Orange plants aren’t very popular at flower shows. For that matter, the brightest blooms are often shunned by the best of gardeners and landscape designers. Like Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect. Pick up any garden book, and you’ll probably read words like “garish,” “too bright,” “taudry” and “overstimulating.”
Often, I’ve wondered why? You know I love England, probably the Britannia of 1890, but still . . . .
The gardens, the tea, the scones, and since I’m really sore from moving a huge daylily clump and planting a tree, let’s be honest, the servants. What I could do with a small staff, but I digress.
Although I adore English cottage style, I can’t fathom using only pastel plants. Christopher Lloyd did champion hot colors in many of his books and part of his garden, but I don’t see much emulation of it in English gardening magazines other than an occasional California poppy. By the way, English gardeners are as infatuated with our native plants as we are theirs. Gardeners always want what is difficult to grow in their climate. It makes us feel special when we succeed.
As I’ve traveled, I’ve noticed gardens in the U.S. seem to become more pastel as we move north and east. I wonder if it’s the light. In an Oklahoma summer, the light is very white and “clear.” Under its magnification, light pinks and many soft yellows become white by mid-day. Red and purple daylilies often melt in the sun, and pinks become more peachy as blazing daylight shines on their petals. Golden yellows like the Black-eyed Susans, however, turn their faces toward the sun like bathing beauties who need no sunscreen.
In my own garden, when I conceived its English lines, I originally planted silver foliage plants like Artemisia ‘Silver King’ and A. ‘Powis Castle’ (which came from England), white daisies, and soft pink roses, along with subtle yellows for transition. It looked great in spring, but I began to sense something was missing when I looked over the landscape mid-summer. The garden appeared as faded as my grandmother’s favorite gardening dress.
So, I considered the wildflowers and noticed many of the summer ones were bright, almost primary colors. If nature adorned herself so, who was I to shun such color? So, I added more reds, purples, bright pinks and blues, white and golden yellow.
However, I had to remember to place transitional colors for all the bright ones. Especially with daylilies, I work to make all seem a symphonic whole instead of just color thrown up in the air like so much confetti. I use blue, along with yellow and white for transition. Even pink can move the eye along, but it’s important not to place a blue pink flower directly beside its more peachy counterparts.
I don’t always succeed, but that’s part of the fun of gardening. You’re painting a living canvas, and year after year, you improve upon your work of art.
Now, I suggest you add at least one strong color to your garden this season. What color will it be?
I’m revisting this post after seeing Pauls recent comment about loving all the wonderful hot colors in his garden too! I thought you might enjoy my previous post titled: Gardening is Good Medicine. It features many of my reds, yellows and purples all playing together quite nicely! My signature color in my garden is RED…and inside my home too! I just love it… I is the perfect compliment to all the lusious green I am surrounded by in tall trees and grass outside…I’m a big believer in color therapy. I think a person should surround themseves in colors they have a kinship to inside and out no matter what the fashion of the day is!
Loved seeing all of your blooms again!
paul deMarrais says
I love orange daylilies myself and grow a number of great Dave Niswongers scarlets as well. Hot Bronze is my all time fave. Of Dave’s I love Walking into the Sun, Rocket Blast, Neon Angel,Firekeeper,A Cut Above. These colors really pop in the landscape and are great with cool companion colors like purple coneflower. I don’t understand silly color prejudices myself. I am a pastel artist and silly prejudices abound in my trade as well. I’m not a fan of over matched beds either. I like the wild English country garden style, a riot of textures and colors. Yellow and gold daylilies are also shunned among the connoisseurs but to me they are the best of daylily color, devoid of the mud you see in the pinky shades. Bring on the hot color!!! take care…Paul
Dee Nash says
Paul, thank you so much for stopping by to visit. It sounds like you and I both love the intense reds and oranges. I also grow ‘Rocket Blast and ‘A Cut Above’. Now you’ve intrigued me on the others. I think Niswonger’s reds are some of the best created anywhere and far exceed my expectations. I got to meet him at the regional, and he was so nice. I don’t like muddy shades either, but I think some of Stamile’s pinks are true blue pinks. Nice and clear. Thanks again for coming by.~~Dee
I’m with you! I couldn’t live with out my bright reds, oranges, and yellows in my summer garden… I am a native Nevadan, transplanted in New England so I just have to have a little more WARM COLOR in my garden here. It reminds me of home. I too have noticed that pastels rule and when reds or yellows are used, they are not the feature color but an accent at best… I see a lot of coral, and red impatiens, in pots, and dotted around spring blooming shrub borders to add color during the summer months. It’s very pretty and quite formal looking and suits the architecture of some of our historic districts quite nicely. In my summer/BIRD AND BUTTERFLY garden I went all out last year and planted 6 RED Bee Balm… the type that reach 5- 6 feet … and I have to say, they have not let me down…they are spectacular and the humming birds love them! I also added an orange echinacia, and strawberry yarrow all bright and warm color to compliment all the purple in my lavender, butterfly bushes, and Russian sage… I love the boldness of the red… I have some black eyed susans to keep things evened out… but I chose a type that doesn’t re seed, and grows to 36 inches tall… I love English Gardens as well, but my soul just needs more color!
I have a small pick of my summer garden on my home page if you would like to see it all in bloom together… Loved this post! I have quite a few day lilliles in another garden as well an tiger lillies are especially popular in my neck of the cape cod bay as well…I also like to think of my gardens as painting… each year I get to add a new swish of color or a spot of texture. The fun part pondering over just what the right touch will be next year!!!
Thank you for stopping by my Summer Sanctuary Post over the weekend and leaving your nice note!
Hope to see more of you!
Hi Deb, what a sweet note. I also see my garden as a painting, and every year I get to paint a new scene, sometimes even between seasons. Isn’t gardening the grandest thing?~~Dee
Debbie @ A Casual Affair says
You can come do my landscaping any time. I love the bright colors of your flowers.
Thank you Debbie. I’d love to.~~Dee
I wish I could just sit in that blue chair with a glass of sweet tea and admire all those pretty flowers in true life. Thanks for sharing your beautiful flowers via your website…(sipping sweet tea at my pc).
Oh, Kelly, that brought up such a delightful picture in my mind. Thank you. If you’re ever this way . . . drop on in.~~Dee
My first time here thanks to T.R.
Cool colours are calming and work well over here (UK) especially in my mainly shady small garden but I still hope to enjoy a few spots of stronger colour (orange, deep reds and bright yellows) in the summer when hopefully the sun will shine brightly from Lillies in pots that can be moved around.
Frank, thanks for stopping by. I bet cooler colors look better in your climate, and sometimes I wish I lived in a cooler clime. Great idea about your containers.~~Dee
I love orange, Dee! That second daylily is a true showstopper! I especially like to combine purple and yellow this time of year, and I so agree about the light. It is place-specific. I could never duplicate the gardens I’ve seen in France, for instance, no matter how beautiful. And when I first came back to the States, I discovered I’d been as homesick for the light as for anything else. Mom remembers me coming straight through my childhood home and walking out onto the deck with my arms outstretched, needing to soak up what I termed “real sun.” 😉
Working with real sun, you must use real color. No question!
Great post. Here in the tropics we are literally surrounded by ‘hot’ colours … maybe as Caleb suggests it’s the intense sunlight and the high humidity that makes them so much more brilliant, but they do match our climate so well.
Lots of oranges, yellows, reds and whites are to be seen in almost every garden here, including my own .. along with all the greens from the many, many palms, ferns and trees. The more subdued colours seem to limited to small areas/garden beds in most gardens here.
I embrace orange, especially smoky oranges, plus burgundies, purples, chartreuse, corals, fuschias, magentas. I avoid pastels if possible. It could be a male thing.
I do say I don’t like orange…and not much red. But any purple, the darker the better and magenta, although I’ve been told it is “common”, is a favorite of mine. Fuschia is great too!
Cindy, MCOK says
This was a timely post for me, Dee. I was looking out the picture windows this afternoon and lamenting how washed out the garden looked in some spots. I think some stronger colors are definitely in order out back.
Hi Dee, I posted this past week on orangey orange! Loving it more and more, from red hot(orange) pokers to daylilies to nasturtiums and honeysuckle ‘Dropmore Scarlet,’ which really is orange. They all look great with my favorite purple. Your garden looks wonderful with the bright pops of color!
Mr. McGregor's Daughter says
I second Caleb’s opinion about quality and strength of light affecting colors. What looks washed out in Texas glows further north. Also the changing quality of the light in the different seasons favors a different color palette. But really, I’ve done the soft pastel thing. It’s nice, but it doesn’t knock my sock off the way vibrant color combinations do. Bring on the fuschia, the magenta, the crimson and chartreuse. Just don’t come looking for any orange.
It’s a shame, because my garden’s theme is orange flowers or reddish foliage in spicy red containers. They wake me up when I walk the garden in the morning, and they inspire me when I come home from work in the evenings.
I’ll add any color but red, and having said that, I’d probably add red, too. Right now, my garden seems to have transitioned from the blues and pinks of spring to the yellows, purples, and even orange of summer.
I have two orange daylilies in my front flower bed, and I couldn’t remember what it was called. After seeing your post, I think I may have the “Bittersweet Destiny”, or something very similar. I love the bright color, and they just keep on blooming!
Lisa at Greenbow says
I love those hot colors. When the weather gets hot you need something to stand up to all the heat.
Patsy Bell Hobson says
I am slowly turning toward white as a bright choice. Sometimes, a white rose or clematis can stop you in your tracks. And, they are the best for enjoying the garden in the evening.
Great post, Dee. Here in the southwest, we need hot, hot color to work with our hot, bright climate. Pastels are sweet, but they do seem washed out in our strong light. Better to plant them in gardens used primarily in the evening or at night, when those pale or white flowers can glow in the moonlight. By day, bright color!
You are singing my song! I couldn’t garden with out the brightest yellows, oranges, deep pinks, purples and reds! The summer sun is bright, bright, bright~although I have more shade, the sun light is still intense and washes out the pastels. But wildflowers like purple coneflowers and liatris, the intense pink of monardas and Joe Pye Weed and the bright yellow Susans and sunflowers look wonderful. gail
Caleb M. says
Another thought on light – humidity also has a large effect. It seems that, the less water there is in the air, the duller colors seem to be. I notice the difference between southern Missouri (high humidity – vibrant colors) and northern Kansas (low humidity, dull colors). It would seem to make sense…
Caleb M. says
The light in different parts of the world also has a huge effect on how colors are perceived. While English light flatters pastel shades, our light in the US – at a lower latitude – fades them to wishy-washiness. So have fun with those striking colors. I’m on a purple to magenta kick right now…