Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
December, 2011
Regional Report

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Pink Sweet Sixteen azalea flowers with blue brunnera blossoms reflect spring harmony and invite serenity.

The Flower Power of Color

We're emerging from the hustle-bustle season of red and green, displayed by the bountiful winter beauty of holly berries, cranberries, pine boughs and ivy vines.

There's more to this. It's the power of color. Red and green are opposite each other on the color wheel. The significance? Contrasting/complimentary colors create excitement. They're high energy combinations that stimulate the senses.

Red alone creates heat, high energy, impulsiveness, boldness, power. Think Valentine's Day passion, love, emotion. Red stirs people to want to touch, to get close. And to eat, which is why it's often used in restaurant decor.

Green, on the other hand, is pastoral, restful, harmonious, natural, fresh, reassuring, and bold. Together red and green create a vibrant energy flow like AC/DC current -- hot and intense versus quiet and peaceful.

We, as gardeners, create energy dynamics, knowingly or unknowingly. A collection of garish, oddly colored flowers can repulse the eye, then the body. Seeing such a display, I respond instantly without thought, as you likely do to. Visualize a poorly designed plant display at a garden center. For me, the mix of orange and red and chartreuse repels immediately. I turn and walk away. What combination annoys you?

Combine pink cosmos and purple salvia with a touch of white alyssum and I'm there, nose in the flowers anticipating fragrance. "Every day, color significantly impacts how we feel," says Faith Savage of Syngenta Flowers. Pink with purple "creates a very relaxing and comfortable environment," Savage explains.

"Pink is cheerful, delicate, flirtatious, feminine and ethereal," she says. "It's sweetness, innocence. It has a short-term, calming effect, and inspires positive feelings." Pink is the first color everyone wants to smell. So adding pink to the garden gives the illusion of scent, which enhances fragrance already there.

Purple, the color of royalty, suggests romance and stirs the imagination. It's spiritual, mysterious, contemplative, and elegant, says Savage. She suggests this diet tip: Place a bouquet of purple flowers on the dinner table. Purple suppresses appetite and helps lower blood pressure. (I'm willing to give this a try.)

White, Savage continues, reflects purity, innocence, cleanliness, precision. Crisp and elegant, white gives the impression of a well-organized, well-planned garden. As an accent, it sets off other colors. We gardeners appreciate how white brightens the landscape after sunset.

Yellow beckons us. Yellow daylilies, helianthus, forsythia, and snapdragons quickly catch our eyes and often make us smile. Yellow, as in sunshine, brings feelings of warmth, playfulness, happiness. It stimulates memory and a positive attitude, Savage says. A little yellow goes a long way. Best as an accent, yellow draws attention and creates movement.

Orange -- rich, subtle, nurturing, deep -- energizes and stimulates. Bright orange tithonia as accent is such a garden delight, especially when the blooms attract hummingbirds! Looking to increase sales? Orange encourages people to buy, says Savage. She likes orange flowers around a children's play area to create excitement and cheerfulness.

Planning the perfect garden party? Combine orange with red and yellow flowers to make your guests feel comfortable and nurtured, suggests Savage.

Blue, opposite orange on the color wheel, is easiest on the eye. Blue's restful, calming, reflective qualities make it ideal for a meditation garden and contemplative corner. Blue brunnera and forget-me-nots in spring and monkshood and rosemary flowers in autumn mesmerize me. Makes me wonder: would a blue-flowering "time-out" spot calm rambunctious children?

I'm eager to experiment. Do tell us about your experiences with the power of color.

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