How To Design With Hot Color Flowers

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There’s nothing like a shot of hot color to add sizzle to a summer border. At this time of year, red, orange and yellow flowers sing out in the sun, instantly invigorating spring’s soft pastel palette. Creating a hot color scheme is easy providing you don’t overdo it. The key is to balance hot-toned plants with cool ones so that they don’t overpower the garden.

HOW HOT COLORS WORK IN THE GARDEN

In the garden, red and orange appear more intense than other colors, especially as, during the day, the sun lowers in the sky. We have only to look to nature to see how the sun’s position affects colors’ intensity. As the sun sets, the predominant colors we see are orange, yellow and red. And at sunset, the only remaining visible color is red.

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In a similar manner, the primary color red forms the basis for hot color schemes in the garden.

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Andrew Lawson, one of the world’s leading landscape photographers and author of one of my favorite garden books, The Gardener’s Book of Color, has this to say about adding hot colors to your garden:

“By putting together three of the brightest, most intense colors, you increase their vitality and encourage each to ‘sing out’ at full strength. Concentrate these colors together in the garden and sparks seem to fly.”

As an example, notice how the yellow daylily (below) sings out among the red monarda.

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Or how the red poppies add fireworks to this summer garden. 

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HOW TO BALANCE HOT COLORS WITH COOL ONES

That being said, while red, orange and yellow are visually uplifting, in strict combination they can be anything but restful.

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In fact, intense color plants can quickly become overpowering if not carefully balanced with other ‘cooling’ flowers and foliage. Luckily, these contrasting, ‘cooling’ colors (blue, purple and green), can be found opposite the hot ones on the color wheel.

A great example of how to temper hot colors with cool ones is the hot-colored flower border at Cliveden (below). Notice how the bright yellows, pinks and reds are softened by the purple salvia.

Cliveden 'hot' border: flicker.com

Purples and blues cool things down in a hot-colored border.

Incorporating purples and blues into your hot-color border not only ‘cools’ things down, but it also provides a classic color contrast used in gardens for centuries. Salvia, veronica, delphiniums and Russian sage are just a few good options for setting up these kinds of color combinations.

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If, on the other hand, you don’t want to incorporate ‘cooling’ flowers into your hot-color border, you can always take the edge off with green. This can be accomplished in the form of hedges, lawns and other types of enclosures. Below, notice how the deep green hedging and lawn provide a refreshing counterpoint to all the hot-colored flowers. 

Green softens hot colors.

Dark-colored foliage can also help offset a hot-colored flower. In this photo the photo below, the dahlia’s own burgundy-toned foliage provides a cooling contrast to its bright orange flower.

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Dark foliage can temper hot-colored flowers. 

18 GREAT HOT COLORED FLOWERS 

Ready to add some great, hot-colored flowers to your summer border? Here are some tried-and-true suggestions.

RED 

Monarda ‘Raspberry Wine’Echinacea ‘Sombrero Sangrita’, Gerbera Daisy ‘Garswlove’, President’s Red Hibiscus, Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower), Chrysanthemum ‘Radiant Red’, Malvaviscus drummondii (Turks’ Cap), Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and any red dahlia.

YELLOW

Foxtail lily (above), Yarrow ‘Coronation Gold’, Daylily ‘Happy Returns’, Daylily ‘Stella d’Oro’, Solidago rugosa (Goldenrod) ‘Fireworks’, Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Tuscan Sun’, Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’ and Shasta Daisy ‘Banana Cream’.

ORANGE

Dahlia ‘David Howard’, Daylily ‘Primal Scream Orange’, Lantana ‘Southern Fried’ and Lilium ‘African Queen Group’.

 

COOL HOT COLORS DOWN WITH THESE PURPLES AND BLUES

Agapanthus ‘Elaine’, Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, Buddleia ‘Ellen’s Blue’, Nepeta ‘Purple Haze’, Salvia ‘May Night’, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ or ‘Victoria Blue’.

Finally, sprinkle in some white flowering plants and sit back and enjoy your hot-color summer border. Happy planting!

 

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