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

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

Two volunteers work to sieve a sample of sand and ocean water through a filter, capturing any potential microplastics. (Courtesy of Ocean Diagnostics)
Victoria startup making waves in microplastics research

New products from Ocean Diagnostics will make research faster, more affordable

Chef Trevor Randle leads a June 21 online cooking featuring recipes – beef zesty lettuce wraps, blueberry strudel and blueberry spritzer. (Courtesy We Heart Local BC)
Free online cooking course explores B.C. blueberries and beef

Chef Trevor Randle calls them the province’s most flavourful foods

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Google Maps shows significant traffic backups after a crash reported shortly before noon on Father’s Day, June 20. (Google Maps)
Father’s Day crash in Saanich closes lane of McKenzie Avenue

Police say there were injuries, traffic impacted

Andrea Lewis (left), board member of the Shoreline Medical Society, receives a $3,000 cheque from Andrew Hansen, owner of Boondocks Bar and Grill. They are joined by Elizabeth Rhoades, executive director Shawna Walker, as well as board members Richard Flader and Andrew Tidman. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney bar owner helps doctor recruitment for Saanich Peninsula clinics

Boondocks Bar and Grill raised $3,000 in May for Shoreline Medical Society

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Most Read