by Connie Oswald Stofko
“The colors are breathtaking,” said Jeff Thompson, director of horticulture at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, talking about the coleus ‘Chocolate Covered Cherry’. “It will visually will stun you.”
The colors in ‘Chocolate Covered Cherry’, which you can see in the first photo, are indeed mouth watering. A center the color of cherry candy is surrounded by a chocolatey brown. A thin border of minty green traces around the edges.
“The color combination is outstanding,” Thompson said.
It’s just one of the 50 or 60 varieties of coleus you’ll see on display during the Celebration of Coleus & Color exhibit that will open this Saturday and continue through through Sunday, July 27 at the Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., Buffalo. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Admission is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors (age 55 and older) & students (13 and older with ID), $5 for children ages 3-12, and free for members and children under 2.
The show is being sponsored by Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, and I got a sneak peek at some of the spectacular coleus plants that will be in the exhibit.
The first thing that gardeners love about coleus is that it grows in shade– It’s hard to find colorful plants for shade. And when it comes to color, coleus really delivers. Red, maroon, yellows, lime green, white, copper and pink are just a few of the colors you’ll see, often mixed in dazzling patterns.
“Look how many expressions of color there are on one plant,” Thompson said, showing me ‘Christmas Candy’. “There are four colors that I see, and I could argue that there are even more.”
In addition, coleus has a huge variety of leaf textures and shapes. The leaves on ‘Christmas Candy’ are ruffled and incised or slightly cut, which gives the plant even more interest.
While many of us think of coleus as a small plant that we use in containers or place in the front of a bed, some varieties can get quite tall and be used as a background plant.
“Some get absolutely shrublike,” Thompson said.
He showed me a coleus ‘Kong’ that started out as a tiny plug two months ago, but by August could be four feet tall. It has a sturdy stalk and won’t need support.
“They really are bruisers,” he said. “They can take up a lot of space and make a nice background for other plants.”
If you don’t want your coleus to get big, pinch it back to control it, he said. It will get wider and not as tall.
There are some varieties of coleus that can take a little sun, too, so you can definitely try them in transitional areas.
Scroll down and take a look at a few more examples of the wide variety that is displayed by coleus. For more inspiration, go to the Botanical Gardens to see the spectacular exhibit.