Colour in the garden – what a challenge!  I have been a fan of Christopher Lloyd for a few years now and my copy of Colour for adventurous gardeners is well thumbed  However, getting it right isn’t that easy and what is right anyway?!  As Chistopher says in his introduction many gardeners worry about colour and about getting it right so it is easier to go for something harmonious and be seen as having good taste.  In my garden, which I only really started to plant up 2 years ago, there is one bit which I am quite pleased with but I suspect it falls into the category of safe

I like this area as it is firstly lush with a mixture of foilage and the colours are subtle, shades of purple, going through into pale yellow with the reddish Knautia lifting everything.  There are sea hollies to appear yet and more yellows.

But I also have some brightly coloured flowers in the garden and sadly I find myself looking at them and not feeling the same way.




The three pictures above show some of my louder plants at the moment.  The orange in the top right and the bottom picture is from Geums.  These are nice enough but sprawl around alot and flop over over things so are begging to be pull out!  In the top right the tall plant behind the Geum is an Inula hookeri which is meant to have yellow daisy flowers.  I havent grown this before so I’m not too sure what the flowers will be like.  Just out of the photo to the right is a Ligularia with beautiful bronze foilage, which will have orangey yellow flowers in a month or two.  I like the strong foilage but there is something wrong in this border and I wonder if its the Salvia which is too pastel and detracts from the others, its abit like a full stop.  I am toying with pulling it up (I have others in the garden) and maybe moving the Galliardia (top left) into its place but then this may cause the other oranges, red and yellow to become too bland, maybe I need a strong purple instead of the pale Salvia.  I really dont know. I also wonder if it is the time of the year.  In spring it is refreshing and uplifting to see the bright tulips and daffodils.  We often see red, yellows, oranges etc all together and because these are the first real flowers of the year we are pleased to see them and their merriness lifts our spirits and we look forward to the summer.  However now in June, maybe the eye needs something more soothing, restful and I suppose if we ever had any heat the cooler colours would make the garden feel more cooling.

There is part of me that wants to rip out all the bright colours and play safe but there is part of me that enjoys the challenge. I think I am beginning to develop a taste and style that suits me, up until now I have been so enthusiastic about growing things, particularly from seed, that I have grown everything and anything …………….

and then wondered where to put them.  Now having acquired a greenhouse and with improved success rates I am beginning to find myself becoming more choosey about what I grow.  I am really interested in contrasting foilage and trying to have interest from this more than the flowers.  I do like the flowers, dont get me wrong, but I think deep down in side no matter how brave I like to think I am I actually prefer the purples, blues, pale yellows etc. 

I love the pictures in Christopher Lloyds book and also Sarah Raven’s garden but I do wonder if the scale of their plantings helps to carry off the colour as well.  It is more successful to do strong contrasts where you can plant in bold groups than one of this and one of that.  Well I will mull this over during the summer and decide what to do – maybe this is just an excuse to acquire more plants!!!





5 Comments on “Colour

  1. Most of what we do as gardeners is trial and error and learning as we go. I think it takes a while to find our own style. So we move and pull out and replant. Then one day-we’ve got it. Just the look we were going for. Maybe we never quite get there, but it’s sure fun trying.

  2. I also have the two books you mention – and find it hard to do bold colours successfully. There is nothing restful about them 🙂
    I think what you say about scale is probably true.
    I do enjoy the textures that you have in your garden

  3. Hello,

    It’s at Mottisfont Abbey, Mottisfont, Hampshire.

    Next week you might be interested to peek at some photos I took in Sarah Raven’s garden last Saturday. The beds aren’t that big, and yet the amount of colour is amazing. The garden is made up of a series of small rooms which follow the hill up towards the house in terraces, with several small beds dissected by paths within them.

    I think it is hard to be bold with vibrant colours, our instinct is for harmony, whereas ‘clashes’ and a hot vibrancy are what we need. Did you see Gardener’s World last night? There was another fabulous example of such a planting in a Cornish garden on the program. I suspect its available on iPlayer if you missed it.

    Best Wishes,


  4. I must say I prefer bold, clashing loud colours. This year’s Chelsea was quite depressing to me – all that green and white harmony, far too tasteful 🙂

  5. Hi Beckie – I think you are right about it taking time to find our style. I visited a garden yesterday with a lovely white garden but found myself drawn to the bolder colours in another bed and I wasnt alone.

    Hi Karen – I know what you mean about bold colours being jarring but I think if they are done well they arent and that is what I want to try to achieve.

    Hi Zoe – yes I saw GW and found the bold garden really interesting. I think I have cracked harmonious planting and now see the bold colours as a challenge

    I agree easygardener I also found the green and white abit boring.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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