Garden Colour Issues

Gardening magazines - for months I'll avoid reading them, lest a well-aimed article trigger a crisis of confidence. Straight-from-the-heart gardeners can be so sensitive! The very best garden writers seem to speak personally to me, and sometimes they tell me off - nicely, of course. This time it's my dodgy concept of colour (or lack of concept) that's the problem.

Don't get me wrong - it's time I had a bit of a shade shake-up. The article in Fine Gardening was really, really good. Interesting, delightfully applicable, informative, and friendly. Honestly, you should read it! But possibly not first thing on a slow autumn morning, if you're an over-analytical, uber-sensitive, woolly-headed gardener, sleepily planning your gardening day.

A Colourful Mess

Colour Issues

It all made such good sense, the way the author thought about and used colour. He wasn't welded to the colour wheel, or stuck in a single-colour garden fashion fix. He made colour choices, and that's something I just don't do. I have colour issues.

In My Early Gardening Days...

In my early gardening days I did try. I'd choose some complimentary colours for a new garden, pick a green leaf hue, make a list of suitable flowering shrubs to span the seasons, and so on. Off I'd go to the nursery, feeling very virtuous.

Hmm... Back I'd come, sheepish, having rescued a dozen anonymous little rhododendrons from the half-price and pot-bound table. The colour-themed garden would be thrown onto the compost heap, and the new development swiftly renamed the 'Rhododendron Garden'. In they'd all be popped, dear wee plants, to jostle each other - a hotch-potch of ill-matched colourful adolescents five years later. If it wasn't for the spring carpet of pale blue-forget-me-nots, providing at least some colour continuity...

 See what I mean?
Rescued Rhododendrons

The writer had created a totally new pond, just because he'd fallen in love with pink water lilies, which just wouldn't 'go' with the colour scheme of his existing water feature. This is a wonderful excuse for a new pond, in my book. I can learn from this gardener, I thought to myself, as I wandered dreamily over to the house for that first cup of morning coffee. Unfortunately my route took me past one of the most erratically colourful house borders in my garden.

Grateful to Self-Seeders

Oh dear. I've always made the design 'mistake' of feeling eternally grateful to self-seeding plants. Thanks to their generosity my early autumn garden is often chock-full of flowery things. But colourwise I couldn't have planned it worse. Lilac cosmos, scarlet dahlias (plus the odd magenta rebel), indigo-blue salvias, some garish yellow daisies, and a subtle mulberry angelica were all there, underneath Mutabilis, the oldest rose in the garden. It was flowering, with pink and salmon hues, which certainly matched the Angelica, but little else.

 See what I mean?
Colours in the House Border

Aargh! That insipid lilac cosmos is spoiling my colour scheme. No, no - it's the scarlet dahlias. But both these plants have chosen to bloom and grow here. They have chosen me. Aww..... Whereas I chose the striped Canna lilies (both green-yellow and red-orange-green varieties), and the cherry-red rose La Marseillaise, and that other rose, a buff-apricot David Austin, to be garden-mates underneath a salmon and pink Mutabilis. What was I thinking?

Colour is just an amazing gift in a garden. I can treasure it, but I can't begin to control it. Maybe I don't ever want to? By the way, it is that Lilac Cosmos! But I haven't the heart to pull them out. Maybe nest summer I'll only allow the white ones...