Planting Colour in the Garden

QUICK COLOUR

When you are planning for quick colour remember that a small plot in a one-colour theme looks larger and better planned that a hotch-potch, so it is best to stick to pinks with blues or oranges with reds for a more co-ordinated look. On the other hand, if you are creating a ‘cottage-garden look’, you can use a wide variety of colours.

Many popular annuals come in several different forms. Half-hardy African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) make a patch of instant sunshine with their large, orange, pompon heads and range from dwarf to giant forms.

Cornflowers (Centaurea) are usually seen in bright blue but also come in pinks and whites; and love-in-a-mist (Nigella) can be found in pink and white as well as the usual dark mauve-blue. There are all sorts of new varieties of low-growing nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), some of them with double blooms. Look for the compact ‘Jewel Mixed’ if you do not want the plants to spread too far.

ORANGE

Hot and fiery orange is an exciting, vibrant colour, but use it sparingly or it will scream at you. It blends with yellow and should be interplanted with white-flowered plants to relieve the intensity. Orange, together with red, are assertive colours and a small small space can be made to look larger by planting flowers of this hue in the foreground, with blues at the farther end of the garden.

Some of the most striking border plants with flowers in this colour are day lily (Hemerocallis ‘Fandango’), lighting up summer from June to August; shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa ‘Tangerine’), a shrub spreading to 600 mm (2 ft) that flowers from May to November; Berberis linearifolia. ‘Orange King’, a robust shrub that grows about 1.8 m (6 ft) high, but is a little on the upright, gaunt side, so is best positioned in a corner; and deciduous azaleas, especially ‘Gibraltar’, ‘Gloria Mundi’ ‘Peter Koster’, and ‘Klondyke’. These look superb in front of a deep green hedge or clumps of evergreens such as Cotoneaster lacteus and Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata).

Other dashes of orange are contributed by Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Emily MacKenzie’, whose glowing heads of bloom are borne from July to September among sheaves of sword-shaped leaves. The euphorbias also have an orange-flowered member in the form of E. griffithii ‘Fireglow’, at its most colourful from May to June. Gaillardias with their bright, daisy blooms from June to September are vital to the summer beauty of an herbaceous border and orange-flame G. grandiflora ‘Mandarin’ associates well with the scarlet of red-hot pokers (Kniphofta).

Orange is also well represented among the bedding plants, particularly by the marigolds. Specially fine are the African varieties (Tagetes erecta), such as ‘Superjack Orange’, large flowers on 600 mm (2 ft) stems, ‘Inca Orange’, and ‘Gay Ladies’. The French dwarf doubles (T. patula) include ‘Orange Boy’, a beauty for edging, growing just 150 mm (6 in) high.

Lilies, enjoying light woodland shade and, ideally, the presence of small shrubs such as azaleas growing among them, are a delight. Or you can grow them in deep tubs. Orange-flowered varieties include ‘Prince Constantine’, with outward-facing petals, that blooms from June to July; and ‘Mrs R. O. Backhouse’, which also flowers then and is remarkable for producing up to 30 beautiful blooms on a strong pyramidal stem.

YELLOW

We are lucky with yellows: Not only is there a vast choice of flowers in that colour, but there are many gold-leaved and gold or yellow variegated evergreens, too. A yellow border can be warmed by adding a touch of orange or cooled by introducing blue. White-flowered ‘dot’ plants relieve the intensity. An effective contrast is obtained by interplanting with purple flowers or shrubs, such as the purple-leaved smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’). Some yellow-flowered shrubs are happy in shade, and the free-flowering Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’, a blaze of gold in early spring, will brighten a gloomy corner. So will a planting of winter aconites, especially the larger flowered Eranthis ‘Guinea Gold’, and all kinds of daffodils, including the diminutive Narcissus cyclamineus, a little charmer whose tiny trumpet blooms rise from a crown of swept-back petals. The yarrow makes a stately subject for the middle or back of a border. Try Achillea filipendulina ‘Gold Plate’; growing to 1.2-1.5 m (4- 5 ft), its broad flower-heads not only colour the garden from July to August, but can then be cut and dried for winter decoration. It looks superb in association with the taller blue delphiniums.

Other border plants valued for their cheering yellow hues are the deep-yellow tickseed Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Goldfink’, in bloom from summer to autumn; Kniphofia ‘Yellow Hammer’; leopard’s bane (Doronicum plantagineum ‘Spring Beauty’), prized for its neat, edging habit and double golden flowers; and Oenothera missourien-sis, a flamboyant trailing form with massive cup-shaped flowers from June to August.

Among bedding plants, Erysimum ‘Golden Gem’, an alpine wallflower for rock gardens, makes a vivid splash in early spring. As for Gazania ‘Mini-Star Yellow’, its bright, starry, daisy flowers shine up at us all summer long. There are also the rich yellow French or African marigolds (Tagetes) and the carpeting poached-egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii), whose profusion of blooms are white with rich butter-yellow centres.

RED

When planning a red scheme, combine it with coppery-leaved plants, such as the purple-leaved cobnut (Corylus maxima ‘Purpurea’), cutting the shrub back to a stump each winter to encourage a display of extra-large leaves. Or set red-flowered plants against a coppiced Pissard’s purple plum (Prunus pissardii).

There are a few reds to choose from early in the year, and we rely on tulips, especially the Tulipa greigii hybrids, such as scarlet ‘Red Riding Hood’, and the T. kaufmanniana beauties renowned for their big blooms.

As spring advances the rock rose (Helianthemum) makes a carpet of bloom, and scarlet ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘Mrs C. W. Earle’ light up sunny patches. They have a sprawling, creeping habit, so arrange them on banks or use them to clothe rock-garden outcrops where their charm can be seen to advantage.

In summer, the field widens. Crocosmias, day lilies (Hemerocallis) and roses make their debut. Break up these zones of scarlet with arching, green-leaved grasses. Most striking of these are the feathery plumed Pennisetum alopecuroides and Stipa pennata (feather grass). Scarlet combines beautifully with white and a bed of floribunda roses: brilliant red ‘Evelyn Fison’, for instance, looks magnificent if interplanted with ‘Iceberg’, the purest white.

Another exciting contrast is achieved when scarlet-flowered Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ or ‘Vulcan’ is planted close to the golden-leaved black-locust tree, Robina pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’.

There are many contenders for this colour in bedding plants, too, and a tub or trough of Pelargonium ‘Cherry Diamond’ or ‘Red Elite’ positioned against a white wall hints of the Mediterranean.

PINK

Tranquil and accommodating, pink is an ‘easy’ colour and there is a wide range of plants that provide it. Associating naturally with white, blending with red, and contrasting effectively with yellow, it reflects light well. Pink-flowered plants should be set against a dark, green background, such as a holly or yew hedge, or clumps of white-flowered hostas.

Pink looks well in tubs. Hydrangeas, such as ‘Europa’ and ‘Holstein’ (mophead kinds that bloom in late summer), stay compact and free-flowering when their roots are confined.

Among roses, coppery-pink ‘Albertine’, a robust rambler flowering in midsummer, makes a colourful backcloth and is ideal for clothing a chain-link fence or section of trellis. The floribunda ‘Dearest’, in salmon-pink, has a vigorous nature, grows about 750 mm (2-1/2ft) high, and looks well flanking a path or drive. The Bourbon roses are also well represented (with the bonus that most are sweetly scented). Finest are rich pink ‘La Reine Victoria’, whose exquisite cupped blooms are set against light green foliage; ‘Kathleen Harrop’, a beautiful shell-pink form of the bright carmine ‘Zephirine Drouhin’; and, most glorious of all, ‘Louise Odier’, deep rose-pink, and robust. All these flower in midsummer.

Border perennials with pink blooms include hybrids of the Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria ligtu), a sun-lover for a warm, wind-free border. In early summer, it becomes a mass of blooms.

Brightening spring and early summer are oriential poppies (Papaver orientate), especially ‘Mrs Perry’, which is pink with dark blotches, and the peonies, whose beautiful pink forms include ‘Edulis Superba’ and rose-scented ‘Lady Alexandra Duff.

Summer bedding annuals can be found in many pink shades: the corn-cockle (Agrostemma githago ‘Milas’) has large pink flowers and makes an impressive clump in the middle of a border; Cosmea ‘Sensation Mixed’ contains many powder-pink hues and it flowers for many weeks in summer; and lovely mallow Lavatera trimestris ‘Silver Cup’, with silver-pink blooms.

Right Dead-nettle (Lamium maculatum) adds a touch of floral pink to its ground-cover role, for which its attractive silver-splashed leaves are a boon. Rather aggressive, the plant may need to be curbed in smaller borders.

BLUE

An open, sunny situation is best for blue flowers: in light shade they absorb light and are difficult to see. Delphiniums, meconopsis and gentians contribute the purest blues, and generous beds of them, if possible backed with green-leaved shrubs or the tall, arching leaves of grasses and day lilies, can make a wonderfully relaxing show.

Blue associates pleasingly with yellow or white, and also with its close relatives in the spectrum – mauve, lavender, purple and violet.

Blue-flowered bulbs aplenty brighten early spring. Two of the most reliable are lobelia-blue Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’ and flax-blue grape hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum ‘Blue Spire’.

Among shrubs, Hydrangea serrata ‘Bluebird’, a lace-cap type, and its mophead cousin H. macrophylla ‘Generate Vicomtesse de Vibraye’, colour to a deep ultramarine-blue on acid soil. If your soil is neutral or limy, you can induce a colour change by treating the root area with a hydrangea colourant sold at garden centres, or by burying pieces of iron among the roots. Two late summer/early autumn flowering shrubs valued for their attractive blue flowers are the blue spiraea (Caryopteris ‘Ferndown’) and Hibiscus ‘Blue Bird’.

Summer would not be the same without a clump or two of rich blue African lilies, notably Agapanthus ‘Headbourne Hybrids’, which are ideal for borders or for tubs to enhance the patio. Among annuals, the glorious Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’ looks superb when inter-planted with ferny-leaved sea ragwort (Senecio cineraria), of which ‘Silver Dust’ is a fine dwarf form.

BLUE & PURPLE

Of blue-related colours, purple (like red and orange) is an extravagant colour and should be used in moderation – for instance, in small patches, or at the far end of the garden, or in combination with yellow, where its richness won’t appear to foreshorten the view. Among the most striking purple-flowered border perennials are Salvia nemorosa ‘Superba’, a mass of fetching spikes up to 1 m (3 ft) tall; Delphinium ‘King Arthur’, to 1.8m (6ft); and the purple cone-flower, Echinacea purpurea, to 1.8 m (6 ft). These light up the border in summer.

Violet-purple can be found in the ‘Hidcote’ variety of lavender, which grows some 600 mm (2 ft) high, and that choice little edger, lily turf (Liriope muscari), especially the cultivar ‘Majestic’, whose dense racemes of rounded flowers bloom in autumn.

WHITE & GREEN

White is indispensable: we use it to break up and tone down fierce orange, red and yellow flowers; to create a cool, single colour bed or border; to lighten a gloomy spot. The famous white border at Sissinghurst Castle (Kent) cleverly interposes silver- and grey-leaved plants between the flowers and the backing green-leaved hedge.

There is a tremendous choice of ‘whites’ and, by careful selection, it is often better to choose creamy rather than the starched ‘white’ forms as the former are more restful on the eye. There are white forms of most border plants – delphinium, campanula, dianthus, chrysanthemum, armeria, aster, kniphofia, iris and many others. Shrubs with white flowers are well represented, with magnolia, deutzia, philadelphus and viburnum.

Creamy white roses are a joy – but finding varieties resistant to black spot and other diseases can be difficult. Happily, the hybrid musks seldom let you down, and white-flushed lemon ‘Moonlight’ is sweetly scented.

There are plenty of white-flowered annuals. Pick from Ageratum ‘Spindrift’, Alyssum ‘Snow-drift’, Arctotis grandis, candytuft Iberis ‘White Spiral’, and Dianthus heddewigii ‘Snow Fire’.

Among bulbs we are spoilt for choice, with white-flowered tulip, narcissus, crocus, grape hyacinth (Muscari), hyacinth, and anemone.

Green-flowered plants have special charm and are best used on their own. Favourites among them are winter-flowering hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) and its spring-flowering cousin (H. corsicus). The euphorbias are a delight, too, with E. robbiae’s pea-green blooms enriching light shade in early spring. A plant popular with flower arrangers is the ‘Lime Green’ variety of the sweet-scented tobacco plant, Nicotiana alata. A bedding plant with a difference is bells-of-Ireland (Moluccella laevis), which is prized by flower arrangers for winter displays.

WHITE & GREEN

White is indispensable: we use it to break up and tone down fierce orange, red and yellow flowers; to create a cool, single colour bed or border; to lighten a gloomy spot. The famous white border at Sissinghurst Castle (Kent) cleverly interposes silver- and grey-leaved plants between the flowers and the backing green-leaved hedge.

There is a tremendous choice of ‘whites’ and, by careful selection, it is often better to choose creamy rather than the starched ‘white’ forms as the former are more restful on the eye. There are white forms of most border plants – delphinium, campanula, dianthus, chrysanthemum, armeria, aster, kniphofia, iris and many others. Shrubs with white flowers are well represented, with magnolia, deutzia, philadelphus and viburnum.

Creamy white roses are a joy – but finding varieties resistant to black spot and other diseases can be difficult. Happily, the hybrid musks seldom let you down, and white-flushed lemon ‘Moonlight’ is sweetly scented.

There are plenty of white-flowered annuals. Pick from Ageratum ‘Spindrift’, Alyssum ‘Snowdrift’, Arctotis grandis, candytuft Iberis ‘White Spiral’, and Dianthus heddezvigii ‘Snow Fire’.

Among bulbs we are spoilt for choice, with white-flowered tulip, narcissus, crocus, grape hyacinth (Muscari), hyacinth, and anemone.

Green-flowered plants have special charm and are best used on their own. Favourites among them are winter-flowering hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) and its spring-flowering cousin (H. corsicus). The euphorbias are a delight, too, with E. robbiae’s pea-green blooms enriching light shade in early spring. A plant popular with flower arrangers is the ‘Lime Green’ variety of the sweet-scented tobacco plant, Nicotiana alata. A bedding plant with a difference is bells-of-Ireland (Moluccella laevis), which is prized by flower arrangers for winter displays.

There are also green-flowered tulips and ‘Angel’, a Double Early Viridiflora variety, is yellowish white with apple-green petals.

19. June 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured, Garden Management, Top Tips | Comments Off on Planting Colour in the Garden

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