Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
May, 2009
Regional Report

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Blue and yellow, opposites on the color wheel, make an amazing color combination.

Time for Color!

At this time of year, with all the flowers just getting ready to burst forth, we are reminded of how important color is in our lives and gardens. We've enjoyed the somber, subtle colors of winter and now it's time for a riot of carnival brightness. This is a great time to start observing flower color as it appears, and learn how to incorporate it effectively into your garden.

Color is one of the most personal aspects of our lives, from what we wear, to the color of car we buy to what we grow in our gardens. And, especially in gardens, no color stands alone. Colors affect and are affected by the shades of the house walls, fences, trees, shrubs and other colors in flowers.

Warm Colors
Warm colors such as yellow, orange and red give the garden a feeling of excitement, exuberance and assertiveness. They tend to come forward in the landscape, so can easily provide accents, especially for long-distance viewing. It's important to site them carefully as they tend to overpower if used too extensively. Also keep in mind that you can use whites to soften the strong colors.

Cool Colors
Cool colors such as blue, green, purple and pink offer a soothing, calming, relaxing feel to the landscape and garden. These colors are recessive so are best used for close viewing in masses. They can help make small spaces look larger but tend to disappear the further one gets from them.

Pastel and Dark Colors
Pale, pastel colors such as lavender, peach and cream are best used in dark areas, up close to the viewer, and dark colors such as mahogany, purple-black and navy put on their best show in strong, full sun. If you use them in shade, accent them with white or silver to set them apart.

Believe it or not, yellow reflects more light than any color except white. Use bright yellow with oranges and reds where it can hold its own, and tuck pale yellow blossoms in a shady spot to add warmth.

Red is a little hard to define. It comes in the pink-red of rose campion, orange-red of annual geraniums, and true red of a Mister Lincoln rose. Although some of the shades can be hard to combine, always remember the white accent. Also, don't forget about red foliage. Nothing is more beautiful than the marbled red of a barberry accented with yellow blossoms, or the purple-red leaves of a Purple Cloak smokebush.

Blues come in every shade imaginable from true blue of salvia to purple-blue of iris and pale blue of flax flowers. All shades mix beautifully with pinks and yellows.

Don't forget to include white as a color. It blends all other colors and is useful to separate colors that don't quite go together. Dark areas are brought forward with white and the entire garden becomes a unified whole when white and silver are used to tie everything together.

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