Contrasting Colours in Gardens and Containers

step out of your comfort zone

Contrasting colours rather than complementary ones make a bigger impact in your garden. Most people tend to opt for complementing colors when choosing plants. I always tell my clients remember, you are not wearing the plants, they do not have to match!

Choose colours that are opposite (not next to) each other on the colour wheel (as pictured above) to create some drama.

Use Colour Contrasts in Containers Too

I love using coleus in containers for the wide range of contrasting colour in their foliage. Straight from the nursery, choose from the many options in contrasting colour combinations within the same plant! The chartreuse green of creeping jenny or sweet potato vines make the red tones of the coleus pop in your creations:

For full sun containers, I tend to go for purple, pink, red, blue and yellow for the “fillers” and “spillers.” Their bright colours look so summery and vivid against the various shades of green which are perfect backdrops for “thrillers” and additional “spillers.”

Choose Perennials with Contrasting Flower Colours but the Same Bloom Time

When choosing perennials for your garden beds, instead of picking matching colours, try selecting contrasting colours in plants that bloom at the same time. For example, this yellow ligularis in front of a purple clematis creates a much more eye-catching scenario than two yellow or two purple plantings.

contrasting colours
ligularis and clematis

Another great example in my yard is my collection of daylilies I have in a raised bed at the side of my house. From dark wine-red to pale peach, they are contrasting yet compliment each other beautifully!

Foliage with Contrasting Colours

Another trick to make individual plants stand out is to place contrasting foliage colours next to or in front of each other. An example here is the leaves of a purple smoke tree (that just had a haircut so will soon be much taller) behind (right now it looks like it’s inside) the bright green leaves of a hydrangea.

contrasting colours
purple smoke tree and hydrangea

Try some new contrasting combinations in your garden to create some drama. Be sure to send me pictures of your combinations.

Remember, forget the matchy-matchy look, you are not wearing the plants!

Fall is the Perfect time to Plant your Garden

This is a great time of year to plant perennials, shrubs or trees, whether you are adding to an existing garden or planning a new one.   These items should be planted at least six weeks before the ground freezes to allow them to settle in before the cold weather hits.  Bulbs can wait a little longer, as long as they are planted before the ground freezes.  If you have been thinking of adding to your garden or creating a new one, get moving!

Many garden centers have price reductions on most perennials, shrubs and trees this time of year, some quite drastic.  The plants may not look as lush as they do in the spring/summer, but they will survive, and will look great next spring and summer.  If your garden is on a strict budget, this is the time to get more bang for your buck!

Be sure to read the labels, choosing plants hardy in your climate zone.  In the Kanata Ontario area, I stick to zone 4 or lower.  My front garden gets full sun with a southern exposure and protection from winter/north winds so I can stretch to a zone 5 in that area of my yard.  Also keep flower color, bloom time, shape, size, and foliage color in mind when making your choices.  Read the labels, and when you get your purchases home, place them in your garden, still in the pots, arranging them so there is a variation in the above characteristics.  For example, you don’t want three plants that bloom in may with pink flowers planted next to each other…

When you are satisfied with the placement, start planting.  Some plants will be root bound after sitting in their pots all summer at the garden center, meaning their roots are tightly wound together, often taking on the shape of the container.  You may even have to break the pot to get the plant out, but banging on the side of the pot with your trowel usually does the trick.  If the roots are very dense/compacted, cut into them with a sharp knife or other tool a few spots around the outside bottom edge.  This will allow the roots to spread out in the hole you are planting them in.  Dig a hole slightly bigger than the root ball, mix a scoop of bone meal or blood meal for root nourishment into the soil at the bottom of the hole, fill the hole with water, then add your plant when the water soaks in.  Water again and keep watered for the next few days.  The cooler/wetter weather this time of year will keep them from drying out and getting scorched from the hot sun.  If desired, you can add a layer of mulch to your garden, but be sure to leave a gap between the mulch and the crown/stem/trunk of your plant to discourage rotting.

Bulbs come in many sizes and bloom times.   In the stores they should be labelled with early, mid, late spring or summer bloom time.  Again, choose a variety of color and bloom time.  Plant in groups of five or more, not in a row!  To keep squirrels from digging up your bulbs before you get to enjoy them, plant daffodils over top your tulips etc, in the same hole.  Your hole size will depend on the size of bulb; the larger the bulb, the larger the hole you will need.  Place bulbs pointy side up, tulips first, with a thin layer of soil on top, then the daffodils.

The hardest part of planting your garden in the fall is waiting until spring to reap the rewards!