GARDEN THERAPY: Orange you Colorful! – November 2021

By Mel Bellar

I am a colorful dude in many ways, or so people say, but today I am talking literally. I like color, mostly as highlights… think yellow car, red glasses, orange crocs, yellow high-top sneakers, red phone, yellow crocs, orange shirts and there is a lot of very colorful décor in our home. Despite this bright list, I still wear a lot of black and gray!

Color is often a BIG topic of conversation in the garden. Judgments are rendered by the amount of, or lack of, color it sports. Neil Driscoll (gardener, plantsman, artist, musician and plant salesman at the Round Barn market) and I were chatting one Fall. When I mentioned something about my garden, he said, “Do you still have some color?” It made an impression on me as I thought it was a strange thing to ask: I was sure that he didn’t mean “Fall color”.  Typically, when someone talks about color in the garden, I assume that they are talking about flowers, and people get very passionate about flowers. Many of you reading this are probably lovers of big fluffy peonies, luscious roses, dinner plate dahlias, masses of begonias and petunias.  I get it. I love flowers, but when there are too many, which are too bright and oddly placed, it starts to look a little Disney-like or, in my humble opinion, a bit garish. Brightly colored flowers make wonderful accents and highlights, but too many in too close proximity makes me want to deadhead!

There is a color that I find myself often enjoying both in life and in the garden. Yes, I love orange!  It is a color I particularly love in the garden and was musing over how many folks tell me that they don’t want any orange. There is the tribe of people that only want cool colors like purple, lavender, pink and white and I get that. There are fanatics that simply will not count white as a color in flowers and therefore totally discount them. This is where I beg to differ. White flowers are wonderful in the garden, and for me it is nearly impossible to have too many. Some clients forbid magenta or hot pink in their gardens, and while I find that easy to understand, in small doses as accents, these shocking colors can be very effective. And there is a group of my colleagues that really don’t like red flowers in the garden; they have ruled that red is garish in the garden setting.  Snobbery? Fickleness? A splash of red in the garden is something I love, while understanding it is a strong color that doesn’t “blend in” to most palettes. But orange is something to really consider. There are many shades of orange and orange plays so well with several other colors and looks lovely in so many varied situations. While I disagree, when folks tell me that they don’t want orange in their garden, my first thought is that “that will be a breeze” because orange is not that easy to come by in garden, except in Fall color… which nobody seems