When you first started gardening did you think about colour? I didn’t. Instead I was focused on the how-to, and most of the time was spent asking my mother questions about the basics – how to plant, water, feed, weed, mulch and prune. Much, much later I started to think about how I wanted things to look, and that’s where I encountered Colour Fear, (the caps are intentional.)
This is where I’ll be blunt. Somewhere along the line most gardeners come into contact with the notion that it’s very easy to get colour all wrong, that we’ll innocently plant a bunch of stuff, they’ll pop into flower and bingo, it will clash and the failure will be public.
The solution to this is supposedly simple. We should pour over planting plans of famous gardens and slavishly copy them. Or we can apply the hard ‘n fast Cool Colour and Hot Colour rule. I am rolling my eyes at this point because I think it’s sad to limit the fun to this, planting blue, white and pink together OR orange, red and yellow. No wonder some people bow out altogether and fill their gardens only with white flowers. (They probably also only wear black to make fashion co-ordination easier.)
So here’s my take; 1. there is no wrong colour combination, no wrong clashing. And; 2. colour is fun to play with and the result feeds our store of happiness. I’ll try to show you what I mean with some pics. The one above shows how colour – a shocking mish-mash of them – transformed one of my home town’s city streetscapes at an event held a year or so ago. If strong colour combinations are that dreadful, why were more than a thousand people standing in a crush below these buildings oooh and ahhing?
Or what about this gorgeous arrangement I snapped at one of the garden shows? Whoever put this together had the sense to let every rose be a part and the result hits you in the chest like no carefully edited arrangement could.
If you go by the Colour Rules, this is soooo wrong. But amazingly, instead it’s sooo good. Who knows what will work unless you give it a go and if you like it, keep it and repeat it.
Take a look at these tulips. Mother Nature doesn’t seem to be frightened about the risk of getting colour wrong: another example where brave combinations look fantastic.
Now my taste doesn’t run to what I call luxe, which is why when I saw this display at a peony garden near Matsue Japan, it took me a while to appreciate it. Of course the flowers themselves were astonishing, but it was the combination of colours – pink, burgundy and gold – that were bravely fantastic.
And finally, maybe play around with colour in the garden using more than just plants. This is a custom bench in one of our landscapes which we surrounded with the same colours in flowering plants.