Create Unity in Your Garden with Color

Yellow-green foliage plants such as ‘Sun King’ aralia, ‘Ogon’ spirea, lemon verbena, variegated hosta, ‘Pink Frost’ anise, and ‘Twist of Lime’ abelia form a useful palette for creating pockets of color to lead the eye through a garden space. Here, the purple-green leaves of ajuga provide contrast.

If you love to buy plants just as much as I do, as the seasons pass your garden might be begin to look like a bit of a hodge podge, which is of course fine.  It is your garden, and as such it should be a judgement-free zone. Most of us, however, don’t want to see chaos when we look at our gardens. We crave a bit of order, a thread that seems to tie everything together. Landscape designers call this unity, and I think that one of the easiest ways to achieve this in your garden is with color. By simply repeating colors, either in foliage or flowers, you’ll create a pleasing garden space.

Copper, blue-green, and gray-green foliage make a pleasing color palette. Here the coppery new foliage of abelia ‘Canyon Creek’ and ‘Amber Queen’ epimedium contrast with the cool tones of zenobia, deodor cedar, and lambs ear. The apricot blooms of salvia ‘Sierra San Antonio’ will provide another hint of color as the weather heats up.

Putting Theory into Practice

Think back to a time when you visited a garden you enjoyed. What were you drawn to? Did you like the cool blue-green conifers, or maybe the vivid yellow-green of foliage plants in the shade borders? Did your heart beat faster walking along a hot border of red, orange, and yellow flowers, or were you more content sitting on a bench near a planting of white mop-head hydrangeas?

Euphorbia blooms change from acid green in early spring to tawny pink as they age. Repeat groupings of this evergreen perennial along a garden walk, for year-round interest anywhere you have well-drained soil.

Once you decide on a specific plant or bloom color to repeat in your garden space, do a little research and find out what might work in your area. A walk through the local botanical garden might help you do some brainstorming. The internet is also helpful, but I prefer the old school approach, paging through beautiful garden books from my local library.

The coppery new growth of autumn fern echoes the tawny tones in other parts of my garden.

Once you’ve found your inspiration, find a few places in your garden to use the color(s) you’ve chosen. In my Georgia garden I’ve used yellow foliage plants, such as ‘Sun King’ aralia to light up some parts of my garden. I find that yellow foliage shows up well in areas that tend to be a little shady in summer, and where I have damp areas, creeping jenny, provides a sunny puddle of yellow foliage.

‘Blue Spruce’ sedum echoes both the blue-green foliage of nearby plants and the yellow tones of plants in other parts of the garden.

In my backyard, along a pathway lined with the abelia ‘Canyon Creek’, I’ve used plants with blue-green or gray-green foliage, and flowers in shades of rose and apricot. These color tones look wonderful from the inside of my home because they are in harmony with the subtle, earthy colors used there. Bear this in mind as you make your color choices. If you love hot pink flowers paired with acid green foliage, be certain that you’ll love them just as much when you see them from your kitchen window.

Gardening at its best is all about playing with color. I hope I’ve inspired you to use some of these ideas in your own garden. Happy Gardening!

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