When it comes to creating my own landscape, I have learned as much from my mistakes as I have from my successes. I should be really smart!
Over the following few posts, I will write about a few of these.
No, these were not mistakes like cutting a buried electrical line and shorting out the whole neighborhoods power for a few hours. I subcontracted that to the company that installed my fence.
These mistakes were incorrect design ideas. The kind of mistakes that you make when you think “Hey this plant will look really nice next to that plant” and it turns out “No, it really doesn’t.”
These design mistakes are related to one of the key principles of garden design, that being CONTRAST.
Contrast is defined as “the state of being strikingly different from something else”.
Mistake #1 – Lack of garden COLOR contrast
The first mistake I will discuss was when I decided to plant a Redbud (Cercis canadensis) with a grouping of PJM Rhododendrons (Rhododendron x ‘P.J.M.’ ) underneath it.
My thinking was that these two plants usually bloom at the same time. They also have an almost identical bloom color, that of lavender pink. I thought this combination of the same bloom time and color would create a nice focal point in the yard in early spring.
Instead the combination was boring and gaudy all at the same time.
There is not a lot else is going on in this area of my garden at this time so basically there is just this one blob of intense color back there. There are no other colors except the green of the pines and the gray cedar fence. This lack of other colors to contrast with the bright lavender makes the scene pretty boring.
It is also pretty gaudy at the same time. The redbud and PJM’s color is very strong. In fact it downright irritates some people.
I have noticed that if it the focus on it is lessened by bringing in other colors, it tends to make it less in your face.
So what could I have done instead?
Complimentary colors add a lot of contrast
I could have used a complimentary color to the lavender. If we take a look at the color wheel we see that directly across it is the color yellow-green.
If we were to add this yellow-green color to the area when the redbud was blooming the contrast would make the area standout more.
Yellow-green is not always the most healthy looking color for plants and if paired with what some people would say is the gaudy magenta of the redbud’s blooms, this scene could look downright awful. If done with the right plant it might also look good.
I prefer more subtle gentler pastels colors in the spring, so I will pass on this color combination.
If you are adventurous you could plant an evergreen foliage plant with yellow green foliage color such as the Emerald ‘N’ Gold Euonymous under a redbud for a high contrast scene.
Analogous colors make a subtler scene
Instead of switching to a complimentary color, we could choose an analogous color scheme. This means choosing colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. If we look at our color wheel again we see that next to our magenta are the colors of red and purple.
If we were to add one or both of these colors as flowers on a bush under the redbud we should get something a bit more interesting than our boring magenta only color scheme. It would not be as over the top as our magenta and yellow green combination.
For examples sake, lets look at red.
Instead of using our magenta colored PJM rhododendrons, we could switch to the Aglo rhododendron.
It is a different cultivar of the PJM family of rhododendrons that bloom about a week later than PJM but will overlap the redbud blooms a bit still.
The Aglo rhododendron has more of a pure pink flower. It is subtle but definitely different than the magenta of the regular PJM. Pink is a lighter shade of the analogous color red to our redbud blooms.
Lets say we however really like the PJM bloom color or maybe we bought a bunch of them already.
Then how about we switch the color of the bloom of the redbud to one that is more red or pinkish without the purple part of the magenta color?
We can for instance switch the redbud to one of the following cultivars all with pink to red blooms:
- Cercis canadensis ‘Appalachian red’ (vivid shade of deep fuchsia red)
- Cercis canadensis ‘Rubye Atkinson’ (bright pink)
- Cercis canadensis ‘Tennessee pink’ (clear bright pink)
How would this look with our PJM Rhododendrons?
Another choice we could do is to just add green foliage plants which are not flowering at the same time (or ever) as the redbud. Especially once they get a decent size, redbuds have more than enough flower power. How about instead just use the color green. Turf or shrubs that add evergreen interest such as a yew, boxwood, or plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonii ‘Prostrata’ can set off the blooms nicely.
Next post I won’t talk about a lack of garden color contrast, but instead a lack of contrast in texture. Subscribe in the box below to make sure you don’t miss it.