This month our Design Solutions guru Louisa Gilhooly uses bright flowers, textural foliage and bold accessories to transform a garden.
The fundamental factor most gardeners think about when designing their own piece of paradise is colour. It creates interest and variety and is often used as a focal point. The colours of plants, flowers and garden features have properties that can affect our emotions, spatial perception, light quality and balance. Many people have at least one favourite colour they’d like to include in the garden, but are unsure what to put with it to create a pleasing colour combination. When choosing a scheme, think about how colour affects your feelings. Ask yourself: is the garden a space for relaxation and healing, or a space for entertainment activities? Some colours are ‘introverts’ (quiet, calm and tranquil) while others are more extrovert (loud, boisterous attention-getters) as in this example. Here I’ve created a scheme that pops with colours from the hot side of the colour wheel. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but the colours do harmonise and with its exotic, tropical, party vibe it’s a great space for entertaining on summer evenings.
Bold-hued cannas, dahlias and begonias are complemented by the architectural foliage of fatsia, agave and chamaerops, with the glossy green hedge and outrageous pink walls providing different types of foil. Remember that plant size, shape and texture are more enduring than fleeting flowers, so consider how leaf textures and shapes can be combined to look good once flowers have faded. Colour is also found in plant foliage, bark and fruit. Foliage typically provides the overall background colour for your borders and green, in all its various shades, is usually the dominant colour by quantity. Yet plants such as Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, heucheras and Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ can still grab attention. Building materials can influence colour schemes too. Natural stone and wood typically have muted colours in variations of buff, grey, and pale yellow. For something brighter, use man-made materials such as painted furniture, sculptures, colourful ceramic containers and glass ornaments.
BUILD A FEATURE WALL This south-facing wall is painted bright bubblegum pink so it will glow in sunshine, even in winter. Made from block work and render, the feature wall provides a focal point for the garden and a bright backdrop for plants. Best of all, it’s quick and easy to change the colour whenever you feel like it.
CREATE ARCHITECTURE WITH PLANTS Structural plants such as big-leaved fatsia, spiky agave, large ferns and hardy palms such as Chamaerops humilis can provide drama and interest all year round. They help add to the exotic, tropical look, providing a jungly context for the colourful flowers.
POP IN SOME JAZZY REDS Herbaceous crocosmias and tender begonias provide dazzling reds in this far corner of the garden that will jump out against a lush green background. Use reds sparingly – you don’t need many of them to create a powerful effect. Both these plants offer exciting foliage shapes for the rest of the summer.
BRING IN SOME GRASSES The swooshy movement and graphic stripes of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ look striking in the summer months. The flower plumes will give interest through winter too. Tall grasses like this can introduce another exotic layer to the planting.
CREATE COLOUR ECHOES The hot pink colour of the feature wall is repeated aorund the garden in the low retaining walls and in the flowering plants (dahlias and crocosmia) to give a cohesive look. It’s also picked up in garden accessories such as the chairs.
ADD IN COLOURFUL GROUNDCOVER Evergreen plants with colourful foliage such as heucheras and ophiopogon will keep the interest throughout winter. Use these so their foliage tumbles over hard lines of paths to create a softer look.
CREATE DESTINATIONS The design leads you from the decking by the house over to the colourful sitting area, then back round the central lawn to the garden cabin, adding a sense of journey. Taller screening plants help to hide the cabin, adding a sense of mystery.
MAKE ZONES Areas of lawn and paving help to demarcate the seating areas, which are both highlighted and contained by a colourful pink wall.
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