Color rules

Over the weekend I read this post on Garden Rant that caused a runaway train of thought about color. (Here’s hoping it doesn’t cause a wreck.)


Zinnia ‘Zowie’ breaks rules all by itselfI think we all have a special relationship with color. For some people bright colors are almost physically painful; for others, flash orange equals love. There have been studies that show that colors can affect people similarly. For example, yellow is invigorating, green calms and orange causes hunger pangs. And there are common associations like pink is for girls while blue is for boys. (Why?? Does anyone know how that one started??) And then there’s color theory: cool colors recede and warm colors advance; complementary colors vibrate in contrast while near neighbors on the color wheel blend in harmony. But there can be no universal rule for how you choose to color your world. When I moved into my house the living room ceiling was purple. That could be the pinnacle of coziness for some people but since I’m not one of them, I repainted. One gardener’s dazzling combination is another one’s toothache. Something that struck me in the Garden Rant article (by Michele Owens) was what she said about French Gardens. She said,

Combinations of orange, blue-pink, and crimson seem to be popular. At Giverny, which I actually visited once while the tree roses were in bloom, these hot clashes are artful. In other gardens, possibly a sign of carelessness.”Gomphrena ‘Woodcreek Red, Orange and Rose’  (Globe amaranth)


To me, the only sign of carelessness in a garden is neglect.

With hundreds resources to choose from (books, magazines, public gardens, friends’ gardens), we can find a set of rules (or 10) that is particularly appealing and then once we come to the realization that our gardens are never going to be just like the coffee table book glossies (because no two gardens are ever alike), we can start breaking those rules and have a blast. Gardening is about coloring in your piece of the earth and whether you use all the shades of green in the box Greens in the Idea Beds:  Thalictrum, Kirengeshoma and Hakonechloaor Rose Garden combo:  Rosa ‘Carefree Delight’, Heliotrope and Zinnia ‘Profusion’ Deep Apricotpink, orange, and purple in concert; whether you stay in the lines or bust out, the important thing is that your garden pleases you most of all.