Color is one thing my garden has in abundance. Of course I’ve got flowers in every hue, but my real interest is in using colorful foliage and making the most of color that comes in a can: paint.
All my garden chairs and benches used to be painted white or green, but then I saw the light, or, more accurately, the whole mind-blowing spectrum. And just as it did for Dorothy when she touched down in Oz, my world has gone Technicolor. Now none of my stuff is white. Yes, lots of folks love white and say “Gee, white goes with everything!” To which I answer, “Yes, but only because it overpowers every other color.” And I don’t have much that’s painted green either—I’ve already got plenty of that color, what with so much chlorophyll and all.
Now I use whatever colors suit my fancy. I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from Mexico, where the free-for-all approach to color seems joyous, unabashed and celebratory. I can’t help but smile when I see these walls from some cabanas near Tulum. I stole the classic complementary color pair blue/orange for my table and chairs, shown at the top of this entry.
Not far from those bright walls, I found this roadside shrine. It was, for me, a near religious experience colorwise.
In another part of the Yucatan, I found this scene-which provided an instant lesson in the danger of getting too carried away with paint. Restraint, I realized almost instantly, can be a good thing.
Anyway, back in Tulum, I’m always happy to go in the Que Fresco! cafe anytime, just to sit in these chairs. I thought I’d digest my color lessons there, and see where inspiration led me. I reckoned I might get into trouble slinging paint all over the walls, and painting the rocks was out of the question. I had to start small.
So, I got my color party going by painting the outdoor furniture. It’s not a huge commitment, and if the results are unhappy I can just repaint. If I need to experiment, I can move all my colored furniture around. Although that’s rarely quite as easy as it is at Bob Dash’s garden, Madoo, on Long Island. His wheelbarrow bench is a cinch to relocate. Back in my own garden…
What I like to do is paint the furniture to match its surrounding foliage. For this, I actually took a piece of a leaf into the paint store and had them mix up a pigment to match.
Look what Sydney Eddison did in her Newtown, CT garden for a season-long display. One of the great things about this combo is its appeal even after the sun goes down. Those cheery, bright colors catch the slightest bit of moon or candlelight and the garden lives on into the evening. Sydney paints her outdoor furniture a new color every year. To her, it’s all part of one big color scheme.
You can also paint to match flowers for a short lived-color kaboom, like this one at a Mike Donnelly designed garden in Westport, CT. It’s a fleeting image, but when those Exbury azaleas go, this part of the garden catches fire.
Or go for a more long-lived look – all year round for this one – at the same Westport garden. This evergreen scene never goes out of season. Though I’ve shown lots of plant-and-paint schemes in harmonious, or closely-related color themes, combining colors that are different can add pizzaz to a scene too. I’ve got a useful little mantra for putting paint into the garden. It’s been useful for me, a little anyway. And that is, when in doubt use blue – it goes with every other hue.