Thursday, May 15, 2014

Strange Bedfellows

Purple hosta flowers and daylily "Orange Vols"

We seldom see orange and purple outside of Halloween decorations because they both are strong colors with distinctive undertones. 
Purple "Wayside King Royal" and orange "Quilt Patch"

For the basic art lesson:  Purple is a combination of red and blue.  Orange is a combination of red and yellow.  The amount of each color or the addition of white determines the exact shade. 

In nature, no matter what shade of purple and orange (from deep jewel tones to sweet pastels) these two colors enhance each other.  I found this out accidently.

This is the patch of unknowns I talk about.
I was the happy recipient of many garden plants when one person moved from a large yard to a very small yard and another person was going to remove an English garden to put in a dog run.  None of the plants were blooming and were identified only if I could recognize the leaves or roots. 

A whole gob lot (that means an un numbered amount but more than a few) of them were obviously daylilies although I had no idea the height, color, or bloom time.  Since there were so many, I enlarged a hosta bed where it was getting more sun, plopped in a couple of rows of daylilies and waited until the next summer to be surprised. 

"Midsummer Elegance" and "Mini Pearl"
The biggest surprise was a hybrid glowing deep orange next to a very dark jewel-toned purple velvet.  They bloomed at the same time and the dark purple was the perfect foil for the bright orange.  They made each other more than they would have been standing alone.

Another combination was lavender and peach.  The softness of these two colors tended to look like someone had pulled saltwater taffy in the most perfect swirl of luscious colors.

The actual trick with orange and purple combinations is the common red in them both; it ties them together.  But don’t misunderstand and think you can put a red flower in the middle of them and have it enhance the orange/purple combo; it does not.  Adding a red flower in the middle of a purple/orange area is like sending in a bad flute player for the High Society Band, it sets your teeth on edge.

Unknowns and a little red slipped into the scene.
Does orange and purple work with other flowers besides daylilies?  Most definitely.  The herbs “lavender” and purple salvia are one of my favorite backgrounds for the garden.  Add orange shades of marigolds, cosmos, begonias, gladiolus – the list goes on and on – and the whole garden gets lively.

It’s a little trickier with foliage.  There are shades of purple and orange (either/or) in grasses, coral-bells, ferns, hosta and coleus.  Combining them isn’t always as successful as the flowers because the shades may vary each year or by location.  Most foliage has a combination of several colors in the leaves and some of those other colors may not mix well.  If you want to try combining orange and purple foliage, I’d suggest having them in hand at the same time at the nursery BEFORE buying.
Large peach and small purple 
Realize most perennials have varying bloom times and if you want to have the two colors enhance each other, make sure you understand those times.  As an example, daylilies have early, very early, midseason, late and very late bloom times. 

Annuals can be depended on to bloom from early summer until frost and that makes them perfect for an experiment in this color combo.

A tip for enhancing both colors even more is to add a white flower for the third mix.  Soft baby’s breath, white petunia, Shasta daisies, zinnias, gladiolus and more.  White looks good with the strong colors and the soft muted pastels. 

"Margaret's Choice" and "Trahlyta"
Can you mix lavender and peach pastels with strong purple and orange?  Yes, but again, you may want to hold them in hand prior to buying.  And realize the pastel plant will become the background plant and the jewel tone will be the one everyone notices.  It will no longer be two equals enhancing each other; one will be playing a supporting roll.  If the pastel is a gorgeous plant on it’s own, it seems a waste to put it in the second fiddle roll.

And another little hint:  If the purple has too much pink in it, it will not look right with the orange.  Last week I saw a lovely medium peach petunia put alongside a purple and pink foliage and it didn't work.  Sounded right but put side by side it was off. 

 Enjoy combining unusual color combinations.  The worst that can happen is you move one of the perennials next year or you don’t put those two annuals together again.  The best that can happen is a stunning beautiful surprise.  Don’t be locked into tried and true – go bold and experiment.  It might be “What was she thinking?” or it might be “Oh! my! gosh! she’s a genius!”   Worth a try don’t you think?


1 comment:

  1. Very nice, my green thumbed friend. I always hope that being near you will somehow make my plants thrive. I need ot see more of you!