Bring Backlighting to Forefront In Garden

Allium 'Globemaster'

Globemaster Allium. Sunlight streams through the translucent head of this dramatic bulb. Plant it in the fall for May/June bloom in Denver.

Is your garden ho-hum?  Do people yawn as they walk by?

Then maybe it’s time to add a little drama.  There are many ways to do this.  For example, you can add plants with arresting shapes and colors, create movement, frame a view, display garden art, install well-placed lights or take advantage of backlighting.

Let’s explore backlighting today.  I’ll discuss other approaches later.

If your garden faces east or west, you have concentrated sunlight in the morning or late afternoon to backlight your landscape.  Now all you have to do is take advantage of it.  How?  By installing translucent or glossy plants so light can shine through them or make them sparkle.

Purple smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ or C. ‘Velvet Cloak’), with its semi-opaque spoon-shaped leaves, glows in the sunlight.  So do ornamental onions, especially Allium ‘Globemaster’ with its massive drumstick-shaped heads.  Then there are ornamental grasses, such as little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and giant sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii), with their narrow leaves and often eye-catching plumes.

For sparkle, you can add a glossy-leaved plant such as hawthorn (Crataegus).  I planted a drought-resistant thornless cockspur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli var. inermis) at the end of a grassy expanse in my east-facing back yard.  Every morning, that baby just lights up and steals the show.

Other glossy-leaved plants you might consider are Frau Dagmar Hastrup rose (Rosa rugosa ‘Frau Dagmar Hastrup’) with its delicate mauve-ish blooms, Prague viburnum (Viburnum x pragense), Manhattan euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovicus) and Oregon grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium).  Hollies in the genus Ilex also have glossy leaves but can be difficult to grow in Colorado.

By planting strategically to use backlighting, you can turn those yawns of passers-by into gasps of delight.

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