Garden Landscape Designing – Planting for Colour
Garden Landscape Designing
Planting for Colour
Colour is perhaps the most potent and exhilarating factor to play with in. It is a deliciously complicated subject, not least because we use different words for the same colour — what one person means by ‘pink’ is the pale pink of a sugared , while to another it is the uncompromising, shocking pink of lipstick. And colour is never static, changing constantly with the light. Soft and muted in early morning, by midday the sun bleaches out all pastel shades, and even the brightest colours lose some vitality. But by evening all the pale colours, white, palest yellow, pink and blue come into their own, and appear luminous in the shadows. On cloudy days, with only a hazy light, our gardens seem to ask for colour schemes of silver foliage, flowers in soft, opalescent hues and leaves variegated with white.
Shimmering in the sun of hotter climates, the bright scarlets, vermilions, oranges and vivid yellows — colours that would dazzle in a low light —are of just the right intensity. And to miss out on this colour range is to deny yourself the chance to experiment with the most exciting shades. Like difficult guests at a dinner party, they simply need some thought as to their placement. Not to invite such plants as the maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica) because it insists on wearing startling red and is more than likely to have a confrontation with its neighbours, is too faint-hearted an approach. You could put it beside ‘Bishop of Llandaff’, with echoing scarlet flowers and rich bronze foliage, and Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’ and a carpet of ‘Lawrence Johnston’ in front; to further stimulate the company you could plant Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ nearby.
When you first start to garden, it seems hard enough getting to know the plants, let alone thinking about colour as well. But if you only start to consider arranging your colours after several years, umpteen plants will have to be transplanted. The simplest way to begin is to reserve one bed for soft colours, and another for all the strong, bright colours often known as ‘hot’ colours. When you get hold of a plant, put it into an imaginary file, labelled ‘soft’ or ‘bright’, and (taking careful notice of the plant’s preferences regarding soil) place it accordingly. You may wish to define your ideas further by moving all the yellows and oranges to a bed of their own, and diluting them with blue flowers —x frikartii, Gentiana asclepiadea, Nepeta and blue Campanula, Aconitum and — and glaucous foliage — Berberis temolaica, Ruta graveolens ‘Jackman’s Blue’, seakale (Crambe maritima), Elymus magellanicus and any Hosta with ‘blue’ in its cultivar name, such as Hosta ‘Buckshaw Blue’ or ‘Blue Moon’.
Making flower gardens based on one colour — white, for example — is not simply a matter of looking up plant catalogues and ordering ten of every white flower you find on the list. The more restrained the range of flower colour, the more important it is to interplant the flowers with complementary, considering their shape and texture as well as their colour. Silver-grey Stachys byzantina, , argentea and artemisias, together with glaucous foliage (see above) and cream-variegated leaves and, of course, many different shades of green itself, will create a white garden as opposed to a mere collection of white flowers.
These are not rules, only suggestions, and even these are there to be broken. Once you become aware of colour, dashing and outrageous schemes will present themselves: try them out by picking a bunch of flowers in a certain colour, sticking them in the ground where you are thinking of moving them to, and standing back to consider the effect. Just remember, as every flower arranger knows, that warm or hot colours (red, orange, bright yellow) advance and cool colours (blue, green) retreat; so, especially in a small garden, strong colours are best placed near the house end, to increase the effect of distance, and cooler shades further away.