Thinking carefully about where the colour is in your garden can be one of the secrets of a successful garden design. Many designers work very closely with colour, including the likes of Piet Oudolf. James Alexander-Sinclair, whose personal garden you can see in our Plant Issue, summed up the importance of colour in our feature: ‘Colour makes people feel alive’.
Nori and Sandra Pope famously wrote their book Colour by Design, based on their theories of colour planting and which detailed their incredible work at Hadspen House, now The Newt in Somerset. As Tania Compton said about the garden in her tribute to Nori Pope: ‘A seamless gradation from orange to red and plum to pink, fading into peach, was assembled against curving brick wall borders. The yellow borders made you feel the sun was shining on a grey day, the cool whites and steely blues excited and then calmed you down. From March to October every inch of space was packed with a succession of bulbs and annuals, perennials, shrubs, climbers and vegetables that built up to a tumultuous crescendo of colour and form. Running such a labour-intensive operation, where tulips and poppies were replaced by dahlias and cosmos, where plants were pinched out to delay flowering so they would chime with their neighbours, was like running a busy restaurant and conducting an orchestra all at the same time.’
Below is a garden from Germany, grown by Ute and Albrecht Ziburski that combines artistic flair with naturalistic plantings and was inspired by private gardens they had seen in Britain, France and the Netherlands. The border is filled with orange planting.
Looking out towards the fields beyond the garden’s boundary bold swathes of the rusty Helenium ‘Waltraut’ cuts through the Meadow Garden’s large sunny borders. The orange is broken up with the purple vertical accents of Verbena hastata and self-sown Verbena bonariensis. When all the helenium colours have faded to black, the late-flowering Solidago rugosa produces bright-yellow spires to maintain border’s momentum into autumn. More bright colour is provided by the star-shaped red Dahlia ‘Marie Schnugg’ (see below), the toffee-coloured Helenium ‘Wyndley’ and golden yellow Achillea ‘Coronation Gold’.
Orange plants for the garden
Zinnia elegans ‘Benary’s Giant Orange’
The secrets in the name. The tallest and brightest of zinnias and perhaps one of the most satisfyingly orange too. A tender annual, it has huge blooms on sturdy stems. 1.8m.
Heleniums are a must for any garden border, their orange tones offer warmth and sunshine and their height and shape is perfect for borders. Rusty centres fading to warm orange on strong stems. Hardy, with an extremely long-flowering season and good seedheads. 1.2m. AGM. RHS H7.
Hemerocallis ‘Janice Brown’
More of a pale pinky orange than a vibrant orange, this daylily nonetheless is a soft alternative to the heat of other orange plants. Award-winning American daylily with shell-pink petals staining to a darker shade at the throat. Hardy and bulletproof. 60cm. RHS H7.
Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
Not technically an orange plant but this rudbeckia is again a perfect companion to plants with hotter hues, Compact but strong, with black-eyed, deep-yellow flowers and persistent seedheads in winter. 60cm. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 3a-9b.
A deeply vibrant Japanese lily with strongly recurved golden petals speckled with brown. Lovely in any orange-themed planting border. 1.2m. RHS H7.
Dahlia ‘Pom of Poms’
An example of how perfectly symmetrical dahlias can be, this red plant has the smallest pompoms you may ever see on a dahlia (3cm across). Vibrant red flowers on strong stems, so not exactly an orange plant but a perfect addition to plant alongside them. 1.2m. RHS H3.
Deservedly popular flowers of iridescent red and orange are held on branched stems above sword-like, pleated leaves from August to September. The colour of the flowers flows from deep orange to red. 1m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.