African Garden + work

Color Combinations: the Problem of Pink
Digitalis in shade

There are some flower colors that are easy to work into combinations of contrasting or monochromatic schemes in the garden, such as blue. Then there is pink, which has to be the trickiest color of all. It's just too easy to get it wrong.

Here are a couple of examples of nails-on-the-chalkboard yellow and pink combinations.

Sorry about the quality of this one. I took it in the middle of the day with my phone.

What is it about orangey-yellow day lilies that makes people want to pair them with pink?

I saw the above two scenes on garden walks last weekend. The top image is also from a garden I visited. That garden made me realize that one can get away with a lot more colorwise in the shade than in the bright light of full sun, where jarring colors are intensified.

So why is the top image pleasing, and the next two irritating? It's that clash of values. A strong yellow just doesn't work with pink, especially bright pink. In the shot of the foxgloves (Digitalis), the yellow is soft and pale and the pink is purpled. That brings up another aspect of dealing with pink: it can be warm or cool and they should never be mixed. Many a gardener has been brought up short when a plant they planned for a perfect color composition blooms for the first time in the wrong temperature of pink. To clarify the difference between warm and cool pinks, consider the following:

Heuchera 'Vesuvius' and Diascia

Both the Diascia and the Heuchera have blooms of a warm pink. It's not a perfect match, but it isn't painful to view either. By contrast

Please, don't try this at home.

this combination makes me feel slightly queasy. Lavender and coral should be kept far, far apart.

Now lets try it with a cool pure pink.

The pinks in my garden are mostly from the cool shades, such as this Phlox maculata. Rest assured, the Phlox is planted nowhere near the Heuchera.

So what does work? How about this?

Asclepias purpurascens

A darker cool pink is a good partner. But lets get a little more daring.

Cool pink and magenta work well, especially the magenta of the Callirhoe involucrata at the right bottom corner of the picture.
Now, lets have some real fun, Christopher Lloyd style.

This type of combination is not for the faint of heart.

The actual combination I have in my garden is with the chartreuse of Alchemilla.

Phlox maculata with Alchemilla serrata 'Gold Strike'

I find the combination of this jewels of Opar (Talinum paniculatum) with Coleus 'Electric Lime' supremely pleasing.

Pink also pairs well with purple.


My favorite pink combination is exemplified by Dianthus 'Cranberry Ice'.

Cool pink and maroon really floats my boat. Here's another version.

Clematis 'Madame Julia Correvon' and 'Comtesse de Bouchaud'

I have no images of combinations with warm pinks because they are not my thing, but a warm version of the above photo could be done with a warm pink and a scarlet flower.

What combinations with pink have you found attractive?

Part I: Yellow

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Color Combinations: the Problem of Pink + work