Category Archives: Planting combinations

Considering Colour Combinations in Your Borders

There are so many factors to consider when it comes to choosing plants for your flowering borders, including the soil type, the light levels, the seasonal interest and the growth habits of your plants. One particularly fun aspect to consider is colour. With so many colours available, it can be quite overwhelming to get the right balance. Here we have selected four different colour schemes that always work.

Red and Yellow


Warm colour combinations infuse energy and spice into a border. This is an ideal colour combination for a sunny, late-summer border, as so many summer-flowering perennials that enjoy full sun have flowers that fall into the warmer side of the colour scheme – Crocosmia, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Alchillea, Dahlia, Coreopsis, Cannas and Knifofia, to name a few. This colour scheme blends summer into autumn quite seamlessly, as many late summer perennials keep blooming until the first frosts, and the foliage of shrubs and trees such as Acers, Liquidambars and Viburnums start to take on a red hue before they fall. Never underestimate the power of cool -toned green foliage used alongside, to really help those reds and yellows sizzle and smoulder.

Blue and Yellow


There are not many true-blue flowers available, so most of the time a blue-toned purple is referred to as blue in the flower world. However, combined with yellow, this combination is uplifting without being too dramatic. Purple and yellow are natural opposites on the colour wheel, so they complement each other well, but blue-toned purples keep the combination cool. There are many blue and yellow summer flowers – Delphiniums, Agastache, Salvia and Perovskia teamed with Rudbeckias, Verbascums and Heleniums all work perfectly. However, this colour-combination is also a natural for spring, as the colours are fresh and reminiscent of Easter. Think woodland borders of forget-me-nots, primroses and daffodils.

Green and White


If you would like garden borders that instantly soothe and reinvigorate, then really consider keeping colour out and just using green and white plants in your garden. This neutral combination is timeless and always in style, not to mention refreshing. Green and white works well all year round, with multiple plants being available that offer flowers in this colour scheme. Consider experimenting with texture and foliage plants that offer a wide variety of green shades, to keep borders interesting. Hostas, grasses and evergreen shrubs are a good starting point.

Pink and Purple


If you are a fan of berry shades, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to spring and summer flowering perennials. This harmonious colour scheme is lively and bold, but with a softness to it. Echinacea, Dahlias, Alliums, Salvias are all widely available and come in many different shades of pink and purple. A bit of silver and blue added to the mix will add some depth and contrast, so consider plants such as Artemisia, Eryngium or Echinops too.

Planting a Hot Coloured Copper Pot

Copper pot with hot coloured plants: Calibrachoa 'Million Bells Crackling Fire', French marigolds, Sanvitalia procumbens, Gazania 'Gazoo Orange', Gazania 'Gazoo Clear Yellow' and Carex comans 'Milk Chocolate' - © Nicola Stocken/GAP Photos

Copper pot with hot coloured plants: Calibrachoa ‘Million Bells Crackling Fire’, French marigolds, Sanvitalia procumbens, Gazania ‘Gazoo Orange’, Gazania ‘Gazoo Clear Yellow’ and Carex comans ‘Milk Chocolate’ – © Nicola Stocken/GAP Photos

Match beautiful plants to an out-of-the-ordinary container, and the overall effect is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Tins, bowls, baskets, crates, kettles, scuttles, pails, pots and pans are some of the many alternative containers that, with minor modifications, make remarkable plant partners. This unpolished, old brass coal scuttle turns a matt, reddish brown colour that suits hot coloured plants — Calibrachoa ‘Million Bells Crackling Fire’, French marigolds, trailing Sanvitalia procumbens, Gazanias ‘Gazoo Orange’ and ‘Gazoo Clear Yellow’. In the centre is the ornamental grass, Carex comans ‘Milk Chocolate’, which provides a perfect foil to the bright colours.

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March planted box

With the popularity of recycling and car boot sales, containers for plants are becoming ever more imaginative.

Set against backdrop of red berries of evergreen heavenly bamboo - Nandina domestica, wooden box planted with Narcissus 'Tete-a-Tete' and blue grape hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum. Behind, Skimmia japonica and white heather. In front, ivy, primulas, Cyclamen persicum, ornamental cabbage and pots of emerging crocus bulbs - © Nicola Stocken/GAP Photos

Set against backdrop of red berries of evergreen heavenly bamboo – Nandina domestica, wooden box planted with Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ and blue grape hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum. Behind, Skimmia japonica and white heather. In front, ivy, primulas, Cyclamen persicum, ornamental cabbage and pots of emerging crocus bulbs – © Nicola Stocken/GAP Photos

It’s not surprising— gardeners are a resourceful bunch, well used to adapting whatever nature or the climate throws their way — so transforming random throwaway items into attractive containers rather goes with the territory. Wooden boxes or discarded wine crates make especially handsome containers, either left as plain wood or painted with a colour wash. Either way, the timber should first be treated with an environmentally-friendly preservative before fitting a plastic liner in order to prevent rot. To create maximum impact for minimum effort and expense, fill a box with two of late winter’s most long- lasting flowering bulbs — Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ and blue grape hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum. Deadheaded regularly, this display lasts for at least six weeks, provided the soil is free-draining and kept moist.

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