Painted plants? It’s only Ok when I do it.

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Orange spray-painted allium schubertii with purple angelonia

It does seem a bit hypocritical. For years, we have consistently ranted or hosted guest rants decrying glittery silver poinsettias, blue orchids, and garishly painted succulents. I heard about glow-in-the-dark nicotiana a few years ago. And now my favorite garden center is featuring cactus that have been injected with color (below):

Ugh. But I may have undermined my right to express outrage by bringing artificially colored plants into my own garden. The idea of painting allium seed heads has been around for at least a decade. I vaguely knew about it, but hadn’t given it much thought until I saw some lovely hot pink varieties (below) on the DC-area garden bloggers tour. I had tried small allium (moly, mostly) in my front garden and got nowhere—too much shade. Then, a couple years ago, I started with the big ones—Globemaster, Gladiator—in a patio bed. They performed well and it was easy to see why people would spraypaint these big, sculptural seedheads. They’re so prominent; why not give them a goofy second life? And the schubertii—which look fabulous in bud, in bloom, or as seedheads—are very cool painted. At least I think so.

If you’ve never done this, an easy way is to cut a slit in a big piece of cardboard. The stem should fit through this (but be careful: it is brittle) and the cardboard will enclose the plant, keeping the paint on the seedhead. Put pieces of cardboard or paper over anything you think might get sprayed. Of course, for people (unlike me) who actually space out their plants and don’t keep them in a big mass, jungle-style, there might be less risk.

The big danger here is when you eyes start roving to other interesting seedheads. Hmm, how about those thalictrum? And those big Joe Pyes? And maybe that dingy rodgersia bloom, which never looked good? And …

Painted plants? It’s only Ok when I do it. originally appeared on Garden Rant on July 24, 2018.

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