Coloring My Garden Mood
by Carol Wallace
Color me peaceful. I am probably in my grey, silver and blue garden, and all is calm. But color my mood cheerful and I am probably near the pond, where a bouquet of cheerful primary colors riot around the perimeter. Color me sophisticated, and I am in my raised bed garden, all soft, muted pastels. Color me dramatic - I have found that spot in my garden where I indulged my sense of the theatrical and combined nearly black plants with deep fuchsia and ribbon pink.
I seek out different areas of my garden because the colors there reinforce the mood I'm in. But I also seek them out according to the temperature outdoors.
One of the reasons my raised bed garden is all soft, cool pastels is because it is a full sun garden. With only the burble of the fountain to create an illusion of coolness, I avoided any color that suggested heat. I also avoided deep colors, because these tend to bleach out in the hot sun. The pond, on the other hand, was designed to be viewed from the cool comfort of the gazebo, so that while much of it is also in full sun, I rarely see it except from the shady recesses of a wicker chair, unless I am out weeding and deadheading.
The muted, silver, grey and blue garden (with touches of lavender and deep purple) lines the walk to the gazebo. The gazebo is my retreat, a place where I seek calm, and I don't want visitors getting too exuberant if they intrude on my quiet time uninvited. I keep hoping the colors of the pathway will help them chill out.
In spring, the pond garden that will later be a symphony of deep purples, yellows, blues and reds is a pristine, almost bridal white. Spring is when the apple tree blooms, and beneath it hundreds of white daffodils and tulips come into flower. Looking out across the pond one sees a cherry tree in palest pink, and, farther away, the glistening white trunks of an old birch tree. White, in this season, is a color of newness, of freshness. One needs no extra cheer when the flowers have finally sprouted after a long cold winter, but the white flowers, like a remembered snowdrift, ease one into summer gently.
My raised bed garden also uses a lot of white, both in variegated foliage and flowers. If it's too hot to sit in the blazing sun, at dusk, when the sun drops below the horizon, it is a cool and comfortable place to sip coffee and watch the white take on an almost unearthly glow. Color me peaceful.
But there is another reason besides mood and temperature to be careful with color. Color also alters our perception of space. Cool colors recede, warm colors jump forward. A garden of misty blues and lavender appear to fade off into the horizon, and can make a small space seem roomier. The same area, planted in hot reds, could make you feel claustrophobic. On the other hand, those same reds and bright yellows will help to brighten a shady corner where subtler pastels would fade into oblivion. Hot colors are wonderful if yours is a garden you will view more often from a distance than from close-up. Use cool colors in that situation and you'll wonder where the garden went.
Use color with care and we'll be able to color you satisfied.
About the Author
Carol is a garden writer and college professor in northeast Pennsylvania. She manages the Gardening section of Suite 101.com, where she also writes the column Virtually Gardening.