Match colors to achieve garden art

  • By Norman Winter McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • Tuesday, April 17, 2012 3:29pm
  • Life

Over the years I have seen many great gardens, but it only takes a minute to recognize when an artist is the one doing the gardening.

They may have the touch of Monet in their plant combinations, but it also seems they also have a flair for what I call echoing of colors.

Take for instance a historic cottage home in Kosciusko, Miss. The bold gardener chose to paint the wicker furniture on the huge front porch an electric sizzling lime. This alone might cause palpitations is some gardeners. But the furniture was made all the more beautiful and striking with the addition of a huge basket planted with Dragon Wing red begonias and the dazzling lime green Marguerite sweet potatoes hanging downward echoing the color of the furniture.

The color of your home and trim offer some of the best opportunity for echoing colors. In the hot Mississippi Delta I had the opportunity to film a home with a lush tropical landscape. While the palms and gingers kept me mesmerized my eyes kept going back to a rather unconventional bottle tree.

While many gardeners use the traditional cobalt blue for bottle trees this gardener had chosen colors that reflect the colors of the teal blue shutters and golden green trim.

Then there was the Louisiana country style cottage. Everywhere I looked was the perfect finishing touch applied by the artist. Underneath a large porch with lime green shutters was a large olive jar maxed out with coleus and the dangling sweet potato. The sweet potato echoed the lime green shutters and did the irregular variegation patterns in the coleus. Notice this is second mention of lime green, which continues among the trendiest colors in the garden.

One of my favorites was the garden with shocking pink Adirondack chairs. Hanging high over head were blooming crape myrtles of the same color. And as you might expect for the small matching wood table in between the chairs was a potted geranium bringing out the same iridescent pink.

Another bold gardener tackled the color red, the hardest color to spread around the garden because of so many variations. Add a touch of yellow and you get an orange hue, a hint of blue you have purple, and with a dab of white you are left with pink.

The quest for red no doubt began with the granddaughter’s playhouse. The gardener picked up the red with Adirondack chairs and echoed again with potted begonias.

Norman Winter is executive director of The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Contact him at

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