Lipstick Gardens

What’s red and pink and orange all over? A lipstick garden, of course.

Gardens filled with reds, pinks, and corals are bright and beautiful – and just like lipstick on a beautiful woman, they can give the landscape a certain zing.

There are really no rules here. Pick your favorite shades and build your garden from there. I like mixing colors, but you could easily color-block sections of your garden. Think of using these colors to create shape in your garden just as lipstick outlines a shape on the face.

For early blooms, there is nothing like tulips. Yes, the deer love them – if you have deer, plan to grow your tulips in containers out of their reach; if not, go crazy in the fall and plant the bulbs in abundance. This is a decision you won’t regret in the springtime.

Planting all one color is pretty, but why not mix the red and pink? 

If you need a bit more variety, toss in a few yellows as a third color. Remember, the green stems and leaves will temper the strong red and deep pink colors and brighten softer pinks and peaches.

Perennials that can create height and color in the lipstick garden include coneflowers and bee balm. Both will grow in full sun to partial shade, reaching 18 inches in height. Don’t be afraid to plant red bee balm next to or near pink coneflowers. 

Zinnias are an annual that will provide lots of color, and taller varieties can match or surpass the height of the bee balm. A tall mixed-color zinnia patch is stop-and-stare beautiful. The hot colors don’t lose their intensity under the August sun.

That’s the trick of mixing colors –  determining hot and cool colors, then keeping with that theme. Think of it as mixing paint. Start with a pure pink; as you add yellow the pink begins to warm to a peach or coral shade. To create a cool pink, you would slowly add blue, creating more fuchsia and hot pink. 

Warm reds and warm pinks will mix effortlessly. The same is true for cooler colors. Deep reds have the oomph to stand with strong cool pinks. So, pick your color temperature and mix away.

Dianthus and coreopsis are not quite as tall, reaching 8-10 inches and are good when you need lower-profile plants. Annuals, such as impatiens and 4 o’clocks come in all shades of reds, pinks, and corals. They make a lovely garden border and also work well in containers.

Speaking of containers, maybe your lipstick garden is featured in containers or window boxes. Don’t forget geraniums, Gerber daisies, and petunias. All come in a rainbow of colors to coordinate with a hot or cool color scape. 

If your area is shady, look at Astilbe or bleeding hearts; both can add colors to a partly shaded area.  

Oh, there is a lipstick plant. Because it is native to the tropics, it is most often grown as a houseplant. The plants cascading leaves will produce red tubular flowers when given bright light and a humid environment.

If only the phrase lipstick garden originated with me. When I read the garden description, it immediately created a mental picture. Reds, pinks, and corals blending together, attracting pollinators who love the bright colors and garnering second glances from those who pass by.  

A creative gardener could use the fashion cycle and create a changing lipstick garden. Soft pastels in the early spring, changing to brighter colors in the summer, then a pallet of deeper fall hues, and finally ending with holly berries and the colors of the holidays when red lips are always in fashion.

I enjoy mixing colors, breaking the rules, and creating a personalized look. 

Experiment and have fun with colors. If you are timid, annuals are a way to break the rules and find your personality before committing to season after season of perennials. It doesn’t matter if your garden is feminine or masculine; a lipstick garden with its mix of colors can be seductive to pollinators and gardeners.