Black and white is a classic style combination, safe and secure in looking like Audrey Hepburn when going out. In the home, beige and ‘earth tones’ are the fall back choices of the timid.
Whenever I try to dress or design along those lines, there seems a loss of excitement in even trying. Perhaps the presence of grey skies more often than not, or my birth country of Morocco, have made me crave bright, jewel-like color in clothing, my home and my garden.
Not wearing too many different colors can keep you from the clown look, something I’m seeing as I mature. Adding too many colors into one bed of your garden waters down the power of those you do choose. By selecting two to three colors, plus green, each bed has a focus and theme.
Looking at an individual flower, you will see that the center of a daisy type, the throat of a lily or face of a pansy is a different color, yellow, green or maroon, perhaps.
Take that color and bring in another flower that matches it. This is called a “color echo,” something written about by Pamela Harper in her book of the same name, which is available at the Cazenovia Library. I teach my students that this effect is equivalent to 1 + 1 = 5, whereas putting plants that fight each other in color is making 1 + 1 = -2; a waste.
Perennial prices and space in our gardens being so dear, it’s not necessary to buy multiples of any one plant, if you don’t make patchworks, but repeat themes throughout each bed. Make each plant a part of a group of three to five companions that each have something to bring to the party. I call them “growing bouquets.”
When you have a daisy shape, add a spike in flower or leaf, then a mounding, filmy, weaving plant, plus something green or variegated, such as hosta or fern and perhaps a ground hugging mat, then repeat with another combination. As perennials mature enough for division or self sow, make new combinations.