In the newest Garden Bloggers Design Workshop, Gardening Gone Wild gave us a color challenge. Specifically, what color combinations do we have in the garden and how do we use them?
When I first began to garden, I only thought about harvesting vegetables and gathering armfuls of roses. I think I had visions of skipping through my garden, trug in hand, clipping blossoms. I couldn’t imagine the hard work it would take to achieve even a wisp of this dream.
Later, color itself became more important to me. I always thought of it in threes: yellow and blue with red or pink; silver with pink and white; purple with yellow and orange, the last one being a bright combination not appealing to everyone. I liked silver and pink for their softening effect, but I found that in my rural garden, they often appeared washed out and tired, instead of soothing.
Then I met Wanda, one of the finest gardeners I’ve ever known. In her garden, shown above, she used repetition of yellows and blues to draw the eye around her substantial beds. Salvia ‘Victoria’ and several different types of Rudbeckia took the visitor by the hand and led them around the stately curves. Following her example, I tried to make my garden a place where color flowed from one bed to the other, but I’ve only partially succeeded. I’ve found it’s harder than it looks. This was taken in June , 2006. Although I worked to strategically repeat colors, the plants, other than the daylilies, were still young and didn’t have enough presence to make a statement in the garden. I’ve noticed it takes a good two years for a perennial to bulk up and fill in its space. Then, it needs to be divided after three or four years depending upon the plant.
Last summer, the gardens I toured during both the American Hemerocallis Society’s regional meeting and the GWA Symposium, furthered the idea that color, like a visual path, helps the visitor navigate garden space.
In the shade garden, instead of flowers, foliage is the star. Like Mr. McGregor’s Daughter, I really love chartreuse. Recently, I read that chartreuse should be used sparingly because it stops the eye. I decided that even if it is true, I can’t live without its sunny disposition in the shade. Like my sun beds, I repeat it two or three times. I love chartreuse with dark purple foliage like that in ‘Black Magic’ or ‘Illustris’ Elephant Ears. This photo shows a purple foliaged plant, front and center (whose name escapes me,) along with an ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea and two hostas on either side. ‘Annabelle’ is one of the plants Wanda suggested I grow, and she gave me my first one. I love that this hydrangea has blooms with three stages of color. First, they are a light green. Then, they become a beautiful white and finally, they mature into a brownish green. I’ve grown lots of hydrangeas, but ‘Annabelle’ is hands down my favorite. It’s also more tolerant of Oklahoma heat than many of the other hydrangeas, including the Endless Summer collection.
I also use red for punch in the garden. Red is my exclamation point, and I have some areas that have a lot of red. Last summer, I planted two rows of Tightwad Red crape myrtles, which I hope will lead the visitor down a path and through an arbor. As soon as they bloom, I’ll take a photo and post it.
I heard birds singing today for the first time this year. Spring is soon coming, and in the meantime, we can dream in color of all that our gardens can be.