Create a tag team colour scheme

Enjoy a dazzling succession of colour-themed flowers and foliage all year round. Naomi Slade offers some failsafe ideas

Pink phlox and veronicastrum

by Liz Potter |

The colour-themed border is a garden classic. From the fiesty red borders at Hidcote to the cool white garden at Sissinghurst, the visual effect can be pure and dramatic. But there are good design reasons to take this approach too: a single colour can be used to define and characterise a zone, or indicate a change of mood. The main thing is to keep your scheme consistent – as one plant fades another picks up the baton, a process that is repeated across the seasons for a smooth and harmonious succession of colour.

When composing your scheme, think about the colour choice and balance. It’s worthwhile teaming the dominant colour with a sprinkle of carefully selected companions, to avoid a monotone and add a little sparkle. A good border is about more than just its signature colour – it’s carefully composed so it works all year round, incorporating volume, structure and height. It has a sense of permanence and purpose rather than just being a series of seasonal fireworks, and part of this coherence comes down to foliage.

With a thousand shades of green, and many other colours besides, foliage is the unsung hero of the colour-themed border. The core of green leaves provides visual stability, while the colours of the theme can be carried through with complementary foliage or anchored with a deeper, contrasting leaf tone.

Any gaps can be plugged with annuals, and it’s worth thinking about stem colour, fruit and berries as well, which often come to the fore in autumn and winter, as a pleasing seasonal surprise.

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Tag team colours
Tag team colours ©GARDEN ANSWERS
Foliage swatches by colour
Foliage swatches by colour ©GARDEN ANSWERS

Top 10 colourful foliage plants

1 Acer japonica

2 Euonymus fortunei

3 Phormium

4 Cordyline australis

5 Hosta sieboldiana

6 Euphorbia characias

7 Artemisia ludoviciana

8 Cotinus coggyrgia

9 Heuchera

10 Eucalyptus

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