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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Aug 24

Color in the Garden

Posted on August 24, 2018 at 8:48 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

When weighing which plants to choose for color in your garden, there are many determining factors. Do you like blending various shades of a certain color? Or maybe you prefer a cacophony of striking hues that immediately grab the eye of anyone entering the garden? And at what time of year will the chosen colors appear?

white lace
 Butterfly at rest on lacecap
Flower color can set a mood for the space where people congregate. White flowers denote peace and are restful to the eye. Among the noted gardens of Gertrude Jekyll in the UK is her white garden, where abundant blooms adorn the pergolas and grounds around the beautiful building. White flowers are a good choice for places of contemplation—perhaps around a garden bench tucked into a niche hidden within surrounding shrubs. Those shrubs could also feature the beauty of white flowers—for example Viburnum davidii in a shade garden. Or, perhaps the hidden white of fragrant Sarcococca ruscifolia to inspire a treasure hunt for the source of the sweetness in the air.

Then again, if you have ever been to Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, you’ll recall that the colors in this former rock quarry are an eye opener! Reds, oranges, yellows, blues, pinks and purples shout out for your attention. I found this same type of floral display while visiting Disney World with my son last year. Such bold colors can’t help but capture your attention. These types of displays are often achieved by planting annuals, but they can also be duplicated with more water-conserving plants such as bulbs or long-blooming perennials like Cyclamen that bloom from November to May—a time in the garden often begging for some kind of color.

Time-of-year colors keep us returning to the garden. Seeing a hint of color will draw you out in cooler weather to investigate. This often happens here in the high country of Lassen. Sometimes it will be just a few petals of a primrose peaking though late spring snows. On the other hand, during the heat of summer the beauty and delicacy of a lacecap hydrangea seem to drop internal body temperatures. 

 red twig dogwood and blue spruce
 Red twig dogwood in front of blue spruce
Beyond flowers, color be provided by foliage, berries or even the stems of plants. Some of my favorites for these alternative sources of color include Callicarpa americana (beautyberry), Euonymus alatus (burning bush), Cornus sericea (red twig dogwood) or Acer ‘Sango-Kaku’ (coral bark Japanese maple). During the autumn we’re treated to striking displays as some deciduous trees drop the green chlorophyll to reveal their true colors before taking a winter nap.

We are so fortunate to live in a Mediterranean climate zone where many plants can thrive and are abundantly available. Take advantage of the opportunity to express your needs and wants through the color palette of plants. Find the pleasures in color!


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