How to build a colorful garden?

Massif of Crocosmia and Monarde / Garden Workshop - BG / RUSTICA

If the color palette is wide, it is best not to abuse it. It is more likely a happy effect by opting for a unique color, declined in all its nuances. Pleasant to live and very relaxing, these gardens are not strictly speaking monochrome – in nature, the unique color does not exist – if only because of the presence of green green leaves.

Row of dahlias of all colors in the garden near the house / Miromesnil vegetable garden – BG / Rustica

Anyway, it is best to avoid color mixing and choose two or three shades maximum. By combining two colors close to the color circle (yellow and red, yellow and blue, blue and red) we obtain a harmony that induces a feeling of calm and tranquility. The contrasts, which arise from the approximation of two opposite colors of the chromatic circle (yellow and purple, orange and blue, green and red) generating, them, a certain tonicity. In addition, the hues too bright, focusing the gaze, shrink small gardens, while the soft hues give an impression of space.

To decorate a small pink flowered square in his garden

The rose suits floral shrubs, from Kolkwitzia amabilis to various cherry blossoms, through the spring tamarisk.

Heart of Mary – P. Kadijevic

  • The Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) grows fast enough when it is young, and quickly calms its vigor as it ages. Of a deep magenta pink, its flowers appear in bouquets in May or June on the shoots of the previous year, sometimes on the trunk.
  • Yarrow ‘Cherry Queen’ in spring, foxglove in summer and anemones from Japan (including Anemone hupehensis) in autumn brighten up the clumps for nearly 8 months.
  • At the beginning of the season, they complete the aubrietes with pink flowers such as ‘Alsace’ or ‘Midinette’, various cultivars of astilbes and the elegant Coeur-de-Marie (Dicentra spectabilis).
  • In autumn, the asters ‘Rosebud’ or ‘Patricia Ballard’ compose carpets of an intense pink.
  • Once in place, Liatris spicata and various monards, like ‘Croftway Pink’ and ‘Panorama’, bloom again faithfully every year.
  • In the spring, a hotpot of ‘Pink Queen’ or ‘Helen Campbell’ keys or some ‘Sensation’ cosmos seeds quickly fill an empty space in the garden.

Flowered alley leading to the castle of Miromesnil composed of aster, sedum, rudbeckia, verbena of Buenos Aires, cosmos and other flowers / Miromesnil vegetable garden – BG / Rustica


Lay out a small red flowered square in his garden

Most shrubs with red flowers are horticultural artifacts.

Benoîte – C. Rattle

  • Thus, the red varieties of buddléia ‘Royal Red’, weigelia ‘Bristol Ruby’ or Japanese quince ‘Nicoline’, all of a very bright red, are born from an originally pink species.
  • Some perennials such as benoit (in its variety ‘Mrs Bradshaw’), the red oriental poppy and the Jerusalem cross (Lychnis chalcedonica) find their place in a uniformly red massif.
  • Scarlet colors are also the most common in Chinese peony.
  • Montbrétia ‘Lucifer’ is a perennial bulbous bright red.
  • Imperata cylindrica is an unusual grass that develops foliage of a beautiful purple red throughout the summer.
  • Yearly voluminous (up to 1.20 m high), amaranth tail fox can fill the spring emptiness left by winter in its small massif.


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Dressed or crawling according to species and varieties, cotoneasters are so widespread that one hesitates to plant them in one’s garden. All develop countless white flowers in spring. As early as August, their fruits are colored in a brilliant red that participates in the great symphony of our colorful gardens in autumn.

Composition of multicolored sage on a background of blue wooden fence – F. Boucourt – Rustica

To decorate a small blue flowered square in its garden

Even in the height of summer, the blooming blue will bring your little garden a sense of freshness.

Blue thistle in bloom – C. Rattle

  • Many summer and fall flowering shrubs, such as the various cultivars of caryopteris, Perovskia or Vitex agnus-castus, flower azure flowers. Not larger than 1.20 m, these shrubs are ideal for small gardens.
  • Aubrey ‘Blue King’ spreads its cushions a very bright blue in April.
  • The blue flowers, in the shape of a “madman’s cap”, of the alpine columbine take over in May, as well as those of blueberry cultivars.
  • The bugloss of Italy does not disarray the massif, especially if the earth stays cool in summer.
  • In drier soil, it is better to prefer the various blue spps that have many species and varieties, the blue thistle (Echinops ritro) or the Nepétas ‘Six Hills Giant’.
  • Bellflowers include many species, mostly blue, and all of easy culture. In spring, think of forget-me-not or Chionodoxa luciliae. The latter is a small blue bulb that does not look, but is very strong and durable.

Aster flowers, sedum, cosmos / Miromesnil vegetable garden – BG / Rustica


Choose a species of Viburnum

The species of Viburnum are numerous (between 120 and 200): from the popular snowball (Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ or V. opulus ‘Compactum’) to the viburnum lantana (Viburnum lantana), which grows spontaneously in the undergrowth of our forests. In the small gardens the palm comes back to Viburnum plicatum, especially in its variety ‘Mariesii’. Not very big (2.50 m high) and of very characteristic port with its horizontal branches staggered, this solid shrub develops remarkable creamy white inflorescences in May.

To prevent the blue hydrangeas from turning pink …

The coloring of hydrangea flowers varies according to the acidity of the soil, and some cultivars of blue hue take a pinkish or red hue in calcareous or neutral soil. Thus, ‘Blue Sky’, ‘Blue Wave’ or ‘Blaumeise’ become pink in a soil with a pH greater than 6. The use of a special hydrangea blue fertilizer from the trade allows their flowers to retain their blue hue, but this color will never be definitively acquired and it will be necessary to regularly renew the fertilizer inputs.

Decorate a small purple flower square in his garden

A massif that blooms in shades of mauve and purple gives off an ineffable impression of serenity.

Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’ – C. Rattle

  • The purple squares can be established from summer shrubs such as the unbeatable buddléia ‘Empire Blue’, a beautiful aubergine color, or ‘Black Knight’ a purplish color even more pronounced.
  • The hibiscus ‘Lavender Chiffon’ has lavender only the name, since its delicate double flowers are frankly mauve.
  • Moreover, the inflorescences of most ornamental lavender like ‘Hitcote’ or ‘Grosso’ are also more violet than lavender color.
  • Ornamental garlic, including Allium aflatunense and especially gigantic garlic (Allium giganteum ‘Globemaster’), do not mismatch such a set.
  • The horticultural iris unfolds in countless hues, including ‘Hey Looky’, ‘Dusky Dancer’ and ‘Mary Frances’, some of the most amazing violets.
  • The very spartan acanthus spiny (Acanthus spinosus) is surrounded by these little periwinkles that are the dwarf asters of which there are many purple cultivars, such as’ Prof. Anton Kippenberg ‘,’ Kassel ‘or’ Lady in Blue ‘.
  • Even in the shade, the small fragrant violet ‘Queen Charlotte’ spreads in broad tufts which are garnished in spring with a multitude of purple flowers.
  • In autumn, you have to transplant some purple crocus bulbs like ‘Lilac Beauty’, or wait until spring to install the delicious and fragrant heliotrope of Peru.


To decorate a small yellow flowered square in his garden

The yellows, whether frankly lemony or amber, convey an impression of cheerfulness and energy.

Genista ‘Porlock’ – F. Marre

  • The yellow of the forsythias preludes to the first spring blooms. It is therefore normal that it is at the top of the list of golden flowering shrubs. Especially since these last years saw the appearance of small cultivars like ‘Marée d’Or’, which find their place easily in a small garden.
  • The broom ‘Lydia’ is a stocky and compact shrub that blooms in early summer.
  • But winter also takes on color with the long, lemon-yellow inflorescences of Mahonia x media ‘Charity’.
  • There is no lack of yellow in the palette of various perennials, from very dwarf ones such as the saxatile alysse to the robust Heliopsis helianthoides (up to 1.50 m high), through the various cultivars of coreopsis, including the essential ‘ Goldstar.
  • Amateur of robust perennials, the lysimachus punctuated, undoubtedly the most accommodating of all, is made for you.
  • Yellow daylilies, such as Hemerocallis citrina or various cultivars such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ are long-lasting, strong flowers. Sunflowers are easily established in the garden by spring sowing. In a small garden, opt for small varieties like ‘Sunspot’.


To decorate a small orange flowered square in his garden

The luxuriance and sparkle of orange colors transform the summer beds into fire gardens.

Hemerocallis ‘Burning Daylight’ – F. Marre

  • Some Berberis, including the remarkable ‘Orange King’, develop a beautiful orange hue. Be careful however, all bite: use homeopathic dose and never install them at the edge of the massif.
  • The little potentilla ‘Red Robin’, despite its name, is more orange than red.
  • But the big orange season remains autumn, with the remarkable autumn leaves of the Virginia Sumac or Aronia Arbutifolia ‘Brilliant’.
  • Many fruits also extend in autumn the breathtaking oranges of the spring and summer blooms. The curious flower of Kniphophia galpinii gives the “the” in this symphony of fire.
  • The cultivars of daylilies of orange color are numerous (‘Frans Hals’, ‘Insenescence’, ‘Margaret Perry’ …) and always gratifying.
  • The orange fritillary is a spring bulbous plant that sets up in the fall and remains in place for several years.
  • Orange cannas, such as ‘Tali’ and ‘Wyoming’, settle in the spring, bloom in summer and require shelter from the cold in autumn.
  • The ‘Orange Boy’ marigolds or the orange nasturtiums of the ‘Whirlybird’ series can fill a gap in the spring. The rapidity of growth and the vigor of these two annuals allow for direct seeding in place in late April or early May.


Decorate a small white flowered square

Neutral color – it revitalizes the other colors -, the white is far from being a rarity in the shrubs.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ – F. Boucourt

  • Many common species such as weigelias, deutzias or rosebushes are found in cultivars with pure white flowers.
  • The very strong fragrant honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) has deliciously fragrant white tubular flowers, while Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ is a shrubby hydrangea with very large immaculate flowers.
  • Implant various perennials such as the famous silver baskets (Arabis caucasica) or Thlaspi sempervirens at the base of these shrubs. Achillea ptarmica ‘The Pearl’ is a little higher (50 cm).
  • Some white perennial geraniums, such as Geranium sanguineum ‘Album’, ‘Snowsprite’ or ‘Herbstschnee’ asters, as well as the aerial inflorescences of the various babysitters, are spreading into white snow in the very heart of summer.
  • Many bellflower species have white cultivars and, among bulbous species, snowdrops remain a must in spring.


And the green in all this?

More jewel than jewel, the green color is declined in the garden in infinite nuances: tender green of the young leaves of the golden syringa (Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’), green anise of the inflorescences of the gladiolus ‘Green Star’, dark green of the wrinkled leaves of Viburnum rhytidophyllum and pale green almost yellow from hosta ‘August Moon’. You can soak your brush, because this color acts as a link between the other colors.

Golden syringe – F. Marre

Playing on textures in the garden

Some inflorescences are heavy, others more evanescent. Choose in priority plants with fine flowers and aerial, which are better suited to small gardens. Also prefer plants with compound or strongly laciniate leaves that, because of their lighter appearance, integrate better in confined spaces.