Experts Are Sometimes Excellent


We’ve been talking a lot about color clashes at Garden Rant.  The worst in my garden this year centered around the pale, pale pinks of two classic plants: ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony and ‘New Dawn’ rose.
IMG_2509 ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ is one of the tallest of peonies, with fluffy flowers of silvery pink.  She is a real supermodel, stunning on her own, a problem in combination with any other flower in my yard because she makes them all look muddy and unappetizing.

My ‘New Dawn,’ too, is so healthy and beautiful that three of my neighbors have been inspired to seek out their own ‘New Dawns.’  However, her flesh-toned pink color seems not to complement any other color, but instead, to compete with them and make them look bad because she is so delicate and pure.  We’ve all met this kind of girl and found her intensely annoying.

I thought she needed some gothing up.  So I bought a maroon clematis for ‘New Dawn.’  Nope.  That is not the solution.  In fact, trial and error and fits of crazy shovel-work moving stuff doing perfectly well here over to there–which is what I use instead of color theory–left me empty-handed.

But on a visit to the amazing Slate Hill Farm Daylilies this weekend, I posed the question to owner Craig Barnes, who not only grows and breeds fields of gorgeous daylilies, but is also a painter.

“Lavender,” he said instantly.  “Slatey blue.  A blue with a lot of white in it, like the rose.”

IMG_2510 I went delphinium shopping.  Whereas my instinct would always be to pick out the darkest or most intense and dramatic ones, I instead went for the lighter, grayer ones.  I also bought a pale blue baptisia and the palest lavender veronicastrum.   ‘New Dawn’ looks very pretty indeed, surrounded by these acolytes.

This is why painters’ houses are always nicer than mine, too.


  1. I had Sarah B. planted next to my Dr. Van Fleet, the daddy of New Dawn. Sarah was done blooming before the Dr. began. I no longer have the Dr. because it caught the fungus our dear government introduced to wipe out the evil multi flora rose not realizing it would also wipe out garden roses.

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