Simple color in your garden is eye catching |

Simple color in your garden is eye catching

Tom Glass
Vail CO, Colorado
Tom Glass

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Absolutely the best hanging baskets I saw all last summer hung beside the pool at Singletree below Balata. The design was daring and irreverent in regard to color composition and plant growth habits and it worked 100 percent. Whoever designed those baskets, I want you to know, you have a fan.

Combination containers ” compositions of different plants grown in pots, window boxes, or hanging baskets ” have become the norm in gardening circles. A decade ago few were sold off the rack and were typically custom creations. Today, gardeners and growers strive to create ever more complex designs using a palette of plants that continues to expand beyond traditional boundaries. A well-designed and grown basket adds sophistication and significance to any entryway or patio, and ultimately is nothing but fun.

However, one consequence of creating complex designs is commonly the impact of color is often lost. Few things scream red louder than a pot overflowing with red geraniums, yellow shouts boy howdy when a mass of marigolds jam a pot and blue emerges from shadows when it’s spread on thick. In other words, complexity does not necessarily mean more impact.

Many times customers plan brilliant displays and then load up on seven different colored plants. From across the yard it looks like a jumble.

Or, they’ll ask for a planting that can be seen as inviting from the street. Offering a few options, I’ll show them one or two, maybe three plants that, when planted en masse, achieves the intended effect. Loaded on a cart it often doesn’t appear to them to be the full throttle display they desire. So, to up the octane, I’ll toss in more show and we’re off to the races. More is more.

Particularly from a distance, a simple design utilizing one or two colors will draw more attention than a subtly crafted tapestry of pinks, rose, white and blue. Even red and yellow pocked alternating side by side loses its impact in comparison to a field of red with a yellow accent, and vice versa.

We have increased complexity to add interest and have instead achieved blandness in the details. Contemporary flower designers should step back and take a deep breath. We should re-examine peoples expressed desires. From a distance, I think people want their world to be bright and inviting. Up close, under scrutiny, complexity has a better opportunity to be revealed for the masterpiece that it is, or isn’t.

This year I’m advocating simplicity in garden design. I think we have seen the depths of complex, and it’s been an interesting tour, but upon consideration, the most common request I have heard throughout the winter is for more color this spring. My interpretation is that this is a call for more of the impact of color ” which is really quite simple to achieve.

Tom Glass writes a weekly garden column for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments or questions about this column to

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