How to Use Color With Panache
Incorporate colour in your garden, from a tiny splash to complete borders. Be bold, daring and dynamic with strong colour or cool and sweet with a pastel palette. A strong colouring and paler echo can be dynamic.
Shock with pink, purple and orange. Lime, gold and orange is good too, so bright and happy. Or play it cool with apricot, peach and pale pink. If you are really shy you’ll love pale lemon and silver or pink and silver.
- Avoid the bitty look by planting in drifts. This, of course, is good advice and works best in large gardens. Think of those 100ft borders - brilliant. Smaller gardens need much more careful management of planting to avoid that bitty look. Plant fewer types of plant. Also repeat colours - begin with pale lemon moving into stronger yellow with a hint of blue, into a blue drift and then back to blue and yellow, finishing with pale lemon. Some of the plants can be different on both sides. This brings harmony and rhythm to your garden.
- Containers are useful when you only have one of each plant.
- It’s o.k. to do monotone. Choose a variety of plants with different leaf shapes, sizes and choose tones carefully.
- Remember - colour is PERSONAL. It’s what YOU like that matters most.
- If you want lots of colours - try to separate them into different areas of the garden - the pink border, the orange border. Multi-coloured borders can look wrong very easily. You need to inject harmony.
- Make any colour appear brighter by planting it with a darker colour. Whites look better against a dark green background. If you have been to Sissinghurst you'll know what I mean.
- Bright colours are used more freely in the Caribbean under those heavenly blue skies. However, I still hold they are suitable and necessary to brighten places that have too many grey skies.
- Whilst pastels are pale, they still have a bright effect. Pale does not have to be washed out or dull.
- Bright colours are essentially associated with spring, but don’t confine yourself to this time of year.
- Decide on no more than 3 colours that complement one another. They don’t all have to bright. One bright, one mid tone and one darker tone work well such as yellow, blue and green. Keep it simple. You can always choose from one colour.
Bright Colours in the Garden
The use of colour in the garden has changed so much. New perennials have come along and new colorways have been explored. People are still so afraid of color, mention most of those below and you are entering the twilight zone of plants. Go for it. Add impact to your garden. Bright is not just for the shady side of the garden. Be unpredictable. Colour is fun - your garden should be a happy place. Think of accessories to match your plants. Paint those pots in complementary colours, add cushions and seating to match. Bright colours such as orange and yellow are happy and sociable. Let some sunshine into your life.
The Colour Wheel
Whilst I believe strongly that a colour wheel used in gardening, leads one up the garden path and astray very quickly, it’s good to balance a warm and cool colour in the garden such as yellow and blue. Warm colours such as gold, red and orange are difficult to use together. Yet, even these, with a skilled hand, can work in a drift. As colour of the plant is unlikely to match the plant label or colour wheel, its trial and error, unless you have seen the combination elsewhere. Even then plant colour can be affected by soil, rainfall and situation. Be prepared to experiment.
If your scheme is getting too hot or overpowering, introduce a cool colour or white to tone everything down.
LIME - real zest and often a better choice than gold, although the two together are superb. Use it with black or darker greens. See my book Emeralds
GOLD - garish if all one shade and it does shout. Acid yellow is difficult- there I’ve said it - no denial. Used wisely gold is a gem. See my book Gold Fever
ORANGE - this is such a gorgeous colour range and one I love in all its tones. I'm thinking toffee, butterscotch, apricot and more. See my ebook Fruit Cocktail
RED - whilst it is stand back and avoid the glare, red is lovely. It’s the only colour that has that velvet-like quality apart from my favourite black. Yes, it is best in small doses, but bright red combined with mid or dark green with some dark, near black foliage is stunning. It does not hurt to have a punch, a full stop, an exclamation in the garden - it’s a necessity.
WHITE - for that just washed look, avoid dirty whites. Even what we consider to be pure whites can be tinged blue or pink. silver foliage is a treat for the eye and cools things down. See my book Silver Lining
Keep it simple, limit the number of colors and plants. Decide on the degree of vibrancy you want and take the mix from there. Hot, hot, hot or hot and cool or pastel.
Karen is the author of books on colour in the garden. She is also the author of Lifestyle Gardening her book on garden design featuring styles, plants, tips, advice and more. Visit the website to learn more and order books at half price by using the code 50OFF at checkout. The offer does not apply to ebooks because the price of these is already set low.