Tilt a Whirl
"On a typical summer day in the South, it's so hot and humid and sunny out that the sky's almost gray. Under those conditions, pastels don't look like much," she says. "I also think we've gotten over wanting our gardens to look soft and silver like British ones. People are injecting more personality into their gardens."
Pam is certainly doing her part. Her mail-order catalog lists 58 selections; another 150 or so lurk in her greenhouse, waiting to be liberated. She attributes her ardor for coleus to her childhood in Carolina Beach, North Carolina, "back when it had this exquisite boardwalk and enormous carousel. It was like a carnival every night. I fell in love with color."
Tips for Beginners
If the colors of coleus have you smitten, too, now is the time to act. Garden centers are offering more and more named selections. But for better assortments and really wild-looking plants, buy from a mail-order nursery.
Although it's tempting to plant one of each coleus you find, don't mix them all together like toppings on a pizza. You'll get more impact by planting a sweep of one type here and a mass of another type there. Large, shrubby selections (up to 36 inches tall), such as 'Aurora' and 'Alabama Sunset,' work well in the back of the border. Creepers and spreaders, such as the Ducksfoot Series and 'India Frills,' are great for edging, filling in spaces between other plants, or cascading from hanging baskets and window boxes.