Gardens Illustrated April 2007 Posted on April 3, 2007

I DON’T WANT TO SPOIL THE SPRING FOR YOU, and it may be your idea of the jolliest colour scheme on earth, but when the pinks (and mauves and magentas) of spring appear among the predominant early yellows, the grinding of my teeth can frighten the horses.

I know. Nothing can be done. the creator put the forsythia and flowering currant on the same planet (though not on the same continent) and his other creation, man, planted them together. Daffodils and honesty are pretty powerful, and yellow daffs with Prunus “Kanzan’ even more so. Swearing is the polite word for what these colours do to one another. They flash before my mind’s eye as I write: bergenias and daffodils, daffs and purple heathers … daffs have such a long season that swearing is hard to avoid. And then come the Kurume azaleas. What can we avoid, though, is some of the hardest shades of yellow, and some of the more lurid manifestations of magenta. And planting them side by side.

If there is a ground rule of colour it is not to cross the meridian of the colour wheel that runs from green to red. You’re safe on the arc between blue and yellow, where they make various shades of green. The tricky bit is the quadrant opposite, where they shade from purple to orange.

I admit a colour-coordinated spring garden sounds more than precious. Spring, after all, is spring. But you can avoid, ban, veto, dig up and burn the plants whose only tone of voice is a shriek.

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