Colours in every shade: Fresh colour ideas

Bulbs, annuals, bedding plants, beautiful trees… there are many ways to brighten up your garden and your life with instant, or with long-lasting and seasonal, colour. A little fore-thought and planning will go a long way towards personalising your garden space into a reflection of your individuality and creativity.

Gardens are wonderful sources of visual pleasure during the daytime but have you considered a planting to be enjoyed at night as well? A border or selection of containers filled with white flowers looks magical at the twilight hour and on moonlit nights. Plant a broad seasonal selection such as white azaleas, rothmania, magnolia, arums, begonias, hydrangea paniculata, galtonia, dahlias, gaura, chrysanthemums and fragrant white roses, tuberose, gardenia, alyssum, and jasmine to ensure interest throughout the year.

The indigenous perennial, syncarpha argentea or 'everlasting', has a flowering period of almost seven months and its silvery foliage complements the tiny translucent white flowers. Include a few plants with silver-grey foliage such as lamb's ear (stachys), santolina and the white lavenders too. Create your white garden near the braai and entertainment areas for maximum enjoyment of your design. A small water feature planted with pale, night-blooming, nymphaea lotus will complete the picture.

Improve vegetable production 

A few cheerful flowers planted among the vegetables add a splash of colour to the predominantly green kitchen garden, and they can also help improve the harvest. Bold zinnias attract the bees essential for the pollination of cucumbers, squash and melons; sunny calendulas and the 'poached egg' limnathes lure hover flies to help combat infestations of aphids on tomatoes, broccoli and other above-ground crops.

Orange, red and yellow flowered nasturtiums entice aphids away from the veggies while the presence of a fragrant lavender plant actually deters many small creatures from dining on your veggie patch. The tiny parasitic nematodes in the soil, which can deplete the kitchen garden production if allowed to get out of control, are kept in check by the presence of a few dahlias and marigolds splashing their colours between the rows of vegetables.

Vamp up the dinner table

Have you seen the gorgeous array of unusually coloured vegetables that are so fashionable these days? They're not only delicious, but are guaranteed to add visual interest to the salad platter and to entice new converts to healthy crunchy eating.

Try planting seeds of the golden, or sweet-tasting pink and white striped, beetroots. Carrot seeds are available in purple, white, and yellow varieties as are string beans. Sow and grow young purple-podded peas to be harvested and eaten whole as indigo-coloured sugar snaps that will complement red lettuce, red kale and yellow or purple cauliflower heads on the dinner table. Swiss chard comes with gold and red stalks contrasting against its curled green leaves, and tomatoes can be grown with black, white, yellow and striped fruits in all sizes from small cherries to the huge beefsteak varieties. Most intriguing of all, perhaps, is sweet corn with kernels in blue, red, or multicoloured varieties that have kernels in shades of white, yellow, blue and reds all on the same ear!

Make a visual statement

Containers, trellises, arches and obelisks all add height to the landscape and, combined with colourful plants climbing up or cascading down, can turn a problem area into an exciting design statement.

A long stretch of wall, perhaps flanking the driveway, comes into its own when trellis work panels are placed along the length. Climbers such as golden shower, thunbergia, and wisteria will scramble up the trellis and flaunt their displays of colour at flowering time. A row of tall coloured planters looks good set along the shaded wall of a courtyard and will be visually stunning when filled with a mass of begonias with their jewel-like flowers and green, bronze, or variegated leaves in show-stopping combinations and patterns.

A trellised arch can be used to frame a view, mark the division between two sections of garden, or to draw the eye away from functional garden essentials such as water tanks and compost heaps. Cover the arch with a soft-shaded banksia or rambling rose to create a romantic effect or go waterwise with indigenous pink trumpet vine (podranea ricasoliana), yellow canary creeper (senecio tamoides), or white traveller's joy (clematis brachiata).

Obelisks, fashioned from metal or painted wood, add height and create focal interest in the garden – especially in predominantly low-growing kitchen gardens. They look great on their own and superb when covered with scarlet runner beans, green cucumbers, or purple granadillas. Irrigation solutions such as soaker hoses are ideal for ensuring enough water reaches the roots of these high plantings without wasting unnecessary litres on the foliage at the tops.  

Work with the trees

Trees have a lot to offer in terms of colour. Graceful birches (betula pendula alba), with their small green leaves and silvery white trunks, look equally impressive planted singly to make a statement as a feature item, or mass-planted as a small woodland copse. Fever tree (acacia xanthophloea) is equally effective with its lustrous green-yellow trunk and dainty leaves.

Many other indigenous trees are small enough to fit into suburban gardens and, being deciduous, turn summer's end into a celebration of autumn colour. Consider making space for coastal golden leaf (bridelia micrantha), bushwillows (combretum species), rock cabbage (cussonia natalensis), and sneezewood (ptaeroxylon obliquum), all of which help to attract birds and butterflies into your environment too.

Spectacular tree wisteria (bolusanthus speciosus) flowers in a showy haze of purple flowers and is far more environment-friendly than the jacaranda. The pompon tree (dias cotinifolia) transforms itself into a cloud-like froth of pink at Christmas time. Is there anything quite as splendid as the sight of masses of fiery flowers blooming on the bare branches of the coral tree (erythrina), marking the end of winter? Erythrina latissima has the extra bonus of following its flowers with a lovely cloak of soft grey-green foliage.

No need to wait, visit your closest accredited garden centre soon, and get started on colouring your world beautiful!

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