How to Create Nonstop Color in Your Garden

Choreograph the colors in your garden with tips from author and radio host Nellie Neal, the "Garden Mama."
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Photo By: Courtesy of Cool Springs Press / Quarto Publishing Group

Photo By: Courtesy of Cool Springs Press / Quarto Publishing Group / Photo by George Weigel

Photo By: Courtesy of Cool Springs Press / Quarto Publishing Group / Photo by George Weigel

Photo By: Courtesy of Cool Springs Press  / Quarto Publishing Group / Photo by George Weigel

Photo By: Courtesy of Cool Springs Press / Quarto Publishing Group / Photo by George Weigel

Photo By: Courtesy of Cool Springs Press / Quarto Publishing Group / Photo by George Weigel

Photo By: Courtesy of Cool Springs Press / Quarto Publishing Group / Photo by George Weigel

Photo By: Courtesy of Cool Springs Press / Quarto Publishing Group / Photo by Jerry Pavia

How to Achieve Non-Stop Color

In The NonStop Color Garden, Nellie Neal, a.k.a. "the Garden Mama," recommends planting from the top down - that is, using color on every level with trees, shrubs, flowering plants, vines and groundcovers. Choose a color theme that "spans the seasons or changes with them," she says. What color is currently trending? "I'm seeing a lot of what I call 'Dutch orange,'" Neal says. "Before I went to Holland, I thought I hated orange...But orange is historically a very important color there and they showed me hues I had never seen." Her favorite is a rich shade of creamsicle orange. "I have seen it in furniture, accessories and plants from geraniums to zinnias. With the right paint and plants, I plan to use that orange shade as an anchor color - it will go well with both my concrete pieces and the rusty iron that I adore."

A Blue and Lilac Palette

Neal says this color spectrum is one of her favorites from her book. Here, the planks in a path echo the blue and lilac plants, so the color palette continues even after the growing season.

Red in the Garden

When you're driving, red is a signal to stop. It also directs traffic in the garden; these laceleaf Japanese maples lead visitors along a walkway. Neal says red is on-trend. "I'm seeing more deep burgundy reds (think of an Abyssinian banana plant) and pinks both rosy and pale as a ghost. It would seem that drama will be a trend in the garden this year, if color writes the script."

Design Your Space

"Garden Mama" Nellie Neal recommends keeping four to six colors in mind when you're shopping for plants, so new additions will fit in. The design for this garden spot started with three large shapes that created visual balance: the gazebo, leafy arch and boulder. It allowed plenty of space for plants. 

Silver and White in the Garden

Garden ornaments can accent your color choices. This silvery-white gazing ball echoes the white fence, hostas and flowers, making a welcome contrast to various shades of rich green.

Gray in the Garden

"Cool gray architecture like this imposing structure demands bold color and plant form to make it welcoming," Neal says. Tropical red, yellow and orange blooms soften the scene, along with large foliage in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures.

Colorful Hanging Baskets

Add punches of bright color with hanging baskets. They work like neon lights, says Neal, when used as a focal point in a garden nook like this one.

Rainbow Colors

Don't be afraid to plant a "bouquet garden," says Neal. Pack different colors and shapes together in a small space, as you'd do when making a pretty bouquet. To make the show last longer, consider plants with staggered bloom times.

Shades of Green

"Green soothes, calms, and reassures," Nellie Neal says, and there are many shades and textures of green plants to choose from. For contrast, try cream or white flowers and foliage. "Next to green, orange is now my favorite color."

Neutral Colors for Winter

For a four-season garden, consider plant forms as well as colors. "Here, the sun plays across the snow in a brilliant neutral palette of rich brown seed heads and burnished tan grasses plus their shadows," says author Nellie Neal.

Gold in the Garden

This wide border of gold flowers takes the eye—and the visitor—along an intriguing curved path. The other side of the berm is planted with a rainbow of pinks, yellows and other colors.

Paint a Colorful Wall

Not all the colors in your garden have to come from plants. Neal suggests turning a plain wall into a 3-D mural. You just need some imagination, paint and a few interesting container plants to make your garden appear to expand, even if your space is small or narrow.

Reds and Pinks

These swaths of bright red and pink tulips pop against the white trunks of birch trees. The birches will be beautiful all year long, even after the spring bulbs fade.