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Ride the red wave

Three readily available plants come together to create a scene of contrasting color and texture.

Botanical cascade: At Heronswood nursery in Kingston, Wash., weeping brown sedge surges over the ground, while the contrasting allium and climbing nasturtium hold their own.

Photo by David McDonald

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Plant explorer Dan Hinkley has moved on from his old garden. It’s yours for $3 million, and along with the house and grounds you get vistas and interplays like those pictured here, end on end.

Mr. Hinkley – the former owner of Heronswood, who gardened on the famed nursery’s grounds in Kingston, Wash. – is a landscape artist as well as plant collector.

And what a paintbox! With his far-flung travels (China, Nepal, Bhutan), he amassed garden goodies like you wouldn’t believe.

But here he shows the drama you can dream up with over-the-counter meditation. What looks like red waves crashing and bubbling on the beach is composed of readily available garden material – a grass, an onion, and a vine.

Weeping brown sedge (Carex flagellifera) eschews its khaki component and grows red in the shade, as it does in this woodland garden. Its arching – you might say flopping – form is another splendid attribute.

And it is reliably cold-hardy to at least -20 degrees F.

The ornamental onion is an allium no longer in flower but still performing admirably.

And the climbing nasturtium (Tropaeolum tuberosum) is twining its way through the fine tendrils of grass, its daisylike petals providing color contrast even though it, too, is not in flower – yet.

Editor's note: This is one of a series of Creative Combos -- excellent plant combinations used by good gardeners around North America. Read more here.


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