Put the POWer of color in your garden landscape

    by Jan Spann

    Color is powerful on so many levels. It reflects our moods, defines our style and even gives voice to our personality. 

Red elicits strength, and men are encouraged to wear red ties to imbue this trait. In addition to being an anthem for strong women, the color purple maintains a place in history as the color of emperors, queens and Christ. 


Getting the buzz lately is the Pantone color of the year: emerald green, which is, of course, one of Mother Nature’s favorites! 


April is a great time to consider what color palettes are worthy of consideration in your garden. If you’re lucky enough to have large trees in your yard, you can build a peaceful garden retreat in the shade. A color palette using just one or two colors helps calm our stress, and white is one great choice. Shade-loving shrubs like goat’s beard, fothergilla, and oakleaf hydrangea provide a focal point, around which you can bring in smaller perennials like astilbe, with its textured leaf and fluffy spike of color, and dicentra, or bleeding heart. The Lenten rose blooms arrive in the last days of winter and remain for about eight weeks, generally around Easter, hence the name. 


Edge your shade garden with lamb’s ear so the fuzzy silvery foliage can receive more sunlight. Plus it’s a great plant to welcome youngsters because it’s so touchable. Itea and viburnum are two other excellent choices to round out a white shade plan, and these plant recommendations can give your garden year-round color.


It’s hard to imagine a shade garden without a few hosta, especially the creamy variegated varieties. You can try dropping sweetgum balls around the hosta to avert the slugs, which love this plant. The lime-green varieties are least slug resistant. Check out the American Hosta Growers Association’s website (hostagrowers.org) to see its “Hosta of the Year,” which is selected for ease of growth and being widely available at or less than $15.


If you’re interested in more color choices in a shade garden, look no further than heuchera, or coral bells. In recent years, growers have continued to push the color options for this versatile perennial. From frosty gray-green to vivid lime green or orange leaves (or even black!), the foliage is evergreen and a great contrast to other shade plants, whether used in containers or as an edging plant.


Moving to the sunny side, here’s where you have a cacophony of color choices! Instead of opting for tropical annuals, consider nearly native flowers like echinacea, coreopsis and rudbeckia. These workhorse perennials are drought-tolerant choices, which is why growers have expanded the color choices.


A relatively new favorite in my garden is the red hot poker (kniphofia), which originally hails from South Africa. It’s that rare exotic species that doesn’t invade the native landscape, and it offers a striking range of color throughout its growing cycle. The bottlebrush shaped cluster of tropical orange and yellow blooms fade to creamy yellow as they age. The month-long bloom is short-lived, but use it in a container with other plants that bloom at different times.


Brugmansia, or angel trumpet, is an easy-to-grow (and quick-to-reseed) annual that can grow up to 5 feet. The flowers are large and narrow, like a trumpet. You may need to stake the plant to help bear the weight and size. Its seeds and leaves are poisonous, so surround it with other plants.


When considering the backdrop for your sunny areas, summersweet is a tall shrub that provides excellent shelter and food for wildlife while also giving your garden a burst of color in the summer, an unusual option for our hot summers. Its highly fragrant blooms appear in July, so place it where you can enjoy the aroma. For another sweet scent, pick sweet autumn clematis, a vine that grows vigorously and offers its white blooms in late summer into early fall. Cut it back each spring.


If your deck or yard has a full blast of summer sun, build or buy an arbor with a swing or bench underneath, and plant climbing vines. Lady Banks rose is a thornless variety with a lovely yellow bloom and a vigorous growth style. Other vines that love to climb include clematis, a climbing hydrangea, or the bizarre beauty of the passion vine. Try planting several at one place to enjoy a wide range of blooms in all seasons, like winter jasmine paired with the many colors of clematis.


For a stunning punch of color, annuals offer scads of choices, and some reseed and return next year. Spend only a bit of your budget on these one-season beauties. Tropical favorites like mandevilla vine or Chinese hibiscus have bright showy flowers throughout our hot summer. You can try overwintering them inside, but don’t be discouraged if they don’t make it.


You’ll find many books on the healing power of color and how you can use the wheel of color to improve you physical, mental and spiritual well-being. But I think working in your garden and finding ways to infuse color into your landscape throughout the year is the best prescription for a healthy, active life.


A Conway resident, Jan Spann has been gardening for 20-plus years and has been involved with the Faulkner County Master Gardeners for 11 years. She and her husband, Randy, have five children and eight grandchildren.