add a wonderful scent to your garden, and can be used in the kitchen.

This coming season is a good time for you to really tune in to your plantings, to redo that area that has been calling for a change, to add a different texture to your garden railroad. This is the time to peruse the plant catalogs, visit your local nursery to take advantage of "end of season" sales or go on line to the many nurseries that specialize in miniature plants. The passengers on your local railroad line will enjoy the change of scenery and might just come back to ride with you again and again.


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