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Plan Color Combinations Before Trekking To Stores
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Many gardeners are making their spring trek to the garden center for flowers with little thought as to what they will buy. Shoppers may base their purchases on what looks the freshest or which plants have the most color showing. A little forethought toward particular colors will make your efforts more rewarding.
That old adage, opposites attracts, may work with spouses sometimes, but it always works with plant colors. Just as different abilities and personalities make couples compatible, different colors can compliment each other in a flower bed.
Complimentary, or opposite, color schemes aren't the only choices but are certainly among the most striking. You may want to invest in a color wheel, which is generally available at art supply stores. Opposites occur when a color on the hot side of the color wheel is balanced with a cool color directly across the wheel.
Currently, pansies look their best in landscapes and some of the most striking are the yellow varieties mass planted with those in the violet-blue range.
What are some good opposites for summer-long performance in hot, dry conditions? Some Mississippi Medallion winners, which are recognized for their performance in our hot, dry summers, are good plants to use for color.
In the yellow-violet range, one of the best would be the 1996 Mississippi Medallion winner New Gold lantana and Purple Heart, sometimes called Purple Jew. New Gold lantana and the purple Tapien verbena are solid performers.
Try Melampodiums, a 1997 Mississippi Medallion winner, planted behind Purple Wave petunias, or Midnight Madness petunia if you want to go a shade darker.
Orange will be a hot, trendy color this year. Blue is the opposite, or complimentary, color for orange. This year's All-America winning Marigold Bonanza Bolero or the All-America winning Profusion orange zinnia would work great with blue ageratums or planted in front of last year's Mississippi Medallion winner Victoria Blue salvia.
Bold drifts of orange daylilies work well with adjoining masses of the perennial blue salvia or hilo Princess Angelonia.
Many people like red, and it is sure to quickly catch the eye. Like a fire truck, red screams danger or excitement and evokes passion. The cool color of green compliments red. This means Mother Nature has done the combining for you with the plant's green leaves. You can assist Mother Nature by planting bold, scarlet-red salvias or geraniums in front of evergreen plants like Andorra compacta juniper or a group of hollies.
Red is one of the three primary colors along with yellow and blue. Combine red with yellow, blue or white, and you get orange, purple and pink, respectively. Consider those red mixtures as you select complimentary plants from the opposite side of the color wheel.
Before making your purchases, place flats of plants beside each other at the garden center and see if you like the resulting combination. The complimentary color scheme is only one scheme that works well, but it is one of the most appealing.