My 3 top bedding colour combos

January 14th, 2014 Posted In: Uncategorized

My gardening at the moment involves having a Sarah Raven or other catalogue always to hand, so that I can fantasise about gorgeous plans for the garden. In reality, I will probably buy or grow just one or two new introductions, based on what worked last year or what looked particularly delicious in friends’ gardens. One thing I’ve noticed about middle-sized gardens is that having one really big bed – rather than a number of smaller ones- works really well in providing colour focus and wow factor.

Burgundy and orange – with a splash of pink

Burgundy Rip City and Black Cat dahlias with orange dahlia David Howard

Burgundy dahlias Rip City and Black Cat, with orange dahlia David Howard, hops and verbena bonariensis

We get the most compliments for a big flower bed in front of the kitchen window, which is packed out with burgundy and orange dahlias. Sarah Raven is the dahlia supremo, and her gardens have inspired me ever since we moved here. Dahlias fell out of fashion – too gaudy and popular – but she has revived them as a stylish flower by identifying some great colours and colour combinations. They’re particularly brilliant for middle-sized gardens because they have such a long flowering season – keep cutting them for the house or dead-heading them and you will have flowers from August until the first frosts. Some people don’t want to grow dahlias because they don’t want to have to dig them up and store them every winter, but I have always left mine in the ground, sometimes – but not always – covered in compost mulch. The burgundy dahlias Rip City and Black Cat always bounce back every year, but anything with the word ‘Bishop’ in its name is far too wimpy, so I don’t grow them any more. But if you like the Bishops’ dark red leaves, try Dahlia David Howard, which also has lovely orange pom-pom flowers.

Soft vintage pinks and purples

My friend, Posy Gentles, designs her colour schemes by excluding colours: the forbidden colours last year were blues and yellows, along with strong cerise pinks. Her overall aim is a ‘soft vintage effect’ which you can see below, created with soft pinks and purples, mainly irises and alliums.


Posy's soft 'vintage' garden, achieved by excluding blue and yellow

Posy’s soft ‘vintage’ garden, achieved by excluding blue and yellow

Sissinghurst-inspired blues and silver

I don’t have a photograph for this, but I couldn’t resist mentioning it, because I think that my friend Hilary Talbot’s blue and silver borders were one of my top favourites last year. ‘When I visited Sissinghurst, I understood how you could colour-theme gardens,’ she says. She combined agapanthus, artemisia, rosemary, lavender, iris and salvia, and this summer I will definitely get a photo of it.

Add one new ‘talking point’ flower each year

Some of my greatest successes have come from growing a reasonably unusual flower (usually from Sarah Raven’s catalogue, as she’s good at finding ones that are easy to grow). There’s an orange thistly thing called Leonitis Leonorum or staircase plant, which surprised all visitors several years in succession, and another tall red-leaved one called Atriplex rubra, which also got alot of ‘what’s that?’ By next week, I hope I’ll have decided which talking point plant to grow in 2014.


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