One of the recurring things I hear, and not an unfair point by any means, is the idea that we need more colour in the garden.

We’re surrounded by colours, as we know, so what do we mean by ‘more colour’?

It would be easy to fill the garden with a mass of different colours in the hope of creating something more vibrant. This can work in some cases, but more often than not it makes the garden visually chaotic. Jarring colours don’t actually mean the same as vibrancy.

Some colours can be hard to place effectively

To lift the colours in the garden we must look at tone as much as colour. A bright flower will stand out far more than one with a more sombre tone; bright blue stands out more than dark blue, bright yellow more than dark yellow.

A yellow-leafed maple might seem like a bold choice, but works will in some places

Armed with this information we can look at the existing colours in the garden. Are they sombre tones? Can we add planting that brings light to a dark border?

Light-toned pastel colours work well in this border, the bright red adding a little ‘punch’

The next obvious question is whether the dark tones still have a place in the garden, and of course they do. Dark tones are immensely useful to create the effect of shadow in planting, and the contrast between the lighter and darker tones makes for a far more vibrant colour scheme.

Dark colours can be very helpful in the garden

Even if you’re wanting to use strongly contrasting colours, such as oranges and yellows against blues and violets, keeping the tones of your colours in mind still pays dividends.

Does this mean that gardens in which colours have become too mixed up already are beyond help? Probably not. You could, if you wanted and budget allowed, take everything out and start again. However that’s a huge commitment in terms of time and money. Without doubt the first step must be to assess what is in the garden that can be used more effectively. There’s absolutely no point in throwing away good plants if they could be moved around to create a more effective planting scheme.

Acid yellow and bright pink might not be to everyone’s taste

Colour needn’t be a complicated thing in the garden. Sure your collection of plants might not get you featured in a trendy magazine, but providing they make you happy does that matter?

I’m happy to help clients make improvements to their borders if necessary, but gardens should reflect the clients and not the personal tastes of the gardener. I’m the gardener, not an arbiter of good taste!