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Artists in the Garden

Summer is here and it’s time to start enjoying outdoor living and entertaining on our decks and patios. When the outdoor furniture is in place and the grill or outdoor kitchen is ready to go, adding some plants to your deck or patio will bring delightful color and texture to the scene — turn that deck or patio into your own private Shangri-La.

Trees will bring height and movement to the scene as their leaves sway in the breeze. Bring in some potted palms and you can pretend you’re in a tropical paradise. Local nurseries and garden centers stock these kinds of plants for summer — get yours while you can. Palms aren’t the only option. The fiddle-leaf fig has bold leaves that might remind you of the musical instrument for which it’s named. They add a lush note. Or, how about an olive tree? A real conversation starter, you can find them at Marders in Bridgehampton.

Other big tropical plants will add volume and color to the scene. In a shady spot, the bold leaves of colocasia — nicknamed elephant’s ear — and its relative, alocasia, will have a big presence. Another option for shade is caladiums; these foliage plants can have white leaves with green veins or pink leaves with red veining. Rex begonia can also enliven a shady bed or pot.

Vines are artists in the garden — their twining stems can climb a trellis, ramble across the top of an arbor, spill from an arch. There are exotic passionflowers, and two of my favorites — the aptly named Heavenly Blue morning glory that welcomes the dawn and closes as the afternoon fades. Its night-blooming relative, the fragrant white moonflower, opens its petals as the sun goes down (to attract the moths that pollinate it) and is over by morning. Mandevilla sends out lots of trumpet-shaped flowers in pink or white, to climb a trellis or spill from an arbor. Jasmine is loved for its intoxicating fragrance — look for it in hanging baskets.

In summer, don’t you also want to see bright colors? You can find them in some foliage plants and, of course, flowers. If you want show-stopping color all season long, dahlias provide it all summer into fall. The flowers come in 11 different flower forms and warm shades from pastels to hot pink, rose, oranges and reds; they’re outstanding in containers. There are different flower forms, too — some have might rounded flowerheads, others have spiky-edged, pointed petals; there are double-flowered forms with lots of petals, and single-flowered varieties with just a single row of petals arranged around a center. Clip off old flowers when they fade and these plants will keep sending out more until the weather turns cold.

Or, how about sunflowers? They come in a range of warm colors. The classic brown-centered golden ones are everywhere as cut flowers in farmstands in summer, but you can grow them in pots, too.

Whatever your pleasure, be sure to decorate your outdoor living space this summer with colorful plants and flowers!