Color palette, should it change every year?

>> Monday, February 4, 2008

It’s a personal preference, of course, keeping your beds looking the same every year, but then again what part of gardening isn’t personal? As I was looking through this springs garden catalogs at all the various colors I began to realize that the plants I chose for my perennial beds will be the same color every year. It then struck me that I might get bored with this ‘sameness’.

My bedding plants are still young, this being the first year I planted a perennial bed, so the plants were really too small to make much of an impact. I keep trying to envision them as larger and fuller and filling in the space I left between them to see if the colors would clash. I already went though this before planting them but I can’t help second-guessing myself.

One of my backyard beds, B3, is mainly dark blues and pinks with a scattering of yellow and white. This in itself is a wide enough variety to not become too boring and the bloom times cover spring through fall so the colors show at different times and in different places. Sort of like moving targets of color, if you will.

After examining my map, for the umpteenth time, and sketching out when the colors appear, i.e., blue (various shades), yellow, white and red are present the entire growing season with pink only in spring and purple added in summer and fall, it looks pretty busy. But the different heights and textures and flower sizes make it look better in real life than it does on a two-dimensional piece of paper.

They are set into groupings so the colors compliment and everything is spread out enough so that no one plant overpowers another. Remembering back on when I looked at them last summer and looking through the photos I had taken of them, they did not look as bad as it sounds as I am writing this. The bed does sound awfully busy though.

Another backyard bed, B2, so far is red and dark blue, this sounds like it clashes big time, but there are only six plants there right now with many more planned and about six feet of empty space between the two colors. I had originally planned perennials for this space but am leaning towards annuals so that the overall look changes every year.

This part of the bed is where I have had trouble getting anything to survive.

The Clematis Jackmanii is doing fine next to this space. The problem space gets visited by a large number of box elder bugs every year. It is next to a shed that sits directly under a Box elder tree and these bugs don’t stay in the tree. These bugs supposedly do not harm live plants but my experience so far leaves them as the only possible reason why I can’t get anything to grow here.

Two years ago I put a yellow rose ‘Honey Perfume’ and two lilies here and the rose began slowly dying so I moved it into the front yard and it came back. The lily bulbs shriveled up, either due to box elder bugs or whatever else is lurking beneath the soil. Also, I put sunflower seeds here and less than half of them sprouted. Anyway, I’ll get it figured out and work on a better color scheme here.

But my question is, will a perennial bed become boring if it is the same color scheme every year?

If you leave judiciously placed empty space(s) in each bed for annuals then the overall color scheme can’t help but be different each year and hopefully will lessen the ‘boring’ factor. Sounds good anyway.

Keeping in mind that I am new at this perennial gardening thing I have to realize that there is most likely something I am overlooking that will prevent the sameness from being boring.

I recall reading in several different blogs about how people tear out some plants and move them to somewhere else and generally rearrange their beds. I don’t know how often they do this or whether or not a boring color scheme is why they go through this trouble or if the reasoning relates to something else, but it is very likely they just like to change things. I know I do in almost every other thing in my life, so maybe I don’t even need to worry about getting bored with color I’ll probably just rearrange the beds for the fun of it.

Does anyone else change their beds because they are bored with it? If so, how often? Let me know, I’m really curious.


Nan Ondra February 24, 2008 at 9:11 AM  

Hi Greg! Sorry I'm late finding this; I'm just now out hunting for color-related posts for this month's Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop wrap-up. I'm glad I found this one. I think you'll find that the color theme will naturally change from year to year, even if you don't really mean for it to, so it likely won't get boring. As you said, leaving spaces for annuals lets you create a different look from year to year, and the perennials themselves will change somewhat as they get older, and as weather conditions vary: They'll bloom a bit earlier or later, with more or fewer flowers. And if you *do* find it boring, then grab your shovel and start moving stuff!

Greg W February 25, 2008 at 10:22 AM  

Thank you for the kind words. And thank you for the workshop! What a wonderful way for all of us to display our gardens and thoughts in one place.

It's encouraging to know that colors will change as the season progresses. I get a little worried about perfection and hopefully garden will help temper that a bit.

Thanks again, Greg W

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