Hard freezes this winter have made our landscapes less attractive as we move into spring. With so many tropical plants damaged by the cold, you may find your garden drab to the point of depressing.
Well, there is no need to sit around and mope. Local nurseries are full of cool-season bedding plants to invigorate your yard.
These plants will not mind in the least if we have additional freezes. They prefer the cooler weather of late winter and spring.
You also will get a good return for your investment. Planted now, they should provide abundant color until the hot weather arrives in May.
Blooming transplants provide color immediately, and they just get better and better as they grow and mature.
In all the excitement of introducing fresh, colorful plants, though, it’s easy to forget that the colors themselves require careful consideration. Just as with getting dressed or decorating a room, you need to give your garden’s color scheme some thought.
Nature provides a great source of inspiration when placing color in the garden. One of the first lessons is that color needs to occur in drifts or clumps large enough to make a visual difference when viewed from the farthest vantage point.
Nothing is more insipid than a single row of flowers of different colors spaced out across the front of the house. Look at the drifts of colorful wildflowers along the highway. While you don’t need to plant acres of color to create an impact, you do need to plant large enough masses to be in scale with your home and the rest of the landscape.
If your budget won’t permit the purchase of large numbers of plants, concentrate what you buy in smaller, well-placed beds or areas where they can be viewed at closer range, such as around a front entrance or a patio. Placing a few large containers overflowing with color in strategic locations is a great way to make a big impact with fewer plants.
Also place color where you want to attract attention. Don’t try to “beautify” something ugly. The human eye is powerfully drawn to color, and you will just make it more noticeable.
Creating a color scheme
Color is important to us. We use it everywhere in our surroundings and on our bodies. We carefully consider what colors to combine in our interior decor and in our wardrobes. Yet, gardeners too seldom take the time to carefully consider a color scheme for their flowerbeds.
Develop your scheme before you go to the nursery. Don’t forget to take into consideration the colors of your house, patio furniture, fences, blooming trees and shrubs.
One of the most important (and rarely done) steps is to choose a dominate color for the entire landscape or pick dominate colors to use in individual sections (the front yard may have yellow, while the backyard pool/patio area has blue).
Plan to use masses of flowers in lighter tints or pastel variations, and then augment them with flowers in a brighter, pure color. For instance, if yellow is dominant, most of the flowers could be a soft yellow with limited additions of a brigher tone. The dominant yellow may be enhanced with flowers in chartreuse, gold, yellow-orange, orange and orange-red.
To spice things up, add accents to the color scheme. They function like a contrasting scarf on an outfit or colorful pillows on a couch. Accents relieve the monotony of massed colors and add a dynamic note.
Generally, it’s best to use complementary colors as accents, such as yellow and purple, red and green, blue and orange.
Where purple is dominate, pale yellow flowers will accent a bed of lavender, violet and purple. Purple flowers also will accent a dominant yellow planting of primrose and gold flowers.
Blue-green and yellow-green foliage or flowers will accent a dominant red planting of rose, pink and burgundy.
Blue flowers also can be used to accent a bed of dominate orange, peach and rusty red. Accent plants stand out and become an important part of the composition.
A dominate color can be taken to the ultimate degree by planting a garden totally in variations of one color. This monochromatic scheme might sound uninteresting. If carried out properly, though, it can be harmonious, unified and not the least bit boring. The Yellow Garden at Longue Vue House and Gardens is a superb example.
Another way to achieve an effective scheme is to either group just warm colors together or just cool colors.
Warm colors are shades of red with an orange tint (tomato red), orange, peach, yellow, gold, rust and mahogany.
Cool colors include shades of red with a blue tint, burgundy, rose, pink, blue, purple and lavender. Sticking with either warm colors or cool colors helps to ensure harmony.
In the end, though, there is only one bottom line: everyone has the right to his or her own taste.
If you enjoy a color combination — go for it. But do think about it first.
Quick tips for using color
Colorful beds in the front yard are your gift to your neighborhood, but you don’t get to enjoy them that much. Remember to enrich outdoor living areas, like backyard patios or decks, where you and your family spend most of your time outside.
Use pastel colors in shady areas that will primarily be viewed in the evening. Light colors show up better in these situations. Pastel colors make a space look larger.
Use bright, vibrant colors to create an energetic effect. Bright colors make an area look smaller and more intimate.
Be careful with dark shades and black flowers. Use them sparingly in well-lit locations and pair them with brighter colors for contrast