Blooms Day, July 2010: Colour strategies for shade
Sarah and I garden two doors away from each other in the same dry shady conditions. But, when it comes to colour, we couldn't be further apart. Sarah's all about the hot colours, reds, oranges, yellows; I prefer mine muted, going for pinks, corals, creams and blues.
The red of this little 'Happy Thought' pelargonium – which has overtones of both orange and pink – is perhaps the perfect cross-over point. I grow it in one of my sunnier spots, because I like to have happy thoughts in the garden.
Why limit your colour palette in shade? Hot colours can really turn on the lights, as you can see by this collage from Sarah's garden. It features butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a marmaladey Gaillardia, Sarah's signature orangey red impatiens paired with chartreuse 'Marguerite' sweet potato vine (Ipomeoa batatas), yellow Crocosmia, red daylilies (Hemerocallis), and a shot of brightness from remarkably shade-tolerant Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum). Not shown is Sarah's great collection of red and orange pelargoniums.
As hot colours visually advance (cool colours recede) in a garden, they're often avoided in small spaces, as they're thought to make a garden feel smaller. Shade, however, tones down this effect. And in gardens as small as ours, why not just go for the golds!
These flowers may all be a little less flowery in shady conditions – despite being under Norway maples, Sarah's shade is somewhat dappled – but they do add welcome warmth.
I, on the other hand, try to make the garden feel as expansive as possible using pastels, stronger in intensity here and there.
My collage includes a salmon pelargonium with ferns and Caladium in the front planter. Around the garden right now, there's Hemerocallis 'Gentle Shepherd', the double Saponaria aka soapwort or Bouncing Bet that came with the garden, the chartreuse flowers of lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis), a purple butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), a creamy Echinacea 'Sunrise', and the odd-looking flowers of a Phlox in the 'Feelings' series.
I'm particularly fond of the creams within this colour key, picked up by the foliage variegation in my hosta collection. You'll notice that chartreuse shows up in both palettes; it's a hot yellow-green that works in sun or shade.
There you go. Two colour strategies for shade. What works for you?
To look at colours in other gardens worldwide, head over to May Dreams Gardens, where on the 15th of each month blogger extraordinaire Carol invites us to share Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.