Colour Schemes in the Flower Garden

The garden company I get some of my tube-stock/plugs from often gives me unnamed, root-bound or half-alive freebies that they can’t sell.

The last such ‘gift’ was a perennial Dianthus. Not knowing what name/colour the Dianthus was (but knowing that it would be white, pink, red or purple), I teased its roots, trimmed and fed it and placed it in front of a Pelargonium at the border’s edge.

The two are now in bloom together.


Harmonious, matchy-matchy or just plain jarring? You decide!

As a chance partnership, it almost works, and while it’s cutesy enough, it got me thinking of my time in the UK: the topic of flower colour schemes, and more specifically, complementary flower colours in the garden was taken very seriously.

In Australia, it hardly ever gets a mention: the blazing intensity of the summer sun bleaches pastels into a sort of dazzling cream while saturating intense colours even further. It is more akin to the brilliant glare of the Mediterranean Isles than the gentle light of an overcast UK summer which allows subtle pastel combinations to shine.

The subject often ended up being quite divisive: from gardeners who eschewed reds/oranges in favour of soft pastels, or relegated such colours to ‘tropical’ borders. Or to gardens composed entirely of white flowers and subtle silvery leaves that created uniform colour schemes that epitomised sophistication. Certainly, unless you were Christopher Lloyd himself, you had no hope of pairing pinks & oranges without drawing condemnation.


One of the many tools available to help you adhere to, or break, the rules! Courtesy of

I found the topic most interesting: after all, flowers last only a matter of weeks…but nature herself certainly combines all matter of combinations that we deem ‘poor taste’.

Personally, there isn’t a colour I don’t like, but where does each gardener draw the line?

While I admit to choosing foliage colour schemes reasonably carefully, I only occasionally give any real thought to the flower colour schemes in my own garden (obviously that isn’t the case with client gardens): and usually then, it is with reference to their proximity to the house and the long lived shrubs/perennials – the further away from the house, or if I am using annuals/biennials, the more I aim for plants that I want to grow, or test, rather than plants whose colours complement or match others nearby.

This packet of ‘throw and sow’ seeds in my garden is all adjacent on the colour wheel, but that isn’t my doing – it’s the seed packet producer, and thank goodness they went to the trouble, as I would probably end up with a gaudy mix if left to my own devices:


Pinks, mauves, blues and whites


Delicate pink and lemon shades courtesy of the seed packet producer….


….and so continues the pink, mauve and white while introducing a splash of yellow

Believe me, I am no expert, and I certainly admit when I get it wrong!


Diascia and Dianthus. Decidedly dreadful 🙂

That combination of green, coral pink, brick red and fluro pink really only belongs in an 1980s discotheque…I doubt even the midday sun could bleach that colour scheme into something restful!!!!!

Even the shapes of the flowers clash!

So how much attention do you give to the colour schemes of flowers in your garden? Do you lean more to complementary, clashing or contrasting colours? Pastels or bold? Is there a colour that you would never let into your garden? Or do you just have flowers that you like, regardless of colour – simply destined to be cut and put into a vase?

As many of you now would be looking at spring catalogues and pondering the new season, it would be great to hear your thoughts!

Happy Gardening 🙂


11 thoughts on “Colour Schemes in the Flower Garden

  1. I am conscious of what I’m planting and where – and experience all the same concerns you mentioned such as; right location, proximity to structures etc. The number one gardening issue I encounter is limited choice when it comes to plant material. Only recently have wider varieties of plants become available here, but even then you’re limited to what ever the garden center opted to stock for sale. It requires a lot of driving to other shops and locales hunting down something different. Earlier this year I bought up a lot of perennials from one place only because they were the only place that still had anything for sale! The plants in question were probably not the ones I would have normally purchased, but I was hungry to get plants in the ground and get this garden thing going! 🙂 I foresee that I’ll be transplanting those perennials to other places next year.

    More to the point of your post, color schemes… I think here the trends have been quite predictable and safe over the years – white, pink, lavender. Once the daffodils are done, you might not see yellow in anyone’s garden the rest of the year… but there are exceptions.. 🙂
    Online, I have tracked down images from abroad of color gone wild – crazy color.. wow. it’s shocking. I really almost can’t stand to look at it. It’s a riot of color – too much! I definitely would not want to duplicate this in my own garden… hence it’s a thing to avoid. So for me, I would say I combine color and texture, seasonal interest, and variety in garden spaces that are atypical from everyone else. At least that seems to be my intention, despite when I’m snagging garden center bargains without a clue where I’ll put them!! 😀


    • Thanks for the reply, sweetk8….I certainly hear you on having to move perennials around….the coral pink diascia in the shame file photo really needs to be teemed with a very pale mauve or white. Lord only knows what I’ll find to go with it! I might just have to buy more plants 🙂

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  2. I am not a garden designer, but more of a plant grower and experimenter. I have no problem with mixing colors as I try to grow as many different plants as possible. I do try to group similar plants together. There are no gingers in my salvia garden! Dianthus and violas are winter plants for us and are now being planted in our gardens.


  3. I love it ALL — all colors except perhaps orange in my gardens — and even orange has its pluses when thinking of California poppies and some fall foliage! Mixing and sometimes matching colors is one of the joys of gardening/ We are artists with all of nature as our palette. Oh, and I love clean, crisp white — can never have too much. Most recently I’m drawn to flowers in deepest tones on the opposite end of the spectrum. Why not embrace it ALL?


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