Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
July, 2008
Regional Report

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These magnificent delphiniums simply reinforce blue as my favorite color (for this year, anyway).

Color in the Garden

We all remember being asked what our favorite color was as a child, and often that initial favorite doesn't change, although as adults we learn to appreciate all the hues and shades of our adored blue or fuchsia. Color is perhaps the most personal aspect of a garden.

We also learn that no color stands alone. Every color is affected by the colors around it, from the other blossoms in the garden to the house walls, the nearby shrubs, and even the mulch beneath.

Warm Colors
When designing a flower garden we tend to group colors into the warm shades and cool shades. Warm colors such as yellow, orange, and red come forward in the garden and exude a feeling of excitement, exuberance, and assertiveness. The strength of these colors can overpower so it's important to use them carefully. They work beautifully as accents and for long-distance viewing. Picture a 6-foot-tall perennial hibiscus with bright red blossoms a foot across at the back of a flower border. You can't get much more dramatic than that.

Cool Colors
The cool colors of blue, purple, and pink are soothing, calming, and relaxing. They recede from view so they perform their best when used for close viewing. They tend to make small spaces look larger so they are quite at home in the small urban garden. A ground cover of the bluest forget-me-nots makes one want to linger.

Pale and Dark Shades
Pale colors are best used in dark areas somewhat close to the viewer since they tend to bleach out in bright, sunny spots. Dark colors, though, are strong in full sun. They can be used in shadier sites if offset with white or silver.

Yellow reflects more light than any color except white so it will tend to dominate. Use bright golden yellows with orange or red for drama, and put pale lemony blossoms in the shade for warmth.

The intense pink-red of rose campion is a perfect companion to silver and pale yellow, and the bright orange-red of Maltese cross looks best with deep purples such as May night salvia. Don't forget the possibilities of red foliage, such as smoke tree and alternanthera.

Blue and Purple
Blues combine beautifully with most colors, especially pinks, light yellow, and cream. Purple is so strong that it is absolutely the best companion for orange, a color that can be quite difficult to design with.

White and Silver
Although we tend to discount white and silver as not really being colors, they are perfect for blending other colors, for separating colors that don't quite work well together, and for bringing a feeling of wholeness to the garden. White blossoms are the essence of a night garden. Liberally sprinkle your garden with white and silver and you will have an extraordinary tapestry that will delight and soothe.

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Today's site banner is by Marilyn and is called "Salvia regla 'Royal'"