A Guide to Lasting Color in Your Garden

| June 1, 2013

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By Lance Walheim

Designing a breathtaking flower garden is a lot like composing a symphony. You mix and match plants just like the notes of a great concerto. There are moments of drama and impact followed by ones of subtle beauty and texture. Strong notes contrast with soft ones. Individual notes seem stark by themselves, but together they create beauty much greater than any of the parts.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a maestro to create lasting color in your garden. Here are some tips and tricks you can use to ensure that your garden is vibrant throughout the growing season.

Choose well-adapted plants and care for them properly. A great place to start is with the Texas Superstar Program, provided by Texas A&M AgriLife. Texas Superstars provides a list of plants that are highly recommended for the Texas area, giving you an idea of which plants will have the most success in your garden. The website also provides cultural information so you can blend plants that have similar needs.

Establish a color theme and stick to it. This will bring order to what often seems like a chaotic mix of bright colors. Try different flowers in shades of one color or blend complementary colors such as red and violet. For an even stronger impact, mix contrasting colors such as yellow and blue, or yellow and red. Take clues from the color of your home or hardscape to create an ensemble that will really accentuate your home and feel like a natural extension of the property.

Use all kinds of plants. Nurseries and garden centers are full of flowering annuals and perennials, but don’t overlook flowering shrubs and small trees. Landscape roses in particular can form the blooming backbone of your garden. Texas A&M AgriLife will once again prove to be a valuable resource for you with its list of Earth-Kind Roses. Remember to expand your possibilities though — don’t forget bulbs like tulips and daffodils!

Work the seasons. It’s easy to plan a spring garden. The bigger challenge is to have great color throughout the growing season. Look for summer- and fall-blooming plants, but also seek out trees and shrubs with great fall foliage color or brightly colored fruit.

Use a touch of white. White flowers make everything else look better, so add a few if you need extra punch. Silver foliage plants like Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ can have a similar affect, and like white flowered plants, look great in gardens with night lighting.

Throw in some bold foliage. Strong foliage plants like purple fountain grass, sun coleus or dusty miller contribute texture and make your garden even more striking.

Let your garden evolve. Great gardens don’t happen overnight. If a particular plant isn’t working, take it out and try something new.

With proper planning and ongoing maintenance, you can create a symphony of color that will be the envy of your neighborhood. Happy conducting!

Lance Walheim is a Bayer Advanced garden expert and author of Landscaping for Dummies and Roses for Dummies.


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