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Planting perennials can bring you wonderful surprises and inspiration for future garden design.

This year I am raving about my nodding onion (Allium cernuum). I planted them randomly throughout the pollinator garden in my front yard, not knowing a lot about them. During the spring and early summer, they were neat little tufts of dark green linear foliage. However, for the past few weeks, they have sent up several flower scapes per plant, and presented an umbel of tiny pinkish white flowers. These tiny little flowers full of nectar are attracting a host of pollinating bees, beetles and flies.

Although very appreciative of the pollinator plant service my nodding onions are providing, they are not giving me curb appeal. The dainty blush pink is being washed out by the white, silver and pink flowers in my garden. To give these flowers their spotlight, I have decided to design my garden with color in mind. I want to incorporate burgundy foliage, purple, orange and blue flowers, and resist the urge to plant any more white flowers.

I have taken a picture of my garden so that I will know the layout for next spring and made a list of pollinator flowers in the colors needed to make my nodding onions pop.

For burgundy foliage, I have decided on Nine bark ‘Diablo’ and Dragon’s Blood sedum. Nine bark ‘Diablo’ is a short shrub with deep purplish foliage. It blooms pinkish white blooms in late spring before the nodding onion. After the blooms turn to fruits, they turn dark red, a perfect color combination with the blush pink. Dragon’s Blood sedum is a low-growing creeping sedum that boasts deep burgundy color in fall. It starts out green in the spring with reddish purple margins.

For purple flowers, I will add blazing star for its bright purple blooms right as the nodding onions start to flower.

For orange flowers, I would like to plant butterfly weed, red hot poker and orange zinnias. Butterfly weed is known for its vivid orange flowers that start in June and last until August. Red hot poker asserts reddish orange flowers that resemble a torch on top of grass-like foliage. This perennial will be at the latter part of its bloom time when the nodding onions pop. Zinnias are a must-have for a pollinator garden.

For blue flowers, I would like to add blue beard and blue salvia. Blue beard is a small shrub that has very showy fragrant flowers that bloom in late summer to early fall. Blue salvia is a tried and true easy-to-grow annual that will give me blue flowers all season long.

Start making garden design plans for next year while you can see your current garden layout. And don’t be afraid to let one plant be your inspiration for design!

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Kelly Allsup is the University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator in Livingston, McLean and Woodford counties.