Color Within – Process of Design

The Color Within, Seventh in the Series, Process of Design

Color is used with restraint in this garden.  It occurs in groupings rather than arbitrarily dotting the landscape. The garden is tiny, so creating large drifts is out of the question, but repeating plant form and color helps to unify the space.

Blue, yellow and white comprise the main palette, but pink pops from the landscape in spring, giving the garden a bright youthful glow so early in the season. Especially needed because the plants are still small.

This adds an unexpected surprise to the color scheme. The pink plants include the peony, the cherry tree and the lilac, which bloom sequentially to prolong the interest in the cool, wet spring.

It adds variety too. The feel of the garden changes over the season. This is much welcomed to alleviate boredom in a small space.

It is a good practice to document a new garden’s development, whether in a garden journal or photographically.  Pictures really do tell a thousand words. It helps to see the development over the season and how color is distributed and sequential; where there is repetition and clustering.

First the tulips, pear tree and cherry tree all bloom together. The pear was planted to precede the cherry.  Some years, they bloom together. It is all dependent on the Spring weather. Tulip varieties are planted to prolong the season. Above, you see the late-blooming lily flowering White Triumphator with tulip Maureen.

Starting in spring, take photos just as the snow has melted and perennials are starting to poke through the cold soil.

This way you know if you can fill a certain spot with more foliage and you do not impulsively buy more than can be planted.  If you plan your garden well there will be little down time for color and texture.

The next flush of flowers is the rhododendron, viburnum and iris, followed by the azaleas and clematis.  The peonies are the last to bloom in spring.

Azalea blooms along with the Coral Bells, above. The Clematis is just starting to flush and fill in the concrete reinforcing mesh used as a trellis. Being in the industry gets me some useful construction scraps.  The Clematis did not care if this was an expensive trellis.

Summer is packed with color. The yellows were selected because their vibrancy does not wash out in the strong summer sun like that of the whites.  The lilies juxtapose nicely with the blue Allium, Nikko Blue Hydrangea and Munstead lavender. The whites shine at night.

Lavender, although long living, gets weather worn after a number of years.  When this occurs, it is best to replace it with new plants or cuttings from the old plants.  To maintain the appropriate size for the location, these will be replaced with cuttings every tree years. Cuttings are easy to take and grow.

Lavender grows extremely fast and will have a new showing in no time and rebloom as does the Delphinium, daylilies and coreopsis as shown in the fall. White Astilbe can be seen in the image below to the far left.

Repeating plants is essential even in a small garden.  The spikes of Delphinium, Allium and lilies occur in triangulated positions in the garden, affording continuity, texture and unity throughout the small space. In the image above, the young climbing, Golden Showers roses can barely be seen. The vines are just starting to fully cover the fence.

It will take several years for the landscape to mature and have an established appearance.

Perennials will take three years on average, shrubs and trees are dependent on the size and species initially purchased.

This garden was actually redesigned after three years. The garden became more formal, but added reds in the mix. Yellows became less dominant, and the blues increased their presence.

The Chamaercyparis or false cypress were replaced with boxwood, arborvitae were added for height and repetition.  I will show this transformation later.

Pink gladiolus come back and multiply every year.

Fall brings phlox. Calamintha, clematis and Oriental lilies in one bed.  The other bed will rebloom with the summer flowers and additionally the Caryopteris.

A row of Caryopteris is planted and grows to three feet high.  In bloom, they attract many kinds of bees and butterflies. There should never be a dull moment in a well-planned garden, especially if it is small and manageable.

The Sweet Autumn Clematis covers the garage wall, blooming after the big flush of Yellow Trumpet Vine. Iceberg Roses sit below.

A little fountain will add the soothing sound of water in a shady corner. A little bleach keeps the moss and algae in check.

This fountain used a piece of grated walkway to support the pavers. It was structurally sound enough to support the weight of a few adults standing on it as a walkable surface. The geraniums are a place keeper until the ivy covers the brick, as it does today. The fountain has been since replaced by a planting bed.

The Alyssum fills in quickly between the stepping-stones. The natural flagstones have been replaced by pavers for less work of planting. As pretty as this is, it reduced maintenance.

Here is the links to the other posts in the series. Sorry about the poor photos, but I did not have the negatives to make a good scan. The front planting will be shown later.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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21 Responses to Color Within – Process of Design

  1. One says:

    This is how I would like my garden to look like. White and purple in one corner. Yellow patch at the forefront. A neat border to tame the lawn & tiny white flowers growing from between the pavement stones. Now, where do I start? Oh yes, the Base Plan. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  2. p3chandan says:

    Me too…I just love the design and the colour for every corner in your garden. Its so beautiful! But I know its going to be hard work to have such a lovely garden like yours.

  3. dona says:

    What a nice tiny garden! I loved its informal, natural look.

  4. The photos are beautiful—if you hadn’t said anything I wouldn’t have noticed they were scanned. Such a well-planned garden with beautiful choices of colors, plants, and hardscape. I want those frogs. I also want that white peony. Which one is it?

  5. Karen says:

    Donna, this post is so helpful to me. One of the many things we struggle with is keeping the flow of color in the garden going. Spring should be a glorious time here, but it isn’t. I have many daffodils and tulips, but somewhere along the line, dropped the ball on the time between late spring and mid-summer in far too many places. Your clematis are so lovely; I need to add more of them to the gardens and also rethink my color selections. Our formal garden needs remodeling badly and I will be using your excellent tips when we tear it all up. As we age, we need to downsize a quite a bit and your garden shows what can be done within the bounds of a city lot. You have much more color and structure in much less space and it is awe-inspiring!

  6. Garden Sense says:

    Beautiful! I also like that color scheme – not too loud, but plenty of show. Lots of interest all year long and good balance here. I enjoyed the tour!

  7. Dear Donna, I LOVE your garden and your approach to garden design! Next week I start teaching a class on design for home gardeners, and like you I use pictures of my own garden as an example. But I don’t always practice what I preach, so my garden is not as carefully thought out as yours. Maybe I will write a posting on it, but you are a hard act to follow.

    Thank you for your kind wishes prior to my hospital stay! I am home now and feeling well. I’ll post soon.

    Pam x

  8. patty says:

    You have a beautiful garden and have worked hard and successfully at ensuring a continuous bloom through out the seasons. There are many times I wish I had a small garden, as once one area is satisfactory (for the time:) I am playing catch up with the rest.

  9. debsgarden says:

    Yellow, blue, and white is one of my favorite color combinations, and your garden demonstrates it beautifully! It is so fresh and inherently cool looking. I enjoyed seeing the progression through the year. A garden is ever changing. I look forward to seeing the changes you mentioned.

  10. Shyrlene says:

    GWGT – This is an excellent post, as well as the series. It’s so relate-able, whether you are a novice or master gardener. Your garden design drew me in — the architectural structure combined with organic burst of color. Inspirational!

  11. Donna you have a very beautiful garden, I love blue, white and yellow colour scheme both inside and out, Frances

  12. Donna: I could smell the spring air as I was viewing and reading this post. Very encouraging, helpful, and beautiful. Thank you. Beth

  13. What a delightful tour through your garden! I am envious of your beautiful backyard space – for now, all I have is containers! 😀 Someday, someday…

  14. fer says:

    your garden looks amazing! love the color and the arrangements. I am writing down all the advices you give on this series, i find them perfect for learning, thank you!

  15. Kathleen says:

    Your garden is just gorgeous. I can tell you are a thoughtful designer as opposed to just planting and hoping it falls into place (like I have a tendency to do). The frog/paver water feature is also ADORABLE. I would never have thought of it. It would be hard to leave home if my backyard looked like yours ~ can’t wait to see the front now!

  16. Marguerite says:

    Donna, your idea to document a new garden’s progress is a great one, I think. My last garden I used a word processing program on my mac to write and drop in photos of my plants. Even in my new garden I have gone back to that document to review things I have done in the past. Now I’ve started another similar document and use my blog as references for my ongoing work.

  17. The way you’ve used color has made your garden look very very elegant.All that lovely white is so beautiful.~~Dee

  18. lifeshighway says:

    I look at this amazing lovely landscaping and just drool. Alas, I don’t think I will ever be committed enough to sustain a garden of this detail but I love to admire the beauty. Always a pleasure to come by and dream. 🙂

  19. lula says:

    How I wish spring color already! Thanks for this touch so early. My favourite: magnolia and tulips, Great combination!

  20. Soren says:

    Thank you! You have a) given me confidence that I have more or less the right plans for our garden and b) given me inspirations and ideas. For one thing, I want more clematis!!! They’re gorgeous…

  21. VW says:

    I really enjoyed all the photos of your beautiful garden and your talk of color. I think it’s probably more sophisticated to rave about texture instead, but I will always love the color best in a garden.

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