It would be nice to think that all the color advice we see
in books and magazines are just solutions looking for nonexistent problems, but
I know that there is such a thing as a garden planned for color.
I’ve just never seen one in person. I’m not counting
institutional displays (like the English show gardens I have here, Hestercombe
and Killerton) or the display gardens one sees at home and garden shows. Of all
the criteria to keep in mind , color has to be the most frustrating, unless
you’re absolutely starting from scratch. And even then, there are many
unpredictable factors. When I think of all the daring and celebrated color
combinations pulled off by such legendary gurus as Christopher Lloyd, I have to
wonder if a lot of them just happened by accident. The one surefire thing is to
have a huge swath of all the same color, though I have to think that would get
boring after a while.
As for me, whatever I try to do, I always seem to end up
with a bright pink/bright yellow combo somewhere. So I’ve made my peace with
color. I pay much more attention to foliage now than I ever did to color, as
well as to plant combos that contrast bushy/attenuated, higher/lower, and so
on. I’m gradually trying to build up areas of color combos I know I like,
though without any great expectations. And I try my best to ignore the scarily
growing library of books advising gardeners about color; most of them with
charts and color wheels to explain which contrasting and complementary
plantings will work best.
That’s why I wasn’t entirely thrilled to see Tom Fischer’s The
Gardener’s Color Palette (Timber Press) arrive a few months back. Another book to make me feel
guilty about my color mistakes, I assumed immediately. Actually, it’s not. It’s
pure plant porn: 100 delicious images of gorgeous plants, some of which I have,
and some of which I’m planning to buy. No wheels, no charts. Phew! I’ve been enjoying paging through it.
I feel comfortable now with striving for some color, during most of the season, and no big gaps. How
about you? How do you handle color (or ignore it)?
This just in: Tom Fischer commented and left a link to his Portland garden. I have to say I noticed the gorgeous hardscaping first, but he does have a nice cool (blue/silver/pale colors) color scheme going as well.