Planting combinations to make your heart sing...

Updated: May 18, 2021

White stems of Betula with purple aliums and white iris great colour combinations in the garden

Above: The white stems of Betula utilis var. jacquemontii come alive with the lush green backdrop and are complemented by the light coloured natural stone bench together with the white Iris, foxgloves and more. Then those luscious purple Aliums and more blue and deep red tones introduce some wonderful contrast.

STOP AND LOOK It's the key to happiness. How often do you go about your business without really seeing anything?

The spaces between 'things', the colours, shapes, patterns, size, shadows... there's so much to see in just one tiny space. Take planting. Some combinations are glorious, but you barely notice if you just walk by. Here's some of our favourites from a July planting viewpoint:

Hary geranium 'Rozanne' with a rusty cat growing in the garden

Above: Hardy geranium 'Rozanne' is set off by its foliage, but also makes a great contrast with the rusty metal cat and white background.

IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO START introducing some imaginative planting and features into a garden. Got a bare wall; a raised bed; an empty spot in the border? Consider climbers and scramblers such as Clematis, passiflora (passion flower), wall shrubs and low-growing, spreading herbs such as thyme or prostrate rosemary. Use plants to soften edges and to blend the hard landscaping with the soft.

Herbs rosemary and thyme growing over a  white garden wall

The bare wall (above) has been effectively softened by the aromatic, creeping rosemary (left) and the bright green lemon thyme (right). What's more, they can be used in the kitchen too. Make your garden work for you.

Fences are (generally) the most ugly feature of a garden. Especially stained orange/brown! Do you really enjoy staring at those basic, vertical panes of nothingness? Did you know that a standard fence panel offers you more than three square metres of planting space? A modern garden might have around 18 or so fence panels. That's more than 54 metres of planting opportunity.

fluffy seedheads of clematis in a garden setting

Clematis not only produce the most amazing flowers, but many of them have fluffy seedheads too.

There's further great advantages to clothing your fences with climbers. It blurs your boundaries and makes your garden appear to be larger. It also offers excellent hiding places for birds and other beneficial creatures. Improving biodiversity is hugely important for the planet and for us humans too.

Ladybird on lavender flower

Did you know that a ladybird is capable of eating 50 aphids per day? So not only does it aid pollination, provide food for other creatures and look beautiful, but it helps your plants to keep healthy too.

THINK ABOUT COLOURS. There are contrasting tones that appear on the opposite side of the colour wheel. Then there are adjacent tones that are calm and harmonious. Every colour can be traced back to three basic colours: red, yellow and blue. These are primary colours.

Highly contrasting tones create excitement and energy, such as red and blue or green; purple and orange or yellow. Colour hues that appear next to each other are harmonious. Each creates a mood and a theme. There's temperature to consider too - reds, oranges and yellow are 'hot' or at least 'warm' and green, blue and purple are 'cool'.

colour wheel

Visualising colour in terms of a simple colour wheel allows you to appreciate the maximum contrasts

Creating a colour theme in a garden is a lot of fun. It also helps you to decide what to plant. Although there's always more things too consider, including the aspect (how much sun do the plants require?) and the type of soil (some plants won't survive in a boggy soil, for example).

Acer palmatum with ornamental grass Hakonechloa make a great contrast in colour

Contrasting colours of the dark red Acer palmatum (above) together with ornamental grass Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' create a dynamic visual treat. But there's more to consider... both of them prefer to be in partial shade and the Acer likes acidic soil.

There are plenty of things that a novice gardener can try in order to introduce some colour, fun and organisation into a garden. It doesn't need to involve large amounts of cash either.

  • Plant annuals in pots for instant impact.

  • Utilise unusual containers for added interest.

  • Place groups of pots together for greater effectiveness.

  • Tidy away rubbish.

  • Sweep and clean the patio and paving.

  • Mow the lawn and trim the edges.

colourful flower pots with plants

Develop a theme that draws your garden together rather than random things dotted about. Groups of similar items make a great show.

NONE OF THIS IS ROCKET SCIENCE. It's all about giving people (yourself included) things to look at and enjoy. A little thought goes a long way. Pay attention to detail and you will suddenly realise that you are noticing more. Gardens and the outdoors are truly life-enhancing!

yellow, orange and russet red foliage and flowers

A colour clash can be a truly positive treat. These three tones (above) lift the spirits. Oxidalis and trailing Begonia.

Phormium 'Jester' and Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' in the garden

This Phormium 'Jester' (above) together with the vibrant yellows, oranges and reds of Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer', continue a colour theme along the raised bed, thus drawing the theme of the garden together.

If there's just one thing you do for yourself before the summer ends, give your garden a bit of a makeover. Even planting one shrub, perennial or filling a pot will make a difference. But two or three would be even better!

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