A life lived with color is much more exciting | Marianne Binetti

Spring is the time of year when the earth blooms, and color fills the landscape. We are lucky enough to garden in western Washington with a mild climate that allows bountiful blooms and vivid color almost year round. If you want to color your world with more beauty, for less money, invest in some fast-growing annual plants and dig in. Annuals may only live one year but they party hearty and live life in the fast lane – and a colorful life is much more exciting.

Color Families for Soothing Compositions

First, chose a favorite focal point plant or your favorite color family. Now build a color theme using different blooming plants all with the same hue. You could use all pinks that range from the pale pearl of impatiens to the vivid intensity of fuchsias. Or try grouping plants with flowers or foliage within the purple and burgundy color palette. Royal purple verbenas, lavender lobelia and wine colored phlox make a trio of rich colors.

Want more sunshine? Pot up this combo from the orange and yellow color family.

Planting Recipe for a Sunshine Container of Citrus Colors

The focal point plant or thriller in the center of the pot: Canna Tropicanna – big, bold, yellow, green and orange leaves on a tall and tropical-looking plant. In a smaller pot use the tall-growing yellow marigolds or golden coreopsis.

The fillers: Brightly colored begonias come in sunset colors and you can also find impatiens, geraniums and verbena that bloom in shades that range from fiery orange to lemon yellow.

The spillers: Use the yellow foliage of creeping Jenny to spill over the edge of the pot or the bicolored blooms of heat-loving lantana for more floral punch.

When you stick with the colors of yellow and orange you’re sure to have a summer of warm memories.

Color Contrasts to Wake up the Landscape

Add some drama or garden opera with shocking color contrasts. Play up the boldness of chocolate foliage with white or silver contrasts. Contrasting colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel will shout out load like a drama mama and really create a scene.

Planting Recipe for a Backyard Patio Bed: Purple and Gold Can really be Bold

The focal point or thriller plant: Spiky cordylines now come in rich purple and reds to provide a dramatic background for the shorter plants.

Add fillers: Here is where you need the color contrast. Use vivid gold blooms of Goldilocks Rocks or mini marigold plants against the taller, darker focal point.

Lime green could also be a bold contrast to deep purple. There are new mini petunias called Calibrachoa that have bicolored blooms of contrasting colors. Pretty Much Picasso is a new hybrid with vivid purple blooms outlined with lime green. This petunia is pretty much a spectacular plant due to great color contrasts. Many coleus plants also have colorful contrasts spilled all over their leaves like a painter's palette.

The spiller: As a groundcover plant or to spill from the sides of a pot, the lime green Sweet Caroline sweet potato vine would make a great contrast to the deep purple tones. If you use petunias with bicolored blooms the solid color of a foliage plant provides a stunning backdrop for the big show.

Color Punches to Fight off the Darkness

We do have a lot of gray days in our gardens and our beautiful evergreens can cast dark shadows onto the landscape. Use white and silver plants to sneak in a knock out punch of color:

Use white impatiens, white lobelia and white begonias for a planting bed in deep shade. The color white next to any bright color will amp up the intensity of the hue so be sure to include white bloomers in your mixed displays for more vivid brights.

For sunny areas plant drought-resistant white alyssum or any silver-leaved annual such as Dusty Miller. White geraniums planted in black pots make a fine impression that says "simple elegance." An all-white flower garden can be dramatic and will show up best against a dark evergreen hedge or house color.

Covering the Ground with a Grand Display of Color:

Make this the year you cover a sunny slope with drifts of hot pink petunias or vast stretches of bright red verbenas. New varieties of groundcover petunias and spreading verbenas make sensational swaths of blooming color more affordable than even before. You only live once and having a yard that really does stop traffic should be on everyone’s bucket list. Or you could take that bucket, add some drainage holes and contain yourself, along with your petunias and verbenas.

Planting more flowers is a gift to the neighborhood, the bees and butterflies and your beauty-seeking soul.


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