The Frustrated Gardener

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It’s not just a Pink Lady® apple that can give you a moment of wow in your day. We asked Dan Cooper, AKA The Frustrated Gardener to give us his top tips for garden colour schemes to create the wow factor in our gardens. Here’s what he said:

Colour surrounds us. It is part of our daily lives. We all see and interpret it differently. Colour changes how we feel and what we do, nowhere more profoundly than in our gardens. It can make us feel calm, meditative, optimistic, invigorated or even excited. Its impact can change with the seasons or the time of day. Most importantly, colour, and using it effectively in our gardens, can bring us a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction.

As with most things in life, there are rules about using colour. You may have seen a colour wheel, which places red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet in a continuous spectrum, linked by ….. you guessed it …. pink! As a general rule, the colours opposite one another on the wheel - yellow and violet, orange and blue, red and green, for example - complement one another to create winning combinations in the garden. Pinks are perfect partners for soft, bluish greens, hence the classic combination of roses with the scented foliage of lavender or catmint. However, rules are there to be broken and gardeners do it fearlessly all the time with brilliant results.

    Here are some great alternative ideas for garden colour schemes in your pots and borders:

    1. Spectral harmonies - sounds a bit ghoulish, but it’s not. Playing around with variations of a single colour can be hugely impactful: the White Garden at Sissinghurst is perhaps the most famous example of this in the world. Focussing on one colour elevates the mood it typically evokes: a white garden might feel calm, ethereal and light, whilst a border planted with deep reds and burgundies could be interpreted as bold, brooding and sensuous. Pinks suggest romance, vivacity and happiness. Not too light, not too dark …. just right!
    2. Anything goes - when we think of a traditional cottage garden, we imagine an unplanned riot of colour which crosses every part of the spectrum. The secret of success here is to really go for it - don’t hold back and mix colours with abandon. For the best results, decide if you want to play with either pastels or brights, and then let rip!
    3. Three’s not a crowd - you may have heard the sage advice that you should group plants of the same variety in odd numbers, starting with three. Three is also a good number of colours to work with if you want to create a sophisticated and painterly effect. Pink combines brilliantly with lavender and white for a more traditional look, and with silver and bronze for a more contemporary angle. Yellow, red and orange, close neighbours on the colour wheel, make a sizzling trio.

    In all of these scenarios, green will be ever present. Green is the canvas on which gardeners are privileged to paint when creating our garden colour schemes. It can play a really important part in making other colours sing and is, itself, hugely varied in tint and tone. Bright, tropical greens make reds and oranges ‘pop’ whilst soft, silvery greens flatter pastels, especially our favourite, pink.

    If you like to plan your planting schemes in advance, use a scrapbook or Pinterest board to gather images of the plants and flowers that appeal to you, remembering that they may not peak at the same time. Visit other people’s gardens and take photographs of combinations that appeal to you - ask for the plants’ names if you’re not familiar with them. Another idea is to visit your local garden centre, where you can play with colours in your trolley before committing to buy. You’re sure to come away with an instant hit, but you'll need to return again every couple of months to ensure that you have all seasons covered

    The main thing to remember is that no garden colour scheme is wrong. If it pleases you, it’s right. If you think it could be better, make a note and move the offending plants at the appropriate time. Gardening should not be about following rules, but about trying things out and doing what gives you joy. Playing with colour is great fun, so what are you waiting for?

    Find more inspiration from Dan on his blog and check out the video guides he made for us showing how to create late summer containers inspired by Pink Lady® apples.