Clashing or Harmonious Colors – You’re in Good Company Either Way

Garden Club Awards –

Years ago, a good friend was telling me about the awards that her Garden Club had given out to various people in the community for the beauty of their yards. She recounted the details of one in particular and raved about how beautiful the lady’s yard and borders were.  The Club was ‘unable’ to give this lady First Place however because she had an orange flower right in the middle of everything.  (‘Everything’ being lots of other colors.)

I’ve heard this particular line of thought many times about orange being “wrong” to use with red or various other colors. But since beauty is in the eye’s of the beholder, I would like to have seen that for myself. I have red lilies that have orange throats and I pair them with orange lilies.  Spectacular I think.  Sure glad I don’t want an award from that particular Garden Club.

Rules and Breaking Them

My husband, an artist, has told me for years that in art, you learn all the rules and then — if you can break them and make it work – you have a masterpiece ——-or at least something very special.  This applies to gardening as well.

Helen Dillon – Red and Yellow Disaster

Helen Dillon, who is said to be one of the most skilled gardeners of our time, is much sought after as an author and garden consultant. I read recently that in one of  Penelope Hobhouse’s videos, Ms. Dillon  repeated several times that it was a disaster to have reds mixed up in the yellow garden.

Reviewer’s Warning

The woman writing the review warned, “If you don’t see a problem with red and yellow, you really need to give that some serious thought.” She went on to say I might be grossing out those who visit my garden and are too polite to tell me they feel ill because of my red and yellow combinations.

Taking what she said to heart, I gave it some serious thought. I decided that I really like my red and yellow combinations.  As a matter of fact, one of my favorite spots in our back border has red and yellow daylilies, white nicotiana, and pink onothera.  It is said to be truly spectacular by everyone who has seen it.

I guess I could write volumes more on that, but don’t worry — I won’t.

I will say that I have masses of yellow with various oranges mixed in and consider them quite fabulous. (The yellow with the orange would be more to Ms. Dillon’s liking.) But I don’t want to do away with my reds and yellows.

Garden’s of Claude Monet

A post or so ago I mentioned watching a video with Audrey Hepburn visiting Garden’s of the World.  One garden she visited in France was the garden of Claude Monet, Father of the Impressionist Painters. In recent years he has become renowned for his garden as well as his paintings.

Monet knew all the rules.  And he broke all the rules by using clashing colors together.  He loved colors.  Now he is said to have understood flowers with a sensitivity that amounts to genius.

By the way, even Ms. Dillon admits to liking the clashing blue-reds and orange-reds together.

Opinion or Truth?

I love learning and love discovering what the renowned gardeners of the world think and do.  I want to improve and refine my borders. And there is much that needs improvement.  On the other hand – I want to do things with thought and reason and an eye for beauty and not follow the crowd just because the crowd is following someone with an opinion that they feel is ‘truth’.

If contrasting colors do it for you or if you find beauty in yellow and red —go for it!  Historically speaking, you’ll be in good company either way.


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  • Years ago, I visited Washington D.C. while the tulips were in bloom. The most beautiful sections were the red and yellow tulip plantings. Since that time I’ve loved red and yellow together.

  • A thrifty gardener I know has masses of coneflowers combined with plain old orange day lillies in large clumps. They are fantastic together. She doesn’t have the funds to visit nurseries, so she’s just divided what she has that grows easily. Tough as nails, and look nice… I think.

  • Funny you should use this example Sandra. I have some old orange day lilies — a little darker than the ones along the roadsides here — that an acquaintance gave me years ago. They are so fabulous with purple coneflowers that I could never part with them — although I have more than 140 varieties of daylilies. I have these lilies with coneflowers just to the left of my garden entrance and also in my backborders. So — I know exactly what you mean and agree with you 100%!

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