Cool Summer Combinations

As summer heats up, color plays an important role in giving a garden a "temperature reading." Cool colors, such as greens, blues, lavenders, pastels and white, are soothing and make us feel calm. Reds, oranges and golden yellows, on the other hand, are more assertive and intense, evoking a lively, vibrant feeling. Here’s how to turn your garden into a place that’s not only beautiful to look at, but a relaxing retreat that you and your family can enjoy every day.

Tips for Creating a Cool Oasis

  • Try quiet shades of purple, lavender and blue.
  • White and soft pastel colors add a welcome crispness to shady areas.
  • Gray and variegated foliage plants help lower the temperature of hot colored flowers.
  • Add containers of cool colors to an established flowerbed.
  • Paint a pair of outdoor chairs a bright color.
  • Use a bubbling tabletop water feature to add a peaceful sound. (link to article)
  • Plant quick growing annual vines, such as morning glory and moonflower vine to cloak vertical areas in soft shade.

Cool Color Recipes

Cool color flower border includeing artemisia, daylilies, petunias and verbena bonariensis.

My recipe for blending cool colors in a flower border is simple. Start with an icy blue-gray foliage plant like artemisia ‘Powis Castle’. Add sparkle with a flower like the pale yellow daylily ‘Joan Senior’. Finally, add a dash of purple with tall Verbena bonariensis (Verbena-on-a-stick) and mix in a healthy helping of purple petunias. Sit back and enjoy the refreshing results.

Mealy cup sage planted with zinnias.

Some of my favorite cool colors to work with in the garden are in the range of purples, lavenders and blues. They are such amiable colors, blending well with salmon, pink, orange and yellow. Not only do they lend the feeling of space, like a blue sky, but they are restful. Here, blue mealy cup sage combines beautifully with pink zinnias.

Angelface Blue angelonia, ColorBlaze 'Sedona' coleus and burgundy Joseph's coat

Use dark flowers or foliage to add richness and depth to cool colors. The deeper background color adds a sense of drama and mystery to the plant combination as evidenced by this combination of Angelface® Blue angelonia, ColorBlaze® ‘Sedona’ coleus and burgundy Joseph’s coat.

Chicago Botanic Garden wall English Garden

Gray is a color that can lower the temperature of a garden, adding softness to any color scheme. It’s the great "harmonizer" between two different colors. See how the drift of artemisia surrounding the urn tones down the bright yellow rudbeckia.

Casa Blanca lilies, white roses, white hardy hibiscus and white butterfly bush

White is a color that works in any season, and an all-white or white and pastel garden can be especially refreshing. It’s particularly nice for families with busy schedules who retreat to their gardens at dusk or dawn. White and pastel colored flowers sparkle in the dim light, giving the garden a magical glow at these times of day. This flower border at the Biltmore features ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies, white roses, white hardy hibiscus and white butterfly bush.

Casa Blanca lilies, white roses, white hardy hibiscus and white butterfly bush

I also like to add accents of bright colors, such as yellows and oranges, to enliven and energize a flower border. The deep yellow flowers of crocosmia ‘Golden Fleece’ set off the purple blooms of mealy cup sage in the foreground. Below, orange zinnias add a warm wave of color. Use these hues sparingly, however, because these colors tends to "heat up" a garden.