Orange Crush

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail in Lily in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail inside a Lily (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

A day without orange . . . is like a day without sunshine. Indeed. The color orange simply radiates warmth and happiness by combining two dynamic hues: vibrant red and cheery yellow. Orange is an optimistic shade that can uplift and rejuvenate our spirits. Words like motivation, spontaneity and enthusiasm for life are associated with the color orange, as well as adventurous, inspirational, and confident.  Orange is extroverted and uninhibited, quite the show off in fact, always helping us to focus on the bright side of life. Now who wouldn’t want a little bit of that in their life?

Fritillaria imperialis 'Rubra' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The curious Fritillaria imperialis ‘Rubra’ (Photo: White Flower Farm)

Fritillaria:  Fritillaria imperialis ‘Rubra Maxima’ is the earliest bloomer of the season, bursting open with mandarin orange flowers held upside down on sturdy 3 foot stems. A real conversation starter, this heirloom bulb dates to the late 1600’s. No doubt Miss Rubra’s statuesque appearance, rather musky odor (repulsive to garden pests), and quirky hairdo will help maintain her popularity well into the 21st century. Fritillaria thrives in sunny, well drained locations in zones 5-9.

The fiery Oriental Poppy in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The fiery Oriental Poppy (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Oriental Poppy: Papaver orientale is a long-lived perennial with outrageously intense flowers borne on upright stems (some ranging over 30″) in colors from the well recognized flame orange to lustrous reds and luminous whites. Oriental poppies produce a mound of finely cut, hairy foliage in mid-spring that dies away by summer, so consider planting a companion to fill the void.  I love Geranium macrorrhizum for this mission; it gently surrounds the poppy until blooming is finished, then competently covers the browning foliage, while allowing the late fall growth to resume without competition. Poppies provide the opportunity to introduce adventure and excitement to your June garden, requiring only sun and average, well drained soil (zones 3-7) in return.

Dwarf Iris 'Marksman' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The dazzling Dwarf Iris ‘Marksman’ (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Iris have long been a favorite for their exquisite beauty and wide variety of colors, which explains why they were named after Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow.  Many are sweetly fragrant (like grapes), come in a vast range of sizes (from 6 inches to 4 feet), and have the ability to thrive in wet to dry, and sunny or moderately shady locations.  The flowers may be upright, ruffled or drooping, some with fluffy bearded sections. My favorite choice for spectacular tangerine petals is the dwarf bearded Iris ‘Marksman’, a cheery bloke that blooms in spring in mostly sunny zones 4-8.

The Dayliliy Walk at Berkshire Botanical Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The Dayliliy Walk at Berkshire Botanical Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Daylilies: Hemerocallis are adored for many reasons; incredible color choices (many in orange hues), variable bloom times (late spring thru fall), assorted heights and blossom sizes, and ease of care.  Because of these assets, you’ll find a daylily (or two or three) in most of my gardens. The most widely recognized orange daylily is Hemerocallis fulva ‘Europa’, which has quickly naturalized throughout the northeastern U.S.. I prefer even bolder petals such as ‘August Pioneer’ (found at and the fiery blooms of ‘Chinese Fireworks’, a gift from a friend, but don’t let my selections stop you from exploring others! Most daylilies like sun to partial shade in zones 3-9.

Butterfly weed in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Butterfly weed glows in the garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Butterfly weed:  Asclepias tuberosa offers brilliant orange flowers that harmonize well with red, yellow, and other hot hues in the perennial border, while acting as a beacon to lure butterflies and bees to your garden. Native from New England to Florida, it grows to 3 feet tall in sunny zones 4-9. Butterfly milkweed is the most tolerant of dry conditions and actually prefers a well drained, loamy soil. Because it is a bit shorter than its siblings, tuberosa is best planted at the front of the border or amongst shorter plants.

The flashy Lychnis 'Vesuvius' in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The flashy Lychnis ‘Vesuvius’ (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Lychnis: Derived from the Greek word meaning lamp, the flower of lychnis is guaranteed to light up your garden. I recently discovered the hot tamale Lychnis x arkwrightii ‘Vesuvius’ at a local nursery, and it was love at first sight! With lush bronzy burgundy foliage and mandarin flowers on 18″ stems, this lady is no shy wallflower.  In fact, you may want to let this lantern light up the stage without competition from other colorful garden friends by placing her with modest greenery (such as oregano or mint, for example), allowing her to maintain her star status in the landscape.

These are just a few carrot topped beauties that can illuminate your yard this year, and I would love to hear some of your favorites, too!


  1. Love the oranges, especially the Rubra!

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