21-day lockdown – Day 9 – Providing more “Colour”

21-day lockdown – Day 9 – Providing more “Colour”

When meeting with new clients we often get the request for “more colour” in their gardens. When we get such requests, the first thing we usually do is to point out that green is a colour!

But, of course, we do understand what people really mean. In most cases they’d like to see vast swathes of showy flowers in their garden, much like those wonderful images of the Chelsea Flower Show.

Unfortunately, opinions regarding blossoming gardens are often misguided. Many pictures on social media and in books and magazines showcase pristine gardens which are photographed in the peak of their flowering season, but in reality no garden can look like this throughout the year. Most plants have a relatively short flowering period, and for the rest of the year, it’s their foliage colour that matters.

Additionally, there is also a common misconception that indigenous plants cannot provide colour in our gardens. So below we’d like to help dispel this fallacy and tell you that yes, you can have a wonderful, colourful garden using only indigenous plants, and that you can do this by selecting a variety of plant species to help create highlights throughout the year. Here are a few tips we recommend when designing and creating a colourful, indigenous garden: 

  • Mass-plant the same species to create a colourful seasonal show

Crassula multicava, mass planted and in flower

  • Use plants that provide colour in their foliage even when not in flower. A good example is the groundcover Crassula multicava ‘Rubra’ (Fairy crassula) which has a burgundy underside on its foliage.

The subtle burgundy underside of Crassula multicava ‘Rubra’ creates a beautiful and perpetual colour contrast in your garden

  • Use some plants which have long flowering periods e.g. Anisodontea sp. (Pink mallows)

Anisodontea ‘Cerise Classic” creates a stunning focal plant, and has a long flowering period

  • Some plants have multiple flowering seasons in a year e.g. Strelitzia reginae, Metarungia longistrobus (Sunbird bush)

Strelitzia reginae, a global favourite

  • Plants that have flowerheads as opposed to individual blooms tend to look more showy e.g Plectranthus species, Nuxia floribunda, Aloe species

Many people believe that flowers are only borne in summer. On the contrary, we’ve several magnificent autumn and winter-flowering indigenous plants that deserve a place in your garden, such as aloes.

  • Include a hardscaping element such as a bright-coloured pot to add some dramatic colour
  • Plants with variegated or grey foliage (e.g. Plectranthus madagascariensis (Variegated spur flower) and Helichrysum petiolare (Silver everlasting) add colourto the garden  just be adding a dark/light contrast

Helichrysum petiolare (silver shrub in the background) creates a striking contrast in the garden

So next time you’re thinking about adding colour to your garden, consider using indigenous species, and including those that have different foliage colours. You’ll not only be enhancing your space for the local wildlife, you’ll also be creating a more authentic gardening experience.