Bloom Day challenge

Since I can’t top last year’s December Bloom Day (Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is hosted the 15th of every month by Carol at May Dreams Gardens) when the Autumn flowering cherry bloomed in the snow, I’d like to propose a bloom related challenge for the gray days of December instead.

Gail and I are starting to nail down ideas and themes for next year’s Display Garden design and I have suggested that in one of the beds at least, we try to work especially with colors that neither of us likes.  Bloom color is just one of the design elements that we gardeners work with every year and I, for one, am growing tired of certain self imposed limitations and restrictions.  I don’t want the color of a flower on an otherwise worthy plant to hold me back!  And I want to like it.

We all have a particular relationship to color – some of us enjoy hues that are loud and hot while for others bright reds and oranges would bring on a migraine.  Some like baby-cheek pink while others hate it with a passion and are in love with maroon.  I have a dysfunctional relationship with purple and a resentment of yellow.  And for me when they’re together, those complementary colors, rather than complimenting each other (like blue and orange do), hurl insults.  My challenge is to be able to use purple and maybe just a touch of yellow without wincing.  And I have started to look for hints and insights.  For instance, thinking about this has caused me to question what it is about lavender plants (besides the scent, obviously) that makes me love them despite their typical bloom color.  Is it the gray foliage?  Could I learn to love purple if it occurred in a combination with gray plants?  And would I like yellow if, like a close-up of a Hakonechloa leaf, it was placed with pinkish and greenish?

This is a challenge that Gail and I might be willing to take on because at least in theory we’re making these gardens for visitors’ enjoyment rather than our own.  That gives us a certain freedom – in a way we don’t have to like what we do as long as it works really well for somebody else.   I know it’s different at home.  At home we have even tighter budgets and we will probably always gravitate towards plants that don’t argue with us.  But even at home I get a little tired of the same-old, same-old and maybe I’ll promise to shake it up there this coming year too.  At the very least it’s a fun mental exercise and I can see from looking back at pictures that there are occasions when my least favorite colors don’t make me want to look away.  What colors do you avoid like the plague?  Do you think there’s anything you could do – any combination of ugly and pretty colors that could induce love rather than eye pain?  Are you up for the challenge?

8 thoughts on “Bloom Day challenge

  1. No takers here. For me, it’s Kniphofias! But not the pretty hybrids in green, corals, reds or yellows, but the tradition hirsutas: dirty orange-salmon buds that open to a dirty greeny-yellow. Disgusting! Can’t find any friends for these ogres so they are exiled to the fringe of the property where they are not watered, and yet they refuse to die.

    As for yellows and purples, a great combo is found in Baptisia ‘twilite blues’: sort of a coppery/garnet purple with a gold keel. Same combination can be found in R. ‘Golden Showers’ with Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’ climbing up through it, as I saw in a WFF catalog – stunning and regal!

    Susan, I love that the kniphofias still have a place in your garden even if they are in the hinterlands. It’s too hard to actually throw any stubborn plant away even if it is the ugliest duck! And I’ve looked at the Clematis, Rose combo and the Baptisia ‘Twilight Prairie Blues’ and my jury is still out… -kris

  2. Oh wow… I’m going to have to think about this one. What would it take for me to agree to include that most offensive of shades (pink!) in my garden? Or yellow, which I have a disfunctional relationship with of my own? Hmm….

    Kim, I was actually thinking of your aversion to pink when I decided to make my challenge a public one — I really wonder if there’s any way to repair broken relationships with color. But I think there must be because I used to hate the color orange. – Me! It’s true! -kris

  3. Oh, one thing came to mind right away, though. I picked up some ‘Carolina Moonlight’ baptisia this year… thinking, like you mentioned with the lavender, that I might be able to make friends with the yellow if it came packaged up with a bluish foliage that I liked. I’ll let you know how that works!

    Kim, I’ll bet that baptisia will be worthwhile. At least according to the PDN picture it’s not a punch-you-in-the-eye yellow… And even if it was, baptisias don’t usually bloom for very long! -kris

  4. Mmmm, tricky. I”m hesitant to include a lot of hot reds, oranges and yellows because the flowers tend to appear in summer, when it’s hot enough already. I would be happy with hot-coloured flowers in winter! A little bit of red would be all right… maybe a Sturt’s Desert Pea, which is a real challenge to grow in Sydney!

    Wow, I’ve never seen your Sturt’s Desert Pea before! And I can understand your reluctance to grow the hot colors in the hot season – but maybe it would really cool you off like drinking hot tea on a hot day… -kris

  5. Kris: I love purple but the color of liatris makes me cringe although I like it in the Franz Schubert garden phlox. Go figure! Maybe it is the scent of the phlox which makes the difference but I think it is, ultimately, the texture. Soft yellows such as Achillea’ Moonshine’ mixed with the purple of Campanula persicifolia is really lovely. The harsh yellows require more blue don’t you think? Glad I missed the flood!

    Layanee, Texture is definitely one of those other all important design elements. Liatris has a very tricky texture as well as a difficult color… And I might like the achillea/campanula combo if the yellow was more on the green side and the purple really on the blue side… -kris

  6. I’m not much help, I’m afraid when it comes to combining plants… I have to look at pictures and try to copy them. I do try to avoid red flowers in my garden…

    Carol, Coming up with combinations is tough, no doubt about it. Last year Gail and I looked at pictures of bouquets and floral arrangements to find some ideas. And who was it (one of the grand dames of English gardens…) who said that every garden needs just a touch of red to draw the eye? -kris

  7. I despise orange & all its tints and shades! However, I could easily steal a gorgeous planting I saw at a nursery last year: peachy orange Tree Peony blooms with dark purple Iris. It looked wonderful. But I don’t have to plant that to have orange in my garden. I was looking through my photos from October and noticed what a magnificent shade of orange the leaves of my crabapple turn!
    BTW – Liatris looks great with the pink of Echinaceas.

    MMD, See, I think orange is the color that makes all other colors work somehow – that tree peony and iris combo would be right up my alley. The trick for me will be to not rely on orange as my personal crutch. (Finding it hard to imagine NOT liking orange – but to each her own!) And I can imagine the liatris with a hottish pink… Plus that contrast in textures might be interesting. -kris

  8. I think when your a professional it is easy to fall into a bit of a rut with regards to what works. I am always trying to hedge my bets with somethings I know will work and trying a few new things. Our garden at home is more mixed up and less conservative and mostly works out. My advice would be go ahead and mix it up a little, I doubt you will be disappointed.

    D.F., I think I would be reluctant to try anything too crazy for a client unless I was given totally free reign for weirdness. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ll do at least a little mixing up! Whether or not we’ll like using colors we don’t like is the question… -kris

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