Sometimes it is amazing the combinations of colors you may find in a flower. There are even a few flowers that may have different flowers on the same plant. One of the first ones I think of is Zebrina (Mallow sylvestris), a combination of white flowers with purple streaks coming out from the center.  Many people call them Dwarf Hollyhocks.  They grow about 3 feet tall and reseed by the hundreds if you don’t deadhead. Every fall I cut the maturing heads into a pan in case I want them in a different place.  Seeds are big and easy to handle but so are the volunteer plants that come up.  I just take the trowel of soil and plant while they are quite small and they never even hesitate.  They have a very sturdy stem so never need staking and once they are seeded in area, you can cut the early ones down after blooming and a new crop will come up.  They ignore the first frosts so may bloom quite late.

          Lantana is another favorite that I have talked about for Humming Birds. A shrub down South, it gets about 3 feet here in Lincoln .  A flower head may have 2 colors in one flower (tiny flowers in a cluster), red and yellow, pink and white.  I have never been a big success from seed, so in the Spring when I hunt up plants at the garden center, I try to find as many color combinations as possible.  They like hot weather, so their best time is late fall.

          A good example of a shorter flower is the Gaillardia species that grow very well for me in the sidewalk strip with their combinations of red and yellow (goblin), orange and yellow (oranges and lemons). There are annuals, biennials, and perennials in these flowers.  Sometimes called Blanket Flower or Indian Blanket, mine do well with less water than many plants.  None of them live for a number of years but all do have some seeds.  There are pure red and pure yellow ones as well. Even the perennials may bloom the first year from seed if you start them early.  I plan on adding a plant or two each Spring to fill in the blanks.

          Several years ago an Iris breeder here in Lincoln developed the purple and white streaked Iris “Batik” which became very popular. Now the Iris catalogs the last two years have shown many streaked Iris of about any color combination you might like. I sent for a collection and received yellow and brown, blue on white, etc. I scattered them among my usual Iris for a surprise here and there.  Two flowers on one stalk will vary in the “wildness” of their color arrangement.

          This spring I found a Begonia whose foliage was eye catching. Its name was Marmaduke with off beat arrangement of green, yellow, and brown in big bold leaves. Blooms were mild compared to the leaves.

          Day Lilies (Hemerocallis species) have any number of color combinations. A number of them have dark centers with lighter or different color outer edges. They will grow almost anywhere, enlarge their clumps fairly fast, and can be moved or divided at any time. They do best in good soil, a fair amount of moisture, come in sizes from 12 inches to 15 inches all the way to 3 feet. They store energy in little white bumps along the roots which adds to their hardiness.  I started a new colony of short ones (18 to 20 inches tall) on the parkway with dark centers of different colors. They immediately started putting out new leaves.  I assume they will bloom this summer.

          Dahlias also have a reputation for several colors in one flower.  The plants come in all sizes from 12 inches to 5 feet with the bloom size matching. They are not hardy here so have to be dug in the fall soon after the first frost kills their leaves.  The bulbs (tubers) are about six inches down but care must be taken not to break them off the main stem as the new “baby” is right there where the two join.  One plant may give you 6 to 7 new tubers in a good year.  B.J. dug mine, washed the dirt off, and packed them in a plastic bag to retain their moisture.  They will stay in the heated garage all winter where they won’t freeze. Next spring I will dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep and place the tuber with its “bud” up, and then put in a stake, as the big dinner plate flower stalk tends to collapse with the big heavy flowers.  I also put a cage around to help support the limbs.  I just cover the bulb, add water, and as it grows, fill the hole in. Some years I may start the individual tubers in damp sphagnum moss in the basement to give them an early start.  Either way, they will bloom in the fall.  I have a large yellow dinner plate Dahlia with red streaks which is probably my favorite.

          Dahlia “Bold Accent” is lavender with white centers in the petals.  One of my catalogs this Spring has a collection of about 6 colors with different streaks or contrasting edges. “Show and Tell” is red with yellow tips, and “ Margaret ” is white with purple-pink tip.

          The little 12-18 inch Dahlias make an excellent edging.  I usually start these from seed and they bloom the first summer.  All Dahlias appreciate plenty of water but not wet feet.

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