I love color, it makes me happy. A new dress, a new throw pillow or a new bloom in the latest “it” color of the season brightens my day.
An “it” color for plants? Of course! Take one walk through the local nursery or a peek at a favorite plant catalog and you will notice the colors trending in fashion magazines are also trending for plants. Gardening, design and fashion have been intertwined for centuries.
What we learn from the design and fashion world can be applied to our garden, including working with the textures, accessories and colors of the moment.
Think about your closet and how you get dressed in the morning. You pick a color palette (all black doesn’t count — it’s spring). You decide to wear solids, prints or a combination of both. Then you pick an accent, which could be a color, jewelry, necktie or crazy socks.
These same principles apply to the garden. You pick a color palette — think of this as a solid or a pattern. Solids could translate to a monochromatic look. A white flower bed would reflect the moonlight and provide a calm elegant background for evenings spent in your garden.
Plants with white blooms include lily of the valley, tulips, vinca, yarrow and petunias. There are white roses and hydrangea, delphiniums and calla lilies. The white combined with the green leaves will create a stunning spot for you to relax.
Just as your wardrobe needs accessories, your flower bed needs a focal point. In the white garden, this could be a beautiful glazed planter full of delicate greenery, or a bird feeder placed among the blooms.
You might even want to add a single shot of color, perhaps a bench or garden obelisk in Ultra Violet, this year’s “it” color according to Pantone. This focal point will give your eye somewhere to rest and help you notice the beauty of the entire area.
If you’re the person who wears bright colors and mixes patterns without abandon, then a white garden may not be for you. Maybe a bed of warm colors is more your personality.
I have oodles of pink cone flowers (the deer haven’t touched them yet), blackberry lilies and yellow coreopsis in my sunny perennial bed.
I also recommend planting zinnias. They are easy to grow from seed and come in several bright colors. Look for different types, and consider experimenting with the tall variety. They are a showstopper. Regardless of which you plant, you’ll be happy to have them later in the summer for cut flower bouquets.
When it comes to color, I disagree with the “less is more” theory and tend to plant with the “more is more” theory. Yet, I still try to create a sense of balance. In my sunny bed, I do this through a soft border of greenery such as mondo grass.
These warm colors will create energy in your garden, but don’t forget about the cool tones. Blue is a tough color to find in the plant world. Options for a cool bed include Russian sage, lamb’s ear and small blue spruce shrubs. I have a butterfly bush that produces beautiful lavender blooms every year, and it’s fun to see the butterflies swirling about the garden.
Of course, not all color has to come from garden beds. I love big pots loaded with plants placed near seating areas to create a lush look. Think of this as wardrobe layering. Containers are an easy way to make you look like an expert. Pick your favorite colors and remember to water them often, and friends will be wowed by your green thumb.
Shade beds are a bit trickier when it comes to color. I find is easiest to play with different hues of green in the deepest shade and hope for enough light to get a bit of color around the borders with plants such as astilbe, heuchera (coral bells) and pulmonaria (lungwort). This is also where I have pots of ferns and, as my focal point, a wind chime hanging from a low tree branch.
In my garden, the beds are backed by a picket fence, which helps to ground the setting. Let’s think of it as the sensible shoes of my garden. The fencing came along about the same time as my pup, and it was a pleasant surprise how the backdrop helped define the space.
Spring fashion is always welcome after a long winter. I feel the same about the spring garden. Color creeps into my wardrobe and into my garden. As we lose the heavy layers of winter dressing, the garden loses the heavy cover of winter leaves and mulch to welcome spring.
Jane Powell is a long-time West Virginia Extension Service Master Gardener through the Kanawha County chapter and has a garden with sunny spots and shady beds where she grows perennials, vegetables and herbs. She is also the communications director for a community foundation and a volunteer with several nonprofits in the community. Reach Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org.