PHOTO BY COLLEEN O'SHAUGHNESSY
Blue flowers such as these irises can be stunning up close, but they require contrasting colours for the better bigger garden picture.
One of the dangers of having too much imagination is that you get big ideas – and if you’re a gardener, there’s no telling where it will end.
Looking at beautiful photographs the other day of a garden planted with only white flowers, I remembered my own foray into monochromatic schemes and had to laugh. Because what do one-colour gardens say about a gardener really? Is religiously planting with only one shade of bloom really a control-freak kind of activity gone mad?
My own adventure was with an all-blue garden because true-blue flowers are my favourites.
Delphiniums and larkspurs, spiderwort, bachelor buttons, love-in-a-mist, forget-me-nots, pansies, asters – you name it; if it’s blue, I like it. And my favourite foil for blue flowers is yellow – daisies, daylilies, and ladies mantle (lots of ladies mantle). But this knowledge only came later, after my instructive blue garden experiment.
A few years back, I somehow got the idea that an all-blue garden would be crazily gorgeous and elicit oohs and ahhhs from all the people forced to admire it. I planned all winter and put it into action in the spring, starting with gorgeous blue irises given to me by a neighbor. I worked hard, took great care in choosing perennials that would flower at different times, and then sat back to watch the magnificence grow before my very eyes.
But it wasn’t magnificent at all.
Though beautifully blue up close, my blooms ended up looking more like green leaves when I stepped back even a foot or so away from the garden. My yards of salvia became pretty much invisible. A blue clematis laden with flowers looked like a plain old green vine. I soon realized there was only one word for my much laboured-upon blue garden. Dull. Dull as ditchwater.
Learning the hard way that there’s not much difference on the colour wheel between green and blue, foliage and blue flowers just sort of fade into each other. Without a bright patch of yellow lilies, say, or a bunch of Shasta daisies with yolk-yellow eyes for contrast, I realized that my all-blue garden was one Dead Sea of boredom from end to end.
All-white gardens in photographs can be stunning though – so perhaps there is something to this one-colour thing. With results that lovely, you have to admit that control-freak gardening can have its upside.
But it has to be the right colour.
And that choice is decidedly not blue.
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