A green space for urban gardeners

Color choices – blue, orange and I also want to paint it black

If you’ve followed this blog you know I love blue in the garden. Can’t deny it, can’t escape it.

And “true” blue is a hue that I find  absolutely irresistible. Thus, it likely will always play into my garden color scheme.

This year is no exception.

But, I have flipped the script a bit with my companion colors. Orange, which was a minor presence last year, will assume a dominant role, and, I’m also exploring black as a primary tone.

I do realize that “black” is perhaps even more elusive than “true” blue in flowering plants, so when I say black, that translates into extremely dark purples, burgundies and browns. Flowers which, in essence, give the illusion of black.

This thought process began to take shape when I pulled out the cache of seeds that I keep tucked away in a closet. Every year, before I order more, I see what has accumulated in this leftover bin.

Some were duplicate purchases, some I bought then decided they wouldn’t work in my container garden, some I got as free gifts with an order, and some I just bought on impulse because they caught my eye. This year, for the first time, I have seeds that I collected and saved from last season’s garden to sort through, as well.

Among this mass of misfits was a pack of black nemophilia seeds. I believe they came free with purchase a couple years back. Staring at that package and trying to figure out how I would blend this lone hue subliminally into my expected color palette, it hit me… Why not go bold? I’d find a few more “black” seeds and move this vibrant choice from the background to center stage.

So there you have it: blue, orange and black will be the theme for this summer’s balcony garden. I’ll also grow a couple of pastel-toned flowering plants to keep on hand as filler to soften these strong, saturated colors, if needed.

Sound like a plan? Well, I need to get my seeds ordered this week, so I’d love to get your suggestions for black or near-black flowers to include in my garden. Let me know if you’ve found one that performed beautifully or one that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Also, give me your favorite oranges and your “truest” blues. I’ll let you know in a future post which plants I decide on.

[photos: lobelia (top) and nasturtium]


  Jo wrote @

I look forward to seeing this all come together, Avis. How about some marigolds for the orange, there are some very vibrant colours, and for the blacks, a chocolate cosmos?

  linda wrote @

Hi Avis, I love blue flowers, and orange and blue are really pretty together. We don’t have enough sun for any black blooms I’ve come across, though I think they’re really cool.

  City Diggity wrote @

I’ve got plenty of sun, so maybe it’ll work!

I think I may have seen a chocolate cosmos in one of my catalogs!

  Stephanie wrote @

Very nice combination of earthy hues and it is wonderful to know that your primary colour is orange. I wonder if cosmos performs well at your place. Mine (Cosmos Bright Eyes from yellow to tangerine colour) just gave its first bloom last week. It grows well here and grows/blooms pretty quickly and nicely. Also, the Mexican Sunflower that you have seen. Both are good performers. Good luck and I look forward to seeing your garden taking shape 😀

  Mr. McGregor’s Daughter wrote @

Black Pansies really look black depending on the light. In brightest sun they are dark purple. I don’t know if it would work for you, but ‘Black Peony’ Poppy was fantastic in my garden last year. It’s a bit more purple than the black Pansy.

  Dawn/LittleGreenFingers wrote @

Love the rich contrasts. It’s similar to the colour scheme I used in our Chelsea garden. Best blacks I found were Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrascens’, Zantedeschia ‘Schwarzvalder’, Iris ‘Langport Wren – v. dark purple really and ‘Phormium Platt’s Black’. Can’t wait to see the pics. Dx

  kimberly wrote @

Can’t wait to see it! I like the combo!

  SummerHouseArt wrote @

I really like the colors you’ve chosen and I’ll be checking back to see what you decide on. Sounds wonderful!

  Fly Girl wrote @

Yes! Go bold! I don’t do anything but bright, vivid colors so I’m excited that you’ve joined the club, at least with your garden. I second black pansies or the deep, deep purple ones. Can’t wait to see it live!

  Wendy wrote @

I think this color combo will look great on your balcony – I bet it’ll be eye-catching from afar as well. Can’t wait to see photos this summer!

  gippslandgardener wrote @

I’m afraid I don’t have any great suggestions, but I’m intrigued with the combination as I’m starting to think a lot more about combining colours in the garden. I’ll be back to admire the results!

  Eileen wrote @

Dark Ruby daylily (very dark , yellow center)

Salvia Black and Blue (zone 6 plant but available as an annual locally)

Inky Fingers Coleus (very dark with narrow lighter trim)

Some of the Perillas are quite dark


  Jan wrote @

Love it and anything about color!

I use orange in west facing beds – orange canna lilies contrasting with inky fingers coleus,physocarpus diablo, lambs ears and lantana…wowie!
I wrote about jewel tones in the garden…Come visit me! Jan

  Joan wrote @

Avis, You are singing my song. Something about those complementary colors just called out to me in 2010 as well. Of course, I had no restraint on what I purchased, added some purple and yellow in there. Yummy stuff.

BTW, I am crazy about your header photo with the Big Cat hunting in the bush. Cool!

  City Diggity wrote @

The warm seems here to stay in Chicago. Finally. So I am working in the garden today and hope to see some of those colors flower before too long. I’m even planting a little personal paradise for my “big cat” 😉 Cheers!

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