Floral arrangements can help you bring the red out

Red is a tricky colour for some gardeners so many reserve it for a side show to the main event of more conservative cool tones

An arrangement of reds and greens – complementary colours – showing a range of reds: oranges

Feeling a little hot under the collar? Seeing red? Rather be dead than red?

Clichés aside it is a warm month in the garden – not solely in temperature but also colour. The harvest is nearing, colours deepening, berries ripening and oranges, rubies, reds and crimsons are now the stars of the border and vase.

Red is a tricky colour for some gardeners – garish? gawdy? – so many reserve it for the ‘hot border’, a side show to the main event of more conservative cool tones. But red is historically the colour of royalty, opulence and majesty. Given we are in August which itself means ‘grandeur; inspiring reverence’ I thought it time to give red its due.

But what really is red? I have only one true red in the garden right now: a heirloom ‘Red Spider’ zinnia that neither leans orange nor purple. Almost all my other reds illicit descriptives: carmine, firecracker, vermillion, cerise.

Why is red so complicated? First of all: we can’t easily see it. No, I don’t mean the colour blind (who are predominantly male), I mean all of us. From a distance red disappears. As Nori and Sandra Pope write in their exceptional gardening book Colour by Design, “At one yard red sings; at three yards, it is still pretty sonorous; at 50, it is hard to differentiate from dark green shadows.”

Red absorbs most light. And for men (who interestingly have more rods in their eyes than women and thus cannot see subtleties of colour as well as women but have a better vision in low light and better depth perception), the qualities of red at a distance can be very hard to discern. So rule one: keep red close. Think of it this way; we all want to be warmed by a fire.

Rule two: it’s more interesting to play across a colour range than it is to juxtapose red with other colours. Picture this: blue Aegeratum, red zinnias, yellow cannas. All primaries, so a punchy combo for sure, but sounds like a traffic island planting, right?

In a home garden, planting across a colour range is more evocative. You might work oranges into scarlet, scarlet to crimsons and crimsons into plums, exploring different tones and shades. I make a lot of bouquets and find the same strategies apply: harmonious designs are often monochromatic. This doesn’t mean simplistic – far from it – rather a range is expressed, so your eye doesn’t jump from colour to colour and instead absorbs colour, shape and texture together – the subtleties of design.

Try incorporating burgundy and coppery foliage to create harmony when using red. For example, the popular dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandalff’ has both darkened leaves and scarlet blooms and the Dianthus barbatus nigrescens group combines rich red blooms with dark foliage. I use the scented geranium Pelargonium  quercifolium ‘Choc-olate Mint’ in bold floral designs given it has velvety leaves with a nice ‘bruising’ of purply-brown in the centre of the leaves.

Green is directly across the colour wheel from red which means they are technically complementary colours and thus create vibrancy when used together. But be cautioned: they are opposites. Seek resonance of foliage and flower by leaning into deeper tones or muted surfaces. ‘Blumex’ and ‘Rococo’ parrot tulips exemplify this idea perfectly: matte sage green leaves, saturated reds, touches of burgundy and orange all bundled into one perfect plant.

P.S. Order them now.

 

Christin Geall teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Victoria and is an avid gardener.

 

 

Just Posted

B.C. taxi drivers no longer exempt from wearing a seatbelt

Before, taxi drivers were allowed to forego a seatbelt when driving under 70 kilometres an hour

VIDEO: North Island man trapped under ATV for days shows promise at Victoria hospital

Out of induced coma, 41-year-old is smiling, squeezing hands and enjoying sunshine

Saanich councillor assures residents they won’t pay twice for Kings Park

Capital Regional District set to discuss potential for funding Saanich park

More people are being evicted from subsidized housing in Victoria, experts say

Closing of Pacifica Housing’s Fairfield Hotel a sign of ongoing trends

Pacific Christian Secondary volleyball teams target banner years

Junior boys won Island Championships and senior teams to compete this weekend

VIDEO: Six months later downtown Victoria business still feels the burn of Pandora fire

Sattva Spa stripped to the bare bones and won’t be operational for another year

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

POLL: Do you support CUPE workers in their dispute with School District 63?

SD63 schools to remain closed as strike continues Tuesday

Car dash covered in papers not an excuse for speeding, Delta police warn

After puling the driver over for speeding, police found his speedometer blocked by a stack of papers

B.C. woman seeks return of jewelry box containing father’s cremated remains

Sicamous RCMP report handmade box was stolen from a storage locker

Vancouver police officer charged with sexual assault in apparent off-duty incident

Jagraj Roger Berar, 51, of Surrey, charged in incident alleged to have happened in Whistler

Sooke hosts forum to get input from people with disabilities

The province has multiple avenues for input

CN Rail confirms job cuts as weakening economy cuts into freight volumes

Railroad also said it was affected by a slowdown in the B.C.’s forestry sector

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Most Read