Bulbs for Garden Color

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
There are many reasons why color has such a powerful effect on people. Some folks react differently, but in general, here’s the emotional line-up. Red gets your attention and directs traffic in its direction. Orange warms up any space, stops you in your tracks, and draws you in. Yellow makes you smile and sets a welcoming tone in the garden. Green soothes the soul, slows your pace, and invites you to sit a spell. Blue lightens the landscape palette and evokes a calm mood. Violet invites contemplation and adds elegance to the garden design. Primary colors send a simple, straightforward message while hues with more complex shades add to the garden’s more subtle nuances. Blues recedes from view quickly at sunset, but white almost glows in the dark. When combining the two in the garden, use more blue and less white in the same bed for better staying power at dusk. When I decide it’s time to plant bulbs, I try to put color in every possible place. Look around your yard for logical ‘color-adding’ spots – any solid color wall or a shady green planted area is obvious, but don’t miss the chance to add more color to emphasize those already on display. Add a rose in a pot next to the arbor for flowers top and bottom, or drop a huge, brightly colored tropical plant like bougainvillea into the bed next to a sober gray agave to make both of them attract more attention. Especially where beds are crowded or soil is difficult to work, colorful containers can repeat your theme color or add flowering plants to prolong bloomtime without tilling. Big or elevated pots themselves usually add terracotta, green, or white, but with a little imagination you can transform them into even more colorful garden accents. Paint them, attach mirrors, or cover them. Sometimes it’s as much a matter of where as what color to use in the garden. Empty spaces associated with structures, especially concrete patios and porch landings cry out for attention from your color wand. Accessories, container plants, a place to sit or feed the birds – each makes an instant impact by putting color at eye level. Whether you like the rainbow or prefer to keep the scheme simple, color can be quick and either permanent or temporary. You can get plenty of color into your garden quickly by first surveying the possibilities, then combining flowering plants and garden accessories to put your favorites right in view. It’s always red tulips, with orange or purple depending on my attitude that year. I prefer the simple elegance of the Darwins, but crazy parrot tulips do get my attention, as they should! Parts of this blog were included in an article I wrote for MS Gardener magazine in 2005.
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