Spring, nature’s big colour clash

Spring is my favourite time of the year. Everything makes me smile: Gorgeous sunshiny daffodils, pretty primroses, delicate blossoms, buds bursting out of dead-looking stems, green shoots pushing through unloved soil and new-born lambs frolicking in the fields.  Nature’s having a laugh too, after the serious business of winter she has decided to play a joke on us with her shocking, clashing-colour palette.

At college I was taught about colours and shown how to use the colour wheel. There are books galore on plant and colour combinations, they describe primary and secondary colours, hues and tones. They explain how to harmonise and contrast and show us hot, cool and complimentary planting schemes.

Nowhere do they suggest that brilliant yellow and candy pink make good bed partners. Yet everwhere I look I see daffodils with pink hyacinths, with pink ornamental cherry blossom and with pink tulips. I see rhododendrons splendidly showing off their spectacular flowers in every shade of pink and yellow and I see pink blossomed camellias with bright yellow stamens.

The late Christopher Lloyd of Great Dixter garden was famous for his different colour combinations. He said “We do not all want to float endlessly among silvers, greys and tender pinks in the gentle nicotiana-laden ambient of a summer’s gloaming. Some prefer a bright, brash midday glare with plenty of stuffing”. One of his favourite combinations was the shocking pink Nerine x bowdenii with lemon Limonium sinuatum, to me this is just ok because the yellow is actually lemon but had it been a bright, sunshine yellow then it would be an absolute no no.

It’s interesting that some plants have built in clashes; Many pink paeonia have golden yellow stamens, there’s the odd pink hemerocallis with yellow veins running through the flowers and lilium and alstromeria are well known for being ‘show offs’ with their exotic colour schemes.

Pastel shades of yellows and pinks look ok together but perhaps are best suited to ’Martha Stewart’ kitchens. Bright cerise pinks give a great contrast to any yellow but pretty cherry blossom pink and bright yellow daffodils, I just don’t get.

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