Color in the garden is as essential as breathing is for the gardener.
But what about the highly sophisticated all-green year-round thing of beauty which is considered the ultimate landscaper’s achievement? Or a snow-drenched morning, before the first rays of sun start the meltdown that will soon bring it back to whatever patchwork it was before?
The all-green garden is actually a rainbow of many shadings of green, capable of great contrasts. And usually the house at the central point of that all-green garden is pure white or all grey, or some muted hue.
As for the snow-covered lawn, it becomes, for a little while, a matter not of color but of shapes. Go out with your camera and take pictures and I will guarantee you that you’ll get a dozen new ideas about how to improve the all-season garden we all want.
But the really bright accent colors in your garden must be carefully chosen (or should be those that choose themselves), and must be absolutely beautiful. I was amused at a good friend, trying so hard to be helpful with daughter’s first-time garden, a small city lot which is going to be quite a remarkable garden.
They have wisely used a brown lattice fence to shut off the utility area, and tactful mother-in-law cannot resist saying of the neat and well-done utilitarian area, “I wish, but won’t tell them, that the garbage can could go elsewhere.”
But she says it only to me, not them, and anyhow, she is wrong. Because the garbage can is of a most attractive green color, and is really a feature, it fits and highlights the area. And the next picture is of the longer view of a rather small area, and I notice that the door of the tin garage is another strikingly attractive shade of blue-green. I hope the daughter goes out and finds a couple of other man-made objects to echo the unexpected color tweaking.
These bright color accents in a garden must be really, really bright, and must be absolutely beautiful. When Vicki and I were in Memphis last March for the Mid-South Daffodil Show, prowling the expanded landscape of the Dixon Gardens, we spotted just such a color - a vivid blue, true but deep blue - used for the chairs and the tables of an outdoor dining area. Both cameras came out, as we knew this blue had to have a feature in our garden.
I thought “the Chippendale bench in the middle of the picket fenced daffodil garden,” and we both decided it was the right color for the obelisk in the sunny border right below our large south-facing kitchen window.
One great color sometimes calls for another, a contrast. Vicki loves to work her magic with spray cans of paint, covering the surface generously (not always easy with old, porous wood.) The dusty, faded once-black chairs on the landing screamed out for re-painting. And the color we both agreed was perfect was a deep ivy green.
So far there have been two spin-offs, the mailbox becoming the brightest of the blue outdoor furniture (and is already an information benchmark for our property, and for first time visitors. And last Friday I noticed that Vicki had spotted the concrete bullfrog hiding in the hedge, pulled him out, and he is now the same green as the chairs.
You know how it goes, outdoors in the garden just as when you do one new thing to a drab room indoors, the rest of the area calls for something more. And so it was with us.
Pete, Vicki’s kind and helpful husband (they are truly two of a kind) stopped by one Sunday afternoon about six weeks ago, and asked, “Would you mind if I painted your picket fence?” (He says he likes painting, likes working outdoors at his own pace on his free weekend time, and is the ultimate helpful guy.) But the next thing he asked really blew my mind, “Would you mind if I painted it with a brush?”
“Mind?” I couldn’t believe my good fortune. He said it needed a good sanding down ahead of time, and might even need two coats. So he works when the sun shines, and when his church or Vicki’s Aunt Mary doesn’t need him first.
And always he stops in to see if I have little chores that I want to talk about with him. Not just everybody has a Syracuse University School of Forestry trained individual on call for reference. And I love it.