Colors in the garden

By Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn
Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn The Absentee Gardeners -
An asiatic lily adds to the confetti season in Kit’s garden. - Photos courtesy of Lise Jenkins

One of the reasons we garden is to provide color in our garden — after all, what is a summer garden without flowers? Is it even a garden?

As a gardener I think about colors in the garden periodically, although I have to confess that the color wheel has never helped me in choosing what shade I want to use. I tend to garden without a great deal of foresight as I apparently subscribe to the gardening technique of planting the clump I am holding in the first available spot that I see, without always considering size and color.

Over the years I’ve become aware of the cyclical nature of colors in the garden. In the spring my garden consists of new green leaves and the white flowers of various viburnums and dogwoods, highlighted by the fuchsia color of the redbuds. After the gray skies of January and February, these are welcome additions in my world.

As the viburnums fade, the roses take over. Now most roses are various shades of pink, some verging on red, others tending towards a pale white. By the end of June I’ve hit what I call my “confetti” stage, with various daylilies taking over. As the heat sets in, the roses fade from the scene, only to be replaced by a myriad of daylilies and crinums.

To compliment the crinums and the daylilies, the lilies also put out their scented blooms. Lilies, I find, get better with each passing year — what was just one lily stalk is now a lovely clump of dark pink and white blooms.

I wish I could tell you that I have a color plan but the simple fact is that I do not. I have learned to appreciate chartreuse, a color I normally dislike, in the garden. My one rule is that I avoid orange, a color that to my mind clashes with the pinks and reds that exist in the garden.

I, for some reason, find the color of orange is jarring, which is why I find the newly planted gladioli to be grating. I’d ordered the dwarf ‘San Siro’, which the catalogue assured me were a dark red with purple undertones. What sprang up were dwarf bright orange gladioli. Since they are the only dwarf gladioli offered in the catalogue, I cannot imagine what happened.

Out they will come. I don’t know where they land on the color wheel but the fact is I don’t like any colors with orange — and they add nothing to the confetti aspect of my June-July garden.

In August the garden will transform gradually to the autumn garden. Here I have to be careful since the roses will start blooming again — and pink and autumn colors do not always mix well in my mind. The purple asters and pale yellow mums can accent to advantage the roses and the pink amarcrinums.

The point I’m trying to make is this: I garden to please myself — and these are the colors I use. Gardens that seek the approval of others don’t work in my mind as our gardens should be a reflection of ourselves. This means that if the color wheel makes sense to you, by all means use it. If you like to mix oranges and pinks, please do so. Choose the colors you like and avoid those you don’t.

And yes, the orange gladioli are now on the top of the compost pile.

Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email:

Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn The Absentee Gardeners Jenkins and Kit Flynn The Absentee Gardeners

An asiatic lily adds to the confetti season in Kit’s garden. asiatic lily adds to the confetti season in Kit’s garden. Photos courtesy of Lise Jenkins

By Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn