The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Color in the Garden

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

I've spoken to many gardeners over the years about garden design. One element seems to provoke a furrowed brow in many designer wannabes. It's how to use color effectively in the garden.

We make color decisions all the time. We make color decisions every morning when we get dressed. As a kid I don't know how many times I asked my mom or my sisters, "Does this go?" when I was trying to figure if this blouse went with that skirt. It took awhile before I finally felt comfortable in putting colors together.

Many of the same "rules" we use to pick clothing are also useful rules in picking what plants to grow in the flower garden. Bold colors and contrasting colors tend to draw the eye to that area. Dark colors tend to recede. Hot colors of orange and red are exciting while blue can be soothing and serene.

The hardest part about color in the garden is that it changes over the season. However thinking of the garden as interlocking sections may help in designing. Sort of like having it shirt month then pants month then jacket month. The whole ensemble can look unified, but some areas will stand out at different times.

There are many experts out there talking about color in the garden. Here is your chance to hear what they have to say. U of I Extension announces Garden Day 2003 – Color in the Garden on Saturday March 8, 2003 from 8am-4pm at the Holiday Inn in Urbana, IL.

Featured speakers include Tracy DiSabato-Aust, author of Well-Tended Perennial Garden and the new Well-Designed Mixed Garden. She will discuss Color in the Mixed Garden: Unmixing Color Theory for New Visions. This is sure to be an exciting, informative and finally easy to understand look at color in the garden. Are you more confused the more you learn about color? Or are you ready to go beyond the basics on monochromatic, polychromatic and cool versus warm? Gain a greater insight into this dynamic dimension of garden design.

Colston Burrel is author of numerous books including Perennial Combinations and A Gardener's Encyclopedia of Wildflowers and he is also contributing editor of Horticulture magazine. He will discuss Color in Context: the Art of Perennial Combinations. Combinations are the building blocks of successful gardens. This lecture gives you a wealth of tips and techniques for creating artful perennial combinations. It also shows you how to link combinations together to make entire beds and borders that are environmentally and aesthetically harmonious.

Felder Rushing is contributing editor of Horticulture magazine and is author of Passalong Plants and Gardening Southern Style. He will discuss Edible Gardens: Eating Your Way through the Garden without Being a Rabbit. You are sure to be entertained and informed in this lively discussion of colorful plants for your garden and your plate. Discover how to shake up your garden themes by the man who says, "Rules stink."

Janet Macunovich is author of Caring for Perennials: What to Do and When to Do It and Easy Garden Design. She will discuss Canned Goods: Gardening in Containers. It's not just an annual show, anymore! Shrubs, trees, vegetables, perennials and even water gardens can be grown in a container. The containers themselves have evolved into an array of forms and materials, breathtaking and mind boggling to consider. Here are practical, novel ideas for how to choose a container and the plants to fill it, plus how to plant and maintain a stunning out-of-ground display.

Cost is $65 for public and $55 for Master Gardeners. Cost includes programs by internationally known speakers, handouts, complimentary copy of Fine Gardening magazine, continental breakfast, lunch, and shopping among several great garden vendors. For more information, contact University of Illinois Extension –Champaign County at (217) 333-7672 or on the web at

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