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Painting with plants

  • truett Landscape designer Margaret Baumgratz waters the plants in her butterfly garden at the Truett Hurst Winery on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. The garden reflects the shapes and colors in nature with a continuous bloom throughout the season. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

The butterfly garden at Truett Hurst Winery in Healdsburg is iridescent in the mid-afternoon heat.

Enter through the arbor heavy with potato vines and you're greeted with a visual assault of color.

From deep purples and burnt reds to vivid orange and electrifying chartreuse — and that's not counting the pretty winged visitors who come to dine on a feast of plants precisely suited to their tastes.

Truett Hurst Winery Garden

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Much of this display thriving only several hundred yards from Dry Creek comes not from flowers but from the foliage.

Garden designer Margaret Baumgratz of Healdsburg pointedly seeks out plants with a lot of visual punch and then pairs them with a shock of contrasting color.

She points to a Physocarpus or ninebark, with its dark, maple-like leaves and plumes that shoot up and out like a fountain.

It makes a dramatic statement beside a billowy Miscanthus Cosmopolitan, a creamy white-and-green variegated grass that produces coppery tassels and thrives in hot spots like Dry Creek Valley.

In the mix is a Phlomis or Jerusalem sage that produces pink clusters in spring and is beloved by butterflies.

Everything is tightly packed in, with maturing plants now bumping into each other along natural walkways of mulch. The effect is surprisingly graceful even in its wildness.

"I just feel like sometimes I'm painting with plants," she says, pointing out with obvious delight how a Phormium picks up the orange in a neighboring Berberus.


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