For many, one of the most fun parts of gardening is the use of color. But getting it right can be tricky. It’s gratifying if you do and frustrating if you don’t.
Success is not achieved simply by choosing plants with an array of colors that appeal to you. To complement each other, the plants must bloom at the same time. What’s more, the size and shape of the flowers and how they contrast with surrounding plants matters as much as color. Add to this complicated equation plant heights and foliage shapes and texture and the whole process can feel overwhelming.
However, there are a few simple guidelines you can use to achieve coordinated floral compositions.
Start with simple concepts
Think of garden design in terms of simple concepts layered on top of one another, such as repetition and contrast. For example, you may want to repeat the same plants through the whole bed, from one end to the other.
Or you may want to add plants that contrast in color or height. Tall plants often have bare “legs” that need covering by smaller species.
Look for both complementary and contrasting colors and flower types. Choose at least some long-blooming plants and those that bloom into the fall. Plant them closely enough so that at maturity, their foliage will just touch.
With annual plantings, space plants about 10 inches apart. Use compost and some organic fertilizer like feathermeal for lush, healthy plants. Use mulch for weed control and to save water.
Visit gardens for good ideas
Most gardeners benefit from examples to help them generate ideas, even though color preferences are highly individual and there is no right or wrong.
Years ago, I attended a lecture given by two (now-late) English gardening greats, Christopher Lloyd of the garden Great Dixter