I used to be a snob of sorts when it came to my garden palette, preferring cool blues and purples mixed with pinks, white, and pale yellow. I had very little red and no orange, thank you—except for the tawny daylilies.
There were just too many of them to even think about replacing them with another color. When seed shopping, I would avoid any description that could be interpreted as orange. You know how they like to trick us by calling a flower apricot, tangerine, salmon, or peach.
They rarely use the “o” word but when that flower blooms there is no other way to describe it—it is orange.
A few years ago, we were left with all the orange impatiens out of a mixed color package we grew to sell. It seemed that no one else liked orange either so I was stuck with them. Not one to waste a perfectly good plant —or, in this case about 2 dozen good plants—I set about potting them up in containers to place in shady spots around my yard.
I made the best of a bad situation by combining them with some splashy coleus, bright orange flowering begonias, and an odd orange flowering fuchsia to light up the dark corners. I figured that if I hated them at least they were sort of hidden. Instead, those colors drew the eye right to them, jazzing up my drab side porch and they were a magnet for hummingbirds. I fell in love with the look and I am proud to say that I am no longer shy about using orange in my garden.
On the hot side of the color wheel, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, and yellow are next to each other. This is called analogous. Since they share some of their color with their neighbor, they connect well in the garden and can actually create a harmonious look. By planting flowers that bloom in those color ranges as accents, we can add warmth and excitement to an uneventful garden scene but you don’t want to have too much.
I have never seen a garden that was totally reds and oranges but I think it would be exhausting! Our eyes need a rest to be able to enjoy the brights. Foliage colors can help to calm the excitement. Silver leaves, gray-greens, purple, and dark green provide contrast and plants with white or blue flowers have a cooling effect. You can use flowers just like paints to create an interesting picture.
Oriental poppies are always exciting—the first spark of flaming orange to appear in our perennial bed.
Asclepias, the butterfly weed, draws not only butterflies from far and wide but also a variety of beneficial insects to its yellow and orange blossoms.
Gazania, Asiatic lilies, daylilies, dahlias, crocosmia, glads, and cannas come in some of the brightest shades of orange.
Marigolds, zinnias, calendula, nasturtiums, and snapdragons are annuals that can bring a touch of the tropics to a boring garden.
It has been a cool rainy summer so far for us, so in an effort to heat things up, at least visually, this is the summer to add some sizzling color. Time to crank it up a notch!
Enjoy browsing flowers in the Almanac Flower Guide and see which colors you like!