The colors of Mexico

Zingy hues perk up a formerly all-green Pasadena garden

How do you make a dull garden dazzling? By choosing the right plants, as Barry and Pam Meyers discovered when they moved into their Pasadena house. The red-tiled adobe, built in the 1920s, was loaded with character. Not so the garden, which consisted of a few aging junipers and a vast expanse of struggling lawn. "Incredibly boring," complained Barry.

So the Meyerses brought in garden designer Marsha Blackwelder to add some pizzazz. She suggested creating the look of "a tropical Mexican resort nearly engulfed by vegetation." The Meyerses loved the idea. Blackwelder chose red-orange tones to complement the roof tiles. To enhance the tropical motif, she put in lots of bold-leafed cannas and New Zealand flax. Cigar plant (Cuphea ignea), a nearly nonstop bloomer, provides bright red-orange flowers year-round. More seasonal performers, like red salvia, add to the dazzle. And a few blues and purples--princess flower, purple fountain grass, and statice--provide a cooling counterbalance.

A wide mixed border now circles the house and is duplicated in the front and side parking strips. This double band of plantings creates a privacy screen welcome on a busy corner lot. It also provides an enormous amount of cutting material for vases. "I give tons away," says Pam. "Hosts and friends love me." And the abundance of tubular flowers means the garden is never without hummingbirds. -- Sharon Cohoon



*Princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana). Open shrub grows to 5–18 feet, with brilliant royal purple flowers May-January.

*Statice (Limonium perezii). A 12- to 18-inch clumping perennial with big clusters of small flowers that dry well. Long bloom season.


*Canna. Tuberous-rooted perennial; big tropical leaves are green to red to bronze. Flowers bloom at end of 3- to 6-foot stalks summer through fall.

*Cigar plant (Cuphea ignea). Small, shrubby perennial with bright green leaves and small orange tubular flowers nearly year-round.

*Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'). Perennial grass with reddish bronze leaves and fuzzy burgundy flower spikes. To 4 feet.

*New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax). Upright-growing perennial with handsome bladelike leaves. Can reach 7–10 feet. Smaller sizes available. Great color variation.

*Scarlet salvia (S. splendens). Perennial often grown as an annual. Scarlet flowers bloom in dense clusters. Grows 1–3 feet tall.


*Daylily (Hemerocallis). Evergreen perennial with arching, sword-shaped leaves and lilylike flowers.


Copyright 1998 Sunset Publishing Corporation