left It is surprising how far you can extend an illusion of space with colour alone. The scarlet oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) in the foreground catch the eye like warning flags and their colour makes their position plain at the very front of the border. Beyond, clumps of delphiniums with catmint behind them make a shimmering haze of blue, suggesting a distance far greater than that which separates them from the poppies. By exploiting the illusion that hot colours seem to come forward in space, and cool ones to recede, you can make your garden appear longer than it really is. And if you want a long, narrow garden to appear wider, try planting blue flowers along the sides, while avoiding alignments that emphasize perspective.
to be soothing, while contrasts are usually stimulating. The basis of these colour combinations is explained in the chapters on Harmonies and Contrasts.
The way that you use colour in your garden is as personal to you as the decoration of your house. We all interpret colour differently, according to our background and circumstances. We all have different tastes, and there are no rules about right and wrong. What seems subtle to one person may seem dull to another. You might consider a colour scheme bright and cheerful, whereas your neighbour regards it as garish. What matters is to use colour in your own way, absorbing any help and examples that you find useful.
You are bound to be influenced most of all by what you have seen. You can pick up useful ideas about colour from garden visits and from garden pictures in books and magazines, but be receptive also to ideas from outside the sphere of gardening. Paintings, textiles and fashion design can point to new ways of using colour in the garden. Within garden design itself there are changing trends in approaches to colour. The Victorians liked the combination of rich colour and strong pattern. A more restrained approach originated with Gertrude Jekyll in the early years of the twentieth century and reached its apogee with Vita Sackville-West’s white garden at Sissinghurst Castle in the 1930s. Today the ‘state of the art’ may be in the use of bold, rich colour, and wild plantings with grasses whose colour effects are judged successful to the extent to which they reflect nature. With all these conflicting influences you will be most successful with colour by being true to your own preferences.
Whether you make your colour associations by instinct or by following examples that you have seen, it helps to have an understanding of how colour works, so that you can refine your colour sensibilities and find new directions by
10 THE GARDENER’S BOOK OF COLOUR