Color: Flying Solo

– Posted in: Garden Design

In taking some photos this week in my garden, I was struck by how the use of one color in a very ‘boundaried’ manner can make for a memorable composition. As gardeners, color plays such a prominent role in our creations, that it is easy to forget that ‘less’ can sometimes prove to be more effective.

Gazing at the branches of Hamamelis x intermida ‘Diane’ in bloom against the stark landscape brought to mind one of the most exquisite of all visual scenes that I remember from a movie: Schindler’s List. The scene, done in black and white, is of a war torn city strewn with carnage. Within this devestation, we see a little girl in a bright red coat walking.  This vision has stuck with me for years as being incredibly powerful. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for us to strive for such ‘solo’ color compositions in the garden (easier done in the winter garden) on occasion.

Another example of a color flying ‘solo’ is the picture below of my periwinkle iron bench. It’s not that it goes unnoticed in the spring and summer but it is much less of a standout when cushioned up against so much other color. Yet, in the winter landscape, it’s hard to miss.

Perhaps you noticed a glimmer of the yellow witch hazel in the background in the photo above. Yet, when I nearly delete the periwinkle chair from the composition below (in lower right hand side), to my eye, the yellow, although hardly vibrant, does proceed hesitatingly to the forefront becuase it no longer has competition from the blue.

Winter is also a great time to observe the color choices you’ve made: not only in benches but with containers and fences, or anything that otherwise becomes an instrument in the orchestra when the garden is in full bloom. For example, the photos below of my lime green fences, allows me to observe them naked and question myself as to whether or not they add a positive element to the garden. What would the cutting garden look like without this block of color at the end of it? Surely a more subdued colored fence would do the job. But there is something about the lime green punch of color that gives this garden a sprinkle of zestiness that is such an integral part of its personality.

And then there is the faded lime green fence at the back end of my property that has been transplanted more times than I care to reminder. Although it does stand out in the neutral tones of this photo, in fact, it is in the spring and summer when it acts as a backdrop to grass green, yellow green and bluish green plant material that it pops out at you.

The photo of this red ceramic container shows its simple beauty. I use several of these red containers in my garden. It may be hard to believe but they actually blend beautifully into the late spring, summer and fall landscapes.

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Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at

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Fran Sorin

Fran Sorin

Fran Sorin
Fran Sorin

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