A bad combination-A Gardening Oops

Garden bloggers love to share pleasing photos of beds or containers they’ve created or seen and wax poetic on the attributes of this plant or that. Gardens are supposed to be beautiful … well, duh … so why wouldn’t bloggers flock to their computers to post their best, most spectacular photos and plant wisdom?

But, in real life, gardens are not always beautiful. Sometimes things just don’t work. A plant is in the wrong place, the season is too wet or too dry for a plant to thrive, or plant-eating creatures/plant-attacking pathogens take over.

To deal with these real-life gardening issues there’s GOOPs Day. GOOPs is the acronym I created for Gardening Oops. I’ve declared the first day of each month GOOPs Day … the day I share one of the gardening blunders I’ve made in my 30+ years of tending Connecticut gardens and the day I offer you the chance to do the same.

I come to my October 2011 GOOPs after missing, thanks to hurricane/tropical storm Irene’s power outage, the chance to post a September 2011 GOOPs. Irene’s life and land damage was enough of a regional and local mess that I need not go there. So, back at it this month, I present a plant combination from one of my gardens that caused me wonder what I was thinking!

I love coleus. I grow them in pots on windowsills during cold months. I start new coleus from seeds each spring. I grow them in outdoor containers and use their seemingly endless foliage and color variations for interest when garden flowers are taking a rest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’m always on the outlook for new coleus and this spring ‘Saturn’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) caught my eye. When I purchased Saturn the yellow-green mid-leaf color was more pronounced than that depicted on the plant tag. But it was early, Saturn had been growing in a greenhouse in partial shade so, I reasoned, its darker red coloration more similar to the plant tag had not had a chance to fill in as it might have if grown in full sun.

I brought Saturn home to plant along the outer edge of a morning-sun bed dominated by two hydrangea, a variegated lace cap and a classic blue Endless Summer. The bed also contains ivy ground cover punctuated by what ever dark-reddish heuchera decides to survive. I thought Saturn’s dark-red-tinged-with-a bit-of-yellow-green foliage might complement the heuchera and ivy without distracting from the hydrangea.

Well, plants don’t always turn out to look like the lovely photo on the plant tag.

My Saturn’s foliage never developed more burgundy. It continued on its mostly yellow-green leaved path. It never bushed out in response to pinching back, as other coleus do.


It grew lankier than I expected and, at the same time, the lace cap hydrangea grew more bushy and wider.


The blue-green-edged-in-white variegation of the hydrangea foliage and the yellow-green-edged-in-burgundy variegation of the coleus foliage became a visual cacophony that makes me cringe!


The best thing I can say about this combination is that it’s provided me with GOOPs fodder.

I still like Saturn … it still has a chance in my gardens. I’ve taken Saturn cuttings to see how its foliage acts when grown in pots with indoor light but, if it survives the winter without coming down with aphids, I’ll find a more complementary spot for Saturn to thrive.

Now it’s your turn to share a gardening faux pas. Leave your GOOPs in a comment below or share a comment and a link back to your own GOOPs Day blog post. Here’s hoping my GOOPs prevent similar GOOPs in your gardens.

Garden thoughtfully …

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4 comments for “A bad combination-A Gardening Oops

  1. October 1, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Eeww, I have to agree the combination of this coleus with the hydrangea is just wrong. Very unappealing. I hope you do find better light, a nicer companion and a place for Saturn’s cutting offspring to survive next year.

    My Goops is on my blog this morning. I got caught without a camera on one of the most intriguing garden visits ever …. oops!

    • joenesgarden
      October 1, 2011 at 10:04 am

      I expected others would have the same reaction I’ve had each time I pass this combo. It is in an area I don’t pass often. Otherwise I would have yanked the coleus out.

  2. October 2, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Joene, Isn’t it funny how some plant combos just don’t work and then others are so unexpectedly delicious? I do like the coloring on Saturn but agree that it doesn’t work in that spot.

    • joenesgarden
      October 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      I took more cuttings of Saturn today. We’ll see how it performs inside during the winter and whether the leaf colors change, as with other coleus, in response to lower light. It’s not often when I see a plant combination I’ve planted that makes me cringe … this one definitely does. At least it’s useful as a GOOPs post, though.

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