A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about white in the garden. Now, I am following up with a rather different color - brown.
While this may sound like a rather dull and drab choice, brown actually can offer a soothing and quiet contrast to brighter colors in the landscape.
Neutral tones have their place in fashion and in home decorating, and they can fill a similar role in garden planning.
The range extends from the beige crassula arborescens through the ecru coloring of wolf's bane, the deep cream of iris Starshine all the way to the deep mahogany of the Turk's cap lily.
There is a tall bearded iris, Mary Todd, which is very striking with burnished dark brown petals and a tangerine orange beard.
A plant which often grows 8 feet tall-plus is the Macleaya or plume poppy which produces feathery light brown plumes in summertime. Sedum spectabile, better known as Autumn Joy, has long-lasting flowers that are pink in early summer but gradually turn brown as fall approaches and hold their shape well into winter.
Carex is a group of plants made of grasses, bamboos, rushes and sedges, most of which have leaves, stems, fruits or spikelets in many shades of brown and bring sculptural interest to the garden.
I find ornamental grasses particularly appealing. They bring height in the summer, make a great backdrop to colorful perennials and a screen where needed, and then produce wonderful plumes in late summer that last through the winter.
Some of these examples are interesting, but the predominant brown hues in the landscape are provided by trees and shrubs all through the year. While they sport their green leaves, the brown is less visible, but for the colder half of the year trees display their sculptural beauty in a myriad of shapes and sizes.
Trees add so many benefits to the community at large as well as to our own property. They attract birds and other wildlife, provide shade, moderate noise, clean the air and add beauty to the landscape on a large scale.
I don't have space for trees, with the exception of the ornamental Japanese cherry that has taken over my front garden, but I enjoy my participation in the bigger picture with the Tiffin Tree and Beautification Commission.
This group is concerned with tree placement, maintenance and care within the city, along the streets and in the parks. This year's landscaping project has resulted in citizen and business involvement within the city limits, and has worked with Tiffin Tomorrow to beautify the downtown and the entrances to the city.
An individual tree in a garden will always be a focal point, but there is nothing that draws my attention more than a patch of woodland, however small it may be. I have always wanted to own some woods, in fact that is at the top of my bucket list, along with seeing the Pyramids, learning to fly and raising chickens.
I am afraid my bucket must have a hole in it because it seems very unlikely I will accomplish any of these dreams, but one can still hope.
To get back to the topic of brown, of course we are surrounded by the myriad brown tones of the earth. Beneath and around everything we plant, the restful neutral shades of the soil harmonize with all the plant life.
So don't forget the quiet tones in your garden that provide a background for all the other colors there.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.