Magazine article Sunset

Color Your Garden: Express Yourself with Flower and Foliage Blends

Magazine article Sunset

Color Your Garden: Express Yourself with Flower and Foliage Blends

Article excerpt

Color excites us, but it scares us too. Or at least it does when we read about color theory and attempt to apply it in the garden. Primary, secondary, analogous, and complementary colors; intensity, value, and hue. So much to worry about. Well, forget it.

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You got dressed this morning without thinking about these things, didn't you? And you probably didn't worry over a color wheel for hours when you decorated your house, either. Most of us approach these tasks intuitively. Whether we're conscious of it or not, we have an instinctive way of approaching color. Don't fight it; apply the same technique to your garden.

One-color wonders

Choose a single hue for a simple design

Open your closet. Does one hue predominate? In mine, for instance, there are a dozen shades of red and, except for neutrals, hardly any other colors. Is it a surprise, then, that something similar happened in my garden? There, shades of pink reign supreme--everything from blush to magenta. In the spring, a few blue-flowered bulbs pop up; in summer, a handful of yellow perennials. But they're the equivalent of a neck scarf or a piece of jewelry. My garden is unquestionably pink.

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You can use the same approach with yellow, orange, or blue. Monochromatic schemes are the easiest to design and also the easiest to live with because they're inherently calming. If things get too serene, you can accessorize--just pop in a little contrasting annual color.

Tips for one-color planting

* Choose related hues. Use various shades of the same color, from barely tinted to deeply saturated, for richness. Buttercream, daffodil, lemon, goldenrod, and bronze, for instance.

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* Turn the color wheel. Feel free to slide in a closely related color--a bit of peach with those yellows mentioned above, or a dash of purple with blues.

* Reds can burn you. Avoid mixing warm (yellow-based) and cool (blue-based) reds; they are never harmonious together.

* Mix shapes and sizes. To keep mellow from being monotonous, make sure flowers are different in size, scale, and shape. Foliage should be richly varied too.

* Lighten up. Tuck in a few white plants or a restrained dose of contrasting color to brighten a monochromatic scheme. Add a sprinkling of cheerful yellow to those cool pinks, for instance, or a splash of blue to oranges.

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Gold nuggets. Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer' blooms above 'Juliette' marigold and Bidens ferulifolia 'Peter's Gold Carpet'.

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Warm cream. Purple-eyed Hibiscus trionum 'Simply Love' pairs with ruffly 'French Vanilla' marigold.

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Cool blues. Fluffy delphinium shares space with spiky Veronica spicata Sightseeing Mix.

Harmonic duets

Trust your instincts to combine two colors

Maybe using shades of one color seems too tame. Contrasting a burgundy sofa against a forest green wall or wearing a coral sweater with navy pants is more your style. You're attracted to dramatic color. Use the same instincts in your garden.

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Instead of picking one color, start with two. Almost any two; trust your judgment. Complementary colors provide the most dramatic contrasts: blue and orange, purple and yellow. But most people quickly tire of these powerful combinations, so they opt for pastel tints. Or they move one or both colors a little off-center, which is more unexpected. Envision chartreuse and burgundy, or peach and blue-violet, for example. …

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