Planning a hot colour scheme

Late winter is a great time of the year to get out and do some garden projects whether at home or as a professional. One of our big projects at Aberglasney at the moment is the development of a Wisteria arch which is taking shape nicely. This arch is almost thirty meters long and will need under planting with herbaceous perennials. In this case we are planning a hot colour scheme to set off the blue flowers of the Wisteria as well as to match the nearby Sunken Garden colour scheme. Jobs like this are exciting but can also be a little daunting. However follow some simple rules and you’ll have a clear and strong colour scheme that is manageable and practical providing thanks to good plant choice and combinations.

The basic principle in this case is oranges, reds, yellows but equally importantly strong blues, purples and even pinks to set off the other colours. Our plan is to have contrasting foliage and a long flowering period. We also want certain plants to be spectacular and have different shaped flowers at different heights to break up the hard lines and create focal points at different times of the year.

Now this all sounds very technical and complicated but once it’s thought through it is relatively straight forward. The oranges, yellows and reds will come from Hemerocallis at low level, Kniphofia at mid and high level and Helenium at higher levels at the back. Strong pinks will come from certain Geranium such as Patricia and likewise the purple from Geranium psilostemon. Another source of strong blue will come from perennial Salvia like ‘Mainacht’ which flower for a long time. Tall blue colours will be achieved with the use of Aconitum and Strobilanthes which will set off the later flowering Kniphofia and Helenium. Amongst all this there will be other plants drifted through such as a hot tulip combination for earlier in the year.

We plan to use the same technique for summer flowering bulbs such as Lilies and Agapanthus to create one off focal points. Mixing the grassy leaved plants such as Crocosmia, Kniphofia and Agapanthus with the more rounded or cut leaves of the perennials will add foliage contrast where as the sprawling habit of the Geranium will soften the edges of the paths. At the back of the border the very large forms of Kniphofia will have arching stems that should contrast well with the upright Helenium and Aconitum.

Our plan is to mix these plants in such a way that they set each other off both through foliage and flower. With careful choice of varieties each group such as Crocosmia will contain plants that flower at different points in the season. For instance there are many different Crocosmia that flower at different times in midsummer and they come in a range of colours and heights. By using eight or nine different types of Crocosmia we should have different ones flowering over a long period. The same will be done with all the plants that we are using to add variety to the display from groups of plants we know very well. The advantage of this is that you can make the most of a certain group of plants that you know do well for you but you are still able to enjoy a great variety.

We will probably use a great many other plants in these borders as they take shape and may even pep up the display with Dahlia or other tender perennials in the early years. Either way planning a new border is great fun and very exciting.

Tips for the week

  • Start a project in the garden
  • Turn seedlings under glass to keep them straight
  • Look out for bulbs in grass ours are about seven weeks ahead
  • Fleece ground to warm it up before planting
  • Mend and prepare cloches/cold frames for early seedlings