My favorite color combination is all pastel, keeping each plant to the pale end of the spectrum and accenting with blue grey or burgundy foliage of grasses, hosta or shrubs. White variegated foliage is a lovely foil to these colors. This garden scheme is best when viewed close up, by the front or back door or along the driveway, as the blues and pale pinks would disappear from far away.
Famous Sissinghurst Castle’s White Garden was disappointing when finally viewed in person and is copied by many as the epitome of class. Unfortunately, if you mix whites, they make each other dingy. There are pink, yellow and greenish whites, all of which should be separated from each other. Best left to the experts and even then, something of a wimpy design.
Chartreuse, that glowing combination of yellow and green, is complimented by yellow variegated foliage and blue and yellow flowers. I use this in narrow beds along the house front and back and in a rock wall, all of which only get half-day sun. A south facing bed would be too hot, but this color lights up the shadier spots.
Think of the tropics and the bright, saturated colors of magenta, orange, yellow, gold and red come to mind. These are called “hot” colors and must be sighted with a little distance to mellow them. Pastels recede and bright colors pop, making them appear closer.
Add in burgundy, chartreuse and yellow variegated foliage, but avoid white in any form so as not to dilute the mix. This is a full sun garden, as any shade will make these plants reach for the light and the foliage bleach as they exchange colorful leaves for chlorophyll producing green.
One more full sun garden combination uses magenta, that exciting, but hard-to-place color present in many original forms of perennials and the newest annuals. I add silver, grey, blue-grey and burgundy in foliage and purple as deep as the magenta. It shimmers in the heat and makes a lovely moonlit garden.