Brown/Blue Around The Neighborhood

Blue and brown seem to complement each other...
Agave 'Blue Glow' with Agonis flexuosa 'After Dark'
 photo blueBrown1637_zps07463879.jpg
It is a somber pairing, though.  Slightly gloomy.  Burgundy makes a good third color, but burgundy is gloomy, too. 
Senecio mandraliscae and Dyckia 'Dark Shadows':
 photo ac56f6fb-f8ee-4868-aed1-d84f758e99af_zps4b96c47b.jpg

Yet I am seeing the combination in several new projects around the neighborhood.  
What blue shall we do?
 photo brownblue2271_zps8da3641e.jpg
Brown and blue brooding, on a cloudy day.
 photo ad772913-efef-4ba9-b4f8-bb5e94f2d042_zps3a381514.jpg

In a nearby neighborhood, this recent project reduced the front lawn by about two thirds by adding beds of grasses and succulents:
 photo brownblue2260_zps363fc26d.jpg
Phormium and Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' provide the brown,  Senecio mandraliscae and Fescue 'Elijah Blue', the blue.  The Pennesetum is dormant this time of year.  They've trimmed it shaving-brush style instead of cutting it to the ground, which is why it looks dorky right now.  There's also Nassella tenuissima (aka Stipa tenuissima) which is gorgeous but reseeds like mad here.  Tsk, tsk. 
 photo brownblue2262_zps5272e1d2.jpg
Well done, but the Arbutus trees are very close to the house for a tree that can easily get 20' tall and wide in a decade, and larger after that.  They'll have to trim the trees immediately after bloom each year to avoid red gooey fruit drop on the concrete walkway.  The grasses--it looks like they might have some plants of the dwarf dark Pennesetum 'Red Riding Hood' and some of the full-sized version.  (I'm guessing) I hope they are all the dwarf version as there is not enough room for the regular without swallowing up surrounding plants and walkways. 

The touch of magenta in the Calandrinia flower seems to cheer up the brown/blue theme, but once the Phormium by the driveway reaches full size, it will be cursed daily by the homeowner pulling her car out of the garage looking for traffic coming down the road, only she won't be able to see above or through the Phormium.   Okay, maybe she's got a big SUV, high enough to see over.  C'mon guys, don't you know how big plants get?  

Did the same landscaper do work right down the road?  This home uses a lot of the same plants:
 photo brownblue2264_zps504d3256.jpg
The hell strip on one side of the driveway is all prostrate rosemary.  Points taken off for mulching with that chipped wood dyed brown.  The rosemary looks nice now, but...
 photo BrownBlue2263_zps82ab3124.jpg one prostrate rosemary plant got 15' wide and 4' tall in a few years.  Dare we hope this is a dwarf-dwarf version?  If not, likely the rosemary will end up sheared into a mattress shape in two years, losing its natural billow.  The rest of the hell strip also looks nice now...
 photo brownblue2266_zpsa128755a.jpg
but unless the Pennesetum is the dwarf version (I hope I hope that is the dwarf!), it will become a solid mass and gracefully block half the sidewalk,  and then be hedge-sheared back.
 photo brownblue2266_zpsa128755a.jpg
There are a couple of plants of another grass--can anyone ID?   
 photo brownblue2276_zpsf6200c4d.jpg
At the other end of the parkway are four Ceonothus, likely 'Yankee Point', their beautiful blue flowers matching the flowers of rosemary as part of the brown/blue theme.  One plant can grow 10-12 feet wide.  Another future mattress.  Remember the hell strip junipers that started out as little plants and end up a big solid rectanglular wall that you can't park next to because you can't open the car door?  How is it better if a rosemary or Ceonothus does the same thing? 
 photo brownblue2277_zpsff600ad9.jpg 
Still passable sidewalk:
 photo brownblue2278_zpsc0f2b7b7.jpg
The decomposed granite pathway intersecting the main space is beautifully done.  I love the curvey shapes, reminscent of Matisse paper cutouts.  A Crape Myrtle (still dormant), reasonably sized for the space, anchors the area:

 photo brownblue2273_zps0315a445.jpg

However, as at the last property, an Arbutus is again planted very close to the home, about 4' away.  Hopefully it is a compact variety, rather than the species (20-30' tall x 40' wide) or 'Marina' which can get 40' tall and 50' wide.
Some assorted succulents as the foundation plants.  The limey green of the Euphorbia bracts, the Agaves, and the Aeoniums seemed to be a good brightener for the brown/blue pair. 
 photo brownblue2268_zpsab05fa4e.jpg
It looks very pretty, but...those plants are going to grow.  I wonder if they will end up badly trimmed (cubed grass, rectangled Rosemary) and soon the homeowners are going to spend several hundred dollars every year having the Arbutus trimmed away from the house, and remember, gooey fruit, too.  Not that right now, at this moment, it doesn't look really pretty.  I saw the pretty first, then I started thinking about the mature size of the plants. I hope they have a skilled gardener, not the standard mow-blow-go guy armed with a hedge trimmer.  Or maybe they will redo it all in five years, so it doesn't matter. 

Same street, yet another stylish recent project.  This one retained a lot of lawn, but added drought tolerant shrubbery.  In my experience you save way more water by getting rid of the lawn and keeping the water-hog shrubs, because even a dozen hydrangeas suck up a fraction of what a lawn does.  But this property looks great.  There's a big tree Yucca that's original;  no one in their right mind would try to get rid of the thing now.
 photo brownblue2281_zps148f2462.jpg
The crimped roof tiles are cool!
 photo brownblue2287_zps5ab4cc55.jpg

They've got a courtyard of some sort behind the block walls, with a pergola over it...the geometry of that, the front door, and the roof--love it.  Didn't quite nail it with the style of the pergola.  A bit more thought there might have done better. 
 photo brownblue2283_zps59f3b0fc.jpg
Again the brown/blue combo in Dodonea/Echium/Senecio though not so dominant as the previous two homes--there is a lot of olive green and silver, with white lantana to brighten.
 photo brownblue2285_zpscd399db1.jpg
Using Dymondia rather than grass would have looked just fine, though a large area of Dymondia needs meticulous attention to weeding.  The Dymondia would be lighter and more silvery than the paint color of the home.  The other choices I question are the Dodonea foundation shrubs and the two trees on either side of the walkway.  The trees are the ornamental purple leafed plums (Prunus cerasifera 'Atropurpurea'?) They are gorgeous small trees, but every one I've seen in our area declines and dies in just a few years.  Something does them in.   

The Dodonea I know well because I've grown a half dozen of them for a number of years now.  They'll get 15' tall and wide very quickly.  These are right up against the house and will require frequent trimming.  Heading back seems to work better than shearing.
 photo brownblue2284_zps8094d92e.jpg
They'll have to keep them in an oval shape (hopefully an oval and not a rectangle).  The ones I have seen sheared look bad.  Dodonea are short lived plants--since they reseed like mad, they need not be long lived.  Hopefully a skilled gardener can keep them looking somewhat natural.   The dark-leaved Agonis has just been introduced in a compact version--that would have been great--but they are not commonly available yet. 

I learned a bit looking at these projects;  other lessons were reinforced.  Brown/Blue isn't so somber accompanied by touches of limey green;  choose trees with fanatic care, size the plant to the space rather than assuming a properly trained gardener will be available to constantly downsize it with skilled pruning.   




  1. Brown blue is a nice combo, a bit retro but its made a comeback recently.


Post a Comment

Always interested in your thoughts.

Any comments containing a link to a commercial site with the intent to promote that site will be deleted. Thank you for your understanding on this matter.

Popular Posts