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Let's talk about Colour in your Garden

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Let's talk about Colour in your Garden

Let's Talk about Colour in your Garden

Everyone wants an attractive garden, and often we want it colourful. But what does that mean, and what are your preferences? If you have pastel flowers blooming next to something that is screaming hot tropical, they probably won't look good together. Some people love the combination of pink and orange, but I can't abide that. Everyone has their own preference, and in fact I maintain that everyone sees colours differently.

Is your garden simply messy like this one?

Clashing Colours Garden

There isn't any right or wrong, but many people struggle to deal with colours in their garden. Most people need a framework to help organize their thoughts about what to plant.

If find it helpful to define a colour scheme, and then choose plants to work within that constraint. The simplest is to pick 2 colours, and refuse the plant anything the doesn't fit into that category. You can't really go wrong with pink and purple, or pink and yellow, or white and orange...see how that helps?

If you just have to have a plant that doesn't fit your criteria (no, there are NO blue roses), then you can either site those away from your main garden, or split your garden into two different colour schemes for different parts of the season. I do this in my own garden where I have a cherry red fern-leaf peony that came from my father's garden. I don't want a pink garden, but I also want to keep that sentimental plant. So, in the spring I have cherry red and purple tulips, and blue camassia to complement the peony. Later, everything turns yellow and purple for the rest of the season.

Tulips and Fernleaf Peony

I once worked in a garden that was a rainbow. Each section of the garden was a different colour, but the plants in that colour zone progressed through through the summer; yellow daffodils gave way to yellow daylilies, then to black eyes susans, and so on. It was a bit complicated, but the framework gave the gardener the opportunity to site almost any plant in their garden. My point here is to choose a scheme, and then use that to choose your plants so that they all work together in your garden. Here are some notes on various colour schemes that I like in a garden:

White

White Garden

A garden based on white is very popular, and fantastic if you often get to enjoy your garden in the evening. To research this, google moonlight gardens. You'll be in league with Mrs Thomas Edison, and Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst, and even the Persian gardens at the Taj Mahal. I suppose that limiting your choices to white may seem very constraining, but actually there are lots and lots of white flowers, and you'll never have to worry colours clashing. I recommend that you also include some very fragrant plants in your evening garden. At dusk flowering tobacco and white oriental lilies (Casablanca) simply sing with aroma. It's up to you how strict you want to be about the whiteness of your garden, but remember that many white flowers fade to a pale colour.

Pastels

Pink Peony

I love a pastel garden, and it is usually easy to pick a variety of plants for each part of the season. The pale pinks and purples of allium, roses, balloon flower, fall anemone, and perennial geraniums are easy to mix. There are some lovely peach and pale yellow flowers as well - look to the daylilies, yarrow, columbine and astilbe. All of these go well with a repeated white flower such as a shasta daisy or garden phlox.

Hot Blazing Colours such as Scarlet, Burgundy, and Orange

Blazing Hot Colours for Garden

It's hard to resist these strong colours that often find their way into my wardrobe. Look for large flowers, or flowers that will make a mass of blooms. I find that individual strong coloured flowers somehow get lost. But, I love a block of shocking pink asiatic lily, orange butterfly milkweed, red hot pokers, dark red roses, scarlet bee balm. Don't be afraid to mix in long flowering annuals in a hot coloured garden. It will help to intensify those colours.

Greens

Green Garden

Don't forget that green is a colour too! Exclusively green is an extremely restful colour scheme that focuses on texture. Mix up hostas, with shade grasses (Japanese Forest Grass) , and leafy evergreens such as rhododendron. To brighten up a shady spot, add in some silvery leaves such as siberian bugloss or ghost fern. In fact, since most perennials only bloom for a portion of the season, we are forced to consider the foliage in the rest of the season and how it looks in our garden. A swath of Soloman's seal or peonies make an excellent backdrop for later blooming plants. Did you know that there are even green flowers? Bells of Ireland, Hellebore, Limelight Hydrangea, Cushion Spurge, Jack in the Pulpit, and Coneflowers come in green. Often green flowers attract pollinators with scent, adding another layer of interest to your garden.

I hope this helps you to think about your garden. Are there areas that you'd like to improve? Fall is a great time for planting, and we still have lots of availability. We'll be delivering plants up until mid-October.

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  • Chaz Morenz