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Fierce Color

Fierce Color

– Posted in: Garden Adventures

Why are we so shy about color in our gardens? What’s with all those pastels? Give me loud hues, fierce and bright. Like this pair of ice plants, which is anything but icy.

Calendulas sizzle in my garden, their petals glossy orange.

Velvety purple is eye-popping, too.

This scorcher is Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’.

In case its exuberant red wasn’t enough, this ruffled echeveria shot up a look-at-me flower spike.

Lots of succulents in the same genus as jade will blush when given adequate sun.  This embarassed crassula is C. capitella.

Which party-hearty aeonium imbibed too much wine?

Also “high” is my garden’s climbing ‘Altissimo’ rose.

Leaves and flowers aren’t the only things in a garden that can bellow.

But back to ice plants. Why their chilly name? The leaves glisten with what looks like ice crystals.

The same lampranthus. I was walking my dog when I spotted a red freesia poking through, and hurried home for my camera.

Gazanias and Drosanthemum floribundum, in my garden.

When contrasted with purple, warm colors pulse more brightly. Statice is a great low-water companion for ground cover succulents.

One more combo, as satisfying as a summer sunset.

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified. 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
14 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Darla May 5, 2010, 6:48 am

Love the bold colors…I am not shy with colors in my gardens.

And judging from the other responses—some indignant at the suggestion they might be overly fond of muted hues—you and I are not alone. Debra

Cameron (Defining Your Home) May 5, 2010, 7:39 am

Love the “loud” colors!

That euphorbia and echeveria both look like they could be growing on a coral reef in the ocean.

The ice plant grows well here and mine are sparkling right now. I rearranged one section of my garden last fall so that it is all purple and orange. It took me years to grow colors beyond my pink/purple/blue/magenta color scheme.

When I first started gardening, I wanted pastels, too—I thought they were a sign of sophistication (and perhaps they are). But poppies and nasturtiums insisted on growing in my garden. I secretly reveled in them and blamed them for the hot colors that followed, as though the crimson roses had planted themselves, and the pale pink flowers that disappeared simply weren’t tough enough. Debra

Nancy Bond May 5, 2010, 7:58 am

I am not afraid of colour in the garden — I crave colour, the more riotous, the better. 🙂 And I’d give my baby finger–well, the nail at least–to have those gorgeous containers!

They’re at Eye of the Day (odd name, I know) in Carpinteria, CA, near Santa Barbara. Eye of the Day has the most amazing selection of containers I’ve seen anywhere, many of them large and imported. Debra

Nicole May 5, 2010, 8:21 am

The shade of that Calendula is just gorgeous. I too, love hot colors, as do most people in the tropics.

Hi, Nicole — Glad you agree. I love giddy orange in the garden. Debra

MAYBELLINE May 5, 2010, 10:40 am

Who’s afraid?!

Um, not you, I take it? Debra

Helen at Toronto Gardens May 5, 2010, 5:47 pm

Hot stuff, especially when fanned by sunshine.

Good point, Helen. Some of the brightest flowers (like those iceplants) close in low light, like when it’s cloudy or shady. Debra

allanbecker-gardenguru May 5, 2010, 6:04 pm

Great idea!
Great colors!
Great post!

Great response,
Thanks, Allan!

rebecca sweet May 5, 2010, 8:15 pm

Hold on – let me get my sunglasses. Okay – that’s better! LOVE these colors, Debra! And thanks for IDing them all (I was just given an ’embarassed’ crassula and was wondering what it was)….bravo!

Hi, Sweet Rebecca — Speaking of color, one of the best combos I’ve seen in a long time was in your garden: a bronze heuchera planted alongside a blue echeveria that has bronze along its leaf margins. Lovely repetition of color…and contrast of complements. So, bravo to you, too!

Town Mouse May 5, 2010, 11:01 pm

Oh, not all of us are afraid. Just look at the CA poppies in my garden and you’ll know I’m not a pastel gardener….

Great pics!

Hey, Ms. Mouse! Yes, there’s nothing pastel about CA poppies. Good for you. Debra

Christina Salwitz May 6, 2010, 1:32 am

Color is something I’m definitely NOT shy about- way to go!!!

Hi, Christina! A kindred spirit, in this and many other things. ;+) Debra

Chookie May 6, 2010, 6:42 am

Pastel colours don’t show up well in our strong summer sunshine, though they look all right in spring. But I’m a bit puzzled as to how to use brights everywhere if, as they say, bright colours ‘advance’ — won’t they make my garden look smaller?

Hi, Chookie. Interesting point. I think clutter makes a garden look smaller, but I don’t know about color. Will definitely give it some thought. Debra

Window On The Prairie May 7, 2010, 10:22 am

I love it all, bright colors, subtle pastels. It’s all wonderful.

Agreed, but I don’t like subtle pastels WITH bright colors—the brights make the pastels look washed out. (Anyone want the peach-colored bearded irises I planted next to the Altissimo rose?) Debra

Kat May 7, 2010, 11:06 am

I love bold colors in the front yard. They make arriving home after work a very cheerful experience. But in the back yard, I must say that I prefer something a bit more serene. Color, but not screaming color.

Hi, Kat — I can see how it might get tiresome, LIKE TYPING IN ALL CAPS. Even so, I’ve yet to have too much color in my garden. Debra

Joan May 9, 2010, 9:16 pm

Oh yeah! I am with you, kiddo. No sissy colors here. No pinks and no reds. I am loving the complementary colors and am working those yellow/oranges against my blue/purples.

Great photos!

Thanks, Joan. Bright pinks and orange-reds work great for me; pastel pinks and blue-reds don’t. All shades of purple, including lavender, are fine, but peach and pale yellow are a disaster. Btw, this is the garden we’re talking about—I just realized, my closet is pretty much the opposite. Debra

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