Garden Designers Roundtable: Color in the garden!

Garden Designers Roundtable: Color in the garden!

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most.”

John Ruskin

Color is the first thing that draws us to a garden. Brilliant blossoms call from across a yard, or stop us in our tracks while driving through a neighborhood. We are drawn to color, to vibrancy. But color can also be used subtlety, to convey mood, depict feeling, or simply to display whimsy.

Let’s take a look at just a few colors, their uses and the messages they convey.

Blue, conveys tranquility and harmony. The blossoms of Geranium ‘Rozanne’ provide a pleasant and peaceful face in the garden.

Geranium 'Rozanne'

White, silver and gray provide a neutral backdrop for more riotous color, and can appear other worldly during the evening hours in a garden on a full moon.

Stachy byzantina 'Helen von Stein'

Yellow is Cheerful and happy, and brightens the spirit, as these Swamp Sunflower do against the autumn color of Spirea.

Helianthus 'Gold Lace'

Red is the color of passion! Rich and full, it quenches the soul.

The deep red tones of Boston City Hall Pavers are matched well with the green and chartruese of Lady's Mantle

Of course within all these colors are many hues and tones, each of which changes the feeling of the original, giving the artist/gardener a wide palette with which to convey a message. And when a designer is able to call upon the colors of the garden’s surroundings and match them within, the garden is forever tied to its place.

The red leaves of the Japanese mapple in the background are echoed nicely by the blossoms of Miscanthus and Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

We’ve touched on just a few colors and their uses here, and now I’d like to hear from you, and how you use color in your garden. What are your favorites and what moods do they evoke for you? Leave a comment!

I’ll see you out in your colorful garden!


Please remember to visit my fellow Garden Designers Roundtable bloggers, who are also discussing color. Their links are below, Enjoy!

30 thoughts on “Garden Designers Roundtable: Color in the garden!

  1. Ooooh, that was a close one, Scott—I almost took this approach to my post today, too! I think it’s really interesting how color affects one’s emotions, can set a mood, and evoke memories. You’ve got a great conversation starter here!

    1. Whew, thank goodness we didn’t wear the same outfit to this event! 😉 I agree, using color to affect the senses is a powerful tool.

  2. Scott,

    A nice overview of how color affects us in ways we don’t even realize. I find I am drawn to yellow- leafed conifers in gardens, althought I don’t particularly like yellow flowers (go figure!). I was driving down a street today that I drive down several times a week and noticed a bright yellow 20′ Chamaecyparis that must have always been there but somehow I had not ‘seen’ it before. And I did stop my car to get a better look. It was such a colorful surprise, I’m already looking forward to catching a glimpse of it again soon.

    1. Thanks Debbie! Interesting, your attraction to yellow, and I agree. Chamaecyparis ‘Melody’ and ‘Limerick’, are two of my favorites.

  3. Lovely photos and discussion, Scott… I’m particularly taken with the color echo of the maple with the grass flowers and the Sedum blooms. Also love the chartreuse Lady’s Mantle with the pavers. Very nice…

    1. Thanks Gen! Wish I could say I planned the Miscanthus and Red Maple pairing, but sometimes things work well without planning. That Lady’s Mantle has always been a favorite of mine.

  4. That spirea-sunflower combo really does say fall to me. I can almost smell burning leaves and hear the high school band practicing.

    I enjoyed your take on color, Scott—how it provokes an emotional response. Color evokes such strong emotions; just think how often you’ve heard someone say that they hate a particular color. Maybe garden designers have to be good psychologists too.

    1. I love that Spirea/Helianthus combo also Pam. I stopped many times while passing it last fall just to enjoy it. Wouldn’t that be something, hanging out a shingle as a garden designer/psychologist, Hmmm… Thanks for the comments!

  5. This is great, Scott! I absolutely love your combo of blue-green/chartreuse Alchemilla with red pavers, and I’m making a mental note to steal that idea as soon as feasibly possible. 😉

  6. Wonderful job , Scott. Color certainly does evoke strong emotions. Did ja know for instance that the reason the Chinese use red in their restaurants is that it stimulates your appetite ? Imagine what it does in the garden.

  7. I always loved Gertrude Jekyll’s designs and how she used color, from “hot” to “cool.” Unfortunately I’m a “plunk a plant here because it’s an open space” kind of gardener and have absolutely no sense of style. If anything looks good in my garden, it was purely by accident! haha

    1. Hi Ceara, if you’re a fan of Gertrude Jekyll, then I would say you have some sense of style. Ultimately we all love to “plunk a plant here because it’s an open space”, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t, you just have to keep plunking! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Scott

  8. You had me at Geranium ‘Rozanne’! And I LOVE silver foliage in the garden at night – I have a few lighting effects tricks that can make these plants even more spectacular. I think we must be color kindred spirits.

    1. Actually Susan, I was thinking of you when I posted the pic of ‘Rozanne’, since we had just tweeted about it. I would love to hear about your lighting tricks… blog post? Agreed, color kindred spirits, separated by a common country! Thanks for the comments!

  9. I weep! I moan! I can’t use so many of the beautiful plants you pictured! And you beautifully used the ONE plant I would trade an aloe in to be able to use – Alchemilla mollis. This has been my unrequited plant crush FOREVER and it just sucks in my garden. So does Stachys – down here it blooms as soon as the temps rise and looks ratty. Boo!
    Your post gave me a pain with all of it’s beauty! I want to do what you do! With the plants you use! Okay now I’m just being whiney.
    Thanks for the broken heart!

    1. Poor Germi, I am beside myself with guilt! 😉 I love that Alchemilla as well, and am finding more and more clients who do also. Have you seen the smaller leaved form, Alchemilla erythropoda? Another stunner as well! The Stachys flowers very little here, just enough for a treat. They are a high maintenance plant, but worth the effort! Thanks for the comments!

  10. Great post, Scott! Oh, how I wish we could grow Lady’s Mantle here in California…it’s just too darn hot and dry. What beautiful images you’ve included..and you’ve included some of my very favorites (I’m a huge swamp daisy fan…partly because I like growing anything in my dry garden that has the word ‘swamp’ in it)…

    1. Thanks Rebecca! That lady’s mantle sure is popular. I love the swampy things too, although the downside here in the east is mosquitoes! As I write this in fact we are receiving another drenching, which will insure the success of the Helianthus, but limit the time we will be able to sit outside and enjoy it this season.

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