I love orange. I have at least one orange bag, orange suede gloves, more than one orange scarf .. you get the picture. But orange in the garden .. it took me a while to warm to it… orange marigolds in municipal bedding schemes always looked, well, a bit, unpleasant. And when I saw orange plants next to pink ones, I felt ill. Of course orange wasn’t the culprit, just poor planting choices. So what makes good orange planting choices?
The colour Orange.
Orange lies somewhere between yellow and red and therein lies its strength. It adds warmth and it’s cheerful, and increases the impact of its two primary colour components, red and yellow. It’s used on lifeboats and buoys because of its visibility, so it’s seen as being an extrovert’s colour (hmm, rethink the orange gloves?), and attention-seeking. Carrots, pumpkins, oranges, apricots and other vegetables get their orange colour from carotenes, a type of orange pigment.
It’s the colour of autumn and Halloween and the national colour of the Netherlands, with its Royal House of Orange, (and hence Orangemen in the 6 Counties in the north of Ireland, supporters of a 17th century Dutch King).
Complementary colours : orange and blue
Orange and blue are complementary colours. Complementary Colour Pairs are made up of one Primary and a Secondary colour : blue/orange, red/green, yellow/violet. Complementary colours increase the intensity of each other. Van Gogh explored this relationship in many of his paintings. So, when orange is planted with blue, its colour is intensified. Here, orange is used as an accent colour, intensifying the blue which might look bland otherwise. A late summer pairing of Heleniums and Agapanthus, not as successful – the two colours jostle for attention; using one as an accent colour would have been better. Orange-and- blue combinations do not need to be confined to just plants :
Orange isn’t a colour much associated with Winter and Spring but there are some wonderful orange tulips – ‘Orange Emperor’, ‘Anthony Eden’ a beautiful double, ‘Orange Princess’ and many more. These orange tulips will really pop in your borders or pots when teamed with their complementary colour – blue muscari or bright blue forget-me-nots. Bridging the gap between the demise of the tulips and full-on summer, is Helianthemum, its bright orange flowers look striking against grey-blue foliage.
Bringing tropical looking orange Canna or Strelitzia out of their winter hiding, will add drama to your summer garden. Strelitzia, also known as the Bird of Paradise flower, sports its own orange and blue pairing.
Orange and other colours.
Orange and yellow come in many tones, and can make comfortable companions in a toning border. In summer there is plenty of choice ranging from peachy orange to intense tangerine.
Achillea, Alstroemeria, Hemeracallis, Kniphofia, Crocosmia and ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’, a beautiful orange rose and all the more romantic being named after Lord Nelson’s mistress.
These rich warm shades are just the antidote we need this summer after unrelenting rain or snow.
And who could be without orange, in all its hues, in the autumn? It is the most beautiful of shades glowing in the low autumn light.
- is a warm, vibrant colour.
- is attention-seeking.
- increases in intensity when placed against its complementary colour, blue.
- is the dominant colour of autumn.
- is more subdued in low autumn light.
- can be used in more subdued tones of salmon and peach.
Some orange plants play an important role in companion planting, Nasturtiums with brassicas and Marigolds deter aphids.
That great guru of using colour in the garden, Christopher Lloyd, once wrote : ” Many perennials are of naturally bright colouring; it is among their great assets and we should value it as such, not bend over backwards to gentrify it..”. He berated “timid gardeners” for missing out on “the thrilling opportunities presented by colour contrasts”.
I saw this extraordinary planting scheme in Ankara – boldly planted with such confidence , it undermined all my previously held notions of good taste.
I loved it! And no doubt Christopher Lloyd would have too!
I won’t be recreating it but I will be embracing just a little more orange excitement in my borders.
(All photography mine; feel free to use any of Jardin’s images but please credit and link back)