It’s quite a responsibility being the only person in the family with good taste. Today’s blog will serve to demonstrate this fact admirably.
As in life I always strive to create cameos of understated charm and harmony in the garden; Elaine’s patch generally looks like she’s employed Prue Leith as a colour consultant and TBH Caroline is just delighted to get anything to grow, no matter what the colour scheme.
Being more of a botanist than a gardener doesn’t mean I can’t spot pleasing colour combination of plants when I see them.
Recent trips to Oxford Botanic Gardens have thrown up several delightful partnerships which I’d like to emulate. The first is a simple mix of two related species to create a synergy in which they both look prettier than when grown alone.
Next it was some sultry foliage bringing some drama to a rose.
Pairing a good strong colour with white is about as daring as I like to go with my colour combinations and of course you need to plan for them to be in flower concurrently, and I saw another great example at Oxford.
That’s it for the stylish choices as it’s over to my sisters now. Elaine is bound to bring up the dreaded colour wheel, and I’m afraid that having to look at some of Caroline’s random combinations, (it’s her Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ against the vermilion rose in our feature pic 🤮) would keep me awake at night.
‘Good taste’, Laura? More like ‘dreary conformity’. The problem is that Laura’s never learnt to live a little. A garden without contrast and juxtaposition is a garden without character or drama to my mind.
I am as guilty as anyone of buying lovely plants on impulse (Laura has Olympic medals in it, by the way). But once I’ve got my prize home, I ponder very carefully about where it should go in the garden with regard to colour. Will it combine or contrast pleasingly with existing plant-tones? Or grate with them, setting my teeth on edge? Brick-red with knicker-pink….shudder-worthy. Royal-blue and peach……mmm, it works.
The colour-wheel is used extensively by photographers, interior designers and professional garden designers alike. There is a lot of theory based on it but basically using adjacent colours creates a harmonious ‘tasteful’ effect, while a combo of opposite colours (‘cool’ and ‘hot’ shades) wakes everyone up.
I prefer to trust my own eyes and reactions – you don’t have to have a wheel to clarify the colour effects you like. Why not steal an idea from good old Vita Sackville-West and carry a few flowers from one plant and try them in a vase or as a bunch in various places against other plants?
Let me show you what I mean:
Orange with pink – a combo that may give you a pain behind the eyes
But put orange against sea-green, and something rather lovely happens.
All this will be WAY above Caroline’s head, whose idea of subtle garden colour theory is neatly summed up with a pic of her favourite sunflower ‘Magic Roundabout’ – I ask you.
Heavens’ sake, Elaine sounds more like a London branding agency than a hobby gardener.
What’s the matter with plonking a plant in where there’s a space and seeing what happens? If it looks ghastly (and here, I’ll see Elaine’s clashing roses and raise her my Rudbeckia and Rosa ‘Meteor’), well just make a note to move it in the Autumn. It’s not hard.
If I had to agree with either of them though, I’d go with Elaine’s approach rather than Laura’s dreary botanical preferences (if a plant turns out to be gaily colourful in Laura’s garden you know it’s on its way to Room 101).
So, developing Elaine’s theory, which has apparently taken her 40 years to research, and me literally minutes, my top tip would be to get some lime green going.
It’s the perfect foil for almost every other colour – I’m thinking Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii; or hostas, say, ‘Velvet Moon’, or what about Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’ or, unless you’re a snob like my sisters, go for good old Alchemilla mollis, it’s the most brilliant foil – in the garden or vase.
Even slightly icky plants (colour-wise) which in my book include Forsythia and Diascia personata undergo a Cinderella-like transformation against a lime-green backdrop.
Note Bene: this doesn’t work so well for your wardrobe. Lime green will render you more Shrek than Cinderella, but dotting it around your garden gives you free rein to carry on plonking with style!
Louise always knows which plants go well together and has some suggestions for what to pair with her Great Plant this Month. Click on the box below to find out more.
More NB Elaine’s excited about a new addition to her Normandy garden – find out what it is here.
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It’s been great to get a good few orders coming through for our shop this week. Being smaller, our stocks are generally still at last year’s prices – it’s proving popular with canny shoppers!