Gardening: Co-ordinating colour

By Justin Newcombe

Justin Newcombe advises us to embrace the rainbow for excitement in the garden.

A carpet of spectacular multicoloured polyanthus adds brightness and appeal. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post
A carpet of spectacular multicoloured polyanthus adds brightness and appeal. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post

About 10 years ago I heard someone chopping away across the road so I went to the front gate to take a look. The house owner was chopping out a huge azalea full of shocking pink bloom, the only shrub in his garden. Now I'm not the sort of person to tell someone what they can and can't do on their own property, but from my own side of the fence I couldn't help but feel that maybe if my neighbour embraced the pink a bit more, really felt the pink, closed his eyes and immersed himself visually and spiritually so he was pink all over, he may have been able to build on the pink.

I understand the cultural significance of pink, of colour in general. Pink is effeminate, black is for moron, silver for second, green for cardigan wearing, handcraft loving, tofu weaver and I'm going to leave out blue and red but you catch my drift. Can't we, in the garden at least, just get over ourselves a bit? Do we have to hang our whole being on the fear than someone might stroll pass and say "look'n' a bit pink there an-cha Bruce"? And therefore pigeon hole us in one of the aforementioned categories.

The garden should be a golden opportunity for real men, men like Bruce, to indulge themselves in a little bit of pink ... if they want to. Most gardens around the place are a big evergreen mass with some shots of accidental colour, which in many ways describes the garden I've developed here at home, a focus on texture and form rather than colour. However I can't help but admire those of you who have taken a stronger, more daring approach to colour. The trick seems to be you must "own it". A wishy-washy approach with a little bit of colour here or there looks weak. Think of how you experience your garden and from where. The front path is probably the most visual part of your whole property and creating an amazing entrance can be very simple.

One of my favourite schemes is a house nearby which has eugenia ventenatii, a maroon hedging tree, as a property boundary instead of a fence. A path runs straight down the middle, dissecting the lawn in two with a flowering cherry tree, which has pink flowers, in the centre of each square of lawn. Two planted elements, pink cherry blossom with a maroon hedge background: result, perfection. The balance is perfect and for one month of the year this house stands out like a beacon next to the stone walls and picket fences of its neighbours.

For a front garden less is better, but if you are looking for more interest then out the back is the place to do it. Even though we generally use more plant varieties out the back I still recommend using big drifts of colour with something else besides dark green to operate off. Silver spear can provide that extra something, tying flowering colour to the more textural green landscape shrubs and trees. Hedges and standards can do the same. I try to avoid using pockets of colour in specific areas. When I'm standing in a garden I want to experience balance, so a good tip is to think of your garden in terms of layers rather than a line of plants moving from left to right.

- NZ Herald

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