October is a transitional month in Louisiana flower gardens. Many warm-season annuals finish up this month, and gardeners’ thoughts begin to turn to cool-season bedding plants for fall, winter and spring color.
When you decide it’s time to replant flower beds and containers, lots of wonderful cool-season bedding plants are available. Excellent choices include pansy, viola, dianthus, sweet alyssum, calendula, snapdragon, petunia, forget-me-not, sweet William, nicotiana, hollyhock, poppies, annual phlox, stock, statice, ornamental kale and cabbage and dusty miller.
The colors available in these cool-season bedding plants are virtually unlimited. Now, here’s the hard part – don’t plant your garden with every color you can get your hands on. I know it is hard to resist, but what you will end up with is chaos that is not as effective as a well-thought-out color scheme.
I think most people have the ability to effectively use color in their surroundings, and they typically apply this ability when choosing colors for interior décor. The average individual is perfectly capable of deciding on which colors they like and how to combine them when decorating interior spaces, like a living room, bedroom or kitchen, for instance. Once they decide on colors, people carefully coordinate the color of the curtains with the color of the carpets with the color of the walls with the color of the furniture and so on.
Gardeners should do exactly the same thing when it comes to choosing colors for their gardens and landscape.
Color is an extremely important factor in how we perceive and appreciate our landscapes.
Mix colors together or warm colors together for reliably harmonious results. The colors within each group naturally combine well and look good together. Cool colors include reds with a blue tint, burgundy, rose, pink, magenta, purple, violet, lavender, blue, navy and any variations of those colors. Warm colors include reds with an orange tint, orange, gold, yellow, rust, peach and any variations on these colors.
Use color where you want to focus attention. The human eye is instantly drawn to color. Never use color to “beautify” an unattractive feature in your landscape such as a fire hydrant, storage shed or trash can area. You will simply make sure everyone notices it, and the color will not make it look any better.
Use color where you can enjoy it. Many gardeners lavish their attention and garden budget on their front gardens, and this is a wonderful gift they provide to their neighborhood. But when little or nothing is done in the back area where the family spends most of their time, I think that is a pity. Don’t forget to include plantings of colorful cool-season bedding plants in beds, containers and hanging baskets around the patio and other outdoor living areas. Fragrant plants such as alyssum, stock and nicotiana are especially nice.
Generally, reduce the number of colors you use for best results. In other words, use the colors you like in combinations that you like, but don’t use every color you like at the same time in the same bed.
It is also important to plant individual colors in masses or groups, especially if the bed will be viewed from a distance – as in a front bed being viewed from the street.
Vibrant, rich colors energize the landscape and can help make a larger area seem smaller and more intimate. Combine colors that are complementary on the color wheel, such as blue with orange, purple with yellow or red with green, which is particularly energetic.
Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. He can be reached at DGill@agcenter.lsu.edu