Colour my World

What colour is in a picture, enthusiasm is in life

Vincent Van Gogh

Yes, I am addicted to roses, I admit it. My mother too, loved her garden in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, which was perfect for roses and she indulged as well. As a family we enjoyed her passion for roses and we endowed her with many gifts of roses, rose garden books, rose tea cups and stationery amongst all sorts of other rose related items.

Because of the ubiquitous nature of roses in our family I’ve never considered why I enjoy growing them. It seemed a natural occurrence, then recently when knee deep in the winter tasks of pruning and cutting back the undergrowth around the roses, I did wonder why?

Apart from the fascination with rose names and the history of roses which I discovered after I had started our garden. What first stimulated my interest initially was COLOUR. It is being able to play with colour that I love the most. Using colour is the easiest way to bring your own personality into the garden and roses do it so well. Being a visual person and colour consultant, colour is at the basis of all I see and do. Whether it’s designing a colour scheme for a home, cooking with colour or designing new interiors, to me, it’s all about colour.

Rosa Paul Cezanne

The garden gives you a wonderful colour palette that you can play with to create whatever is in your minds eye. Peach, Apricot, Coral, Caramel, Orange, Copper, Rust, Scarlet and Tangerine coloured roses all contrast well with the lush green foliage in my French roses below.

Although a new and fairly wild, rural garden this is one area where the colours were well-played out last Spring. Gently moving from pinks at one end to the peach colour range I chose various hues in the roses called, Lady Of Shalott, Cubana, Brandy, Just Joey, Paul Bocuse, Versigny, amongst others. Then added two or three toned roses also in peach, coral, watermelon, blush shades such as Auguste Luise, Daybreaker, Enchanting, Joyfulness, Bordure Camaieu, Opportunity Rose, Bordure Nacree, and Bengali to bring in deeper shades of coral, pink and soft yellow. 

Gardens of The Bay Singapore

Colour radiates from all the many and varied types of foliage that can create an impact without blooms. The combination of the soft unique rose in Soul Sister below (available at Wagners) sits beautifully with a white border.

Like anyone that likes roses I often think “Oh! next year I’ll move this one and place against here and it will be even better”. My garden will never be tame and orderly like a town or suburban garden. There are always areas that you would like to change but one needs to work with what you have. In my case a high protection fence for sheep, wallabies and kangaroos brings the garden protection but is nonetheless not really attractive. The use of colour therefore is important. The garden will be colourful as it matures and if even only half of the colour plans come to fruition it should be stunning.


“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust, 1871-1922,

An old stone wall in Italy with one colour of orange toned roses growing well in the hot Tuscan sun.

Intuitively or learned all the other principles of design apply to gardening as much as colour. In any interior decorating, art or design project Form, Line, Texture, Shape, and Scale are the tools used to create balance, proportion, transition, repetition, harmony, movement and unity in the garden. We can add scent or perfume and sound too in the garden space.

Alhambra Palace Spain 2018

To many, perfume is the first love of roses. For me though, it will remain colour. As Ruth from Al Ru Farm in South Australia told me, she just takes a rose out and places it next to what looks good and then replants. Her rambling garden is a magnificent example of a gorgeous year long colour scheme and well worth a visit. When planning a garden I also like to think of all the plants, trees and flowers, paths and furniture as a whole rather than in isolation.

 After all the hours spent designing the colour scheme of our garden to my amazement last Spring several roses came up a different colour than expected. During this winter I have moved some to keep the colours I’d planned. So, no bright yellows in amongst the soft pale pinks. That’s not to say that the occasional colour accident is a problem far from it, as sometimes it may end up being extraordinary. As in the Peach Profusion rose above that went well with Erysimums in Deep Burgundy. Choosing colour is something to enjoy, but it takes restraint to resist the urge to plant randomly and keep the colour scheme intact. The rewards though can be beautiful.

Pictured above is a large yet simple fountain at the winery Villa Sandi in Italy with restrained use of red roses that look perfect against the foliage, water and neutral paving.

Display at Marina Bay Gardens 2018

Colours in the garden can also pop making your attention go straight to them. These blooms in bright reds, yellows and orange give a feeling of heat or warmth and will, if used too much, make the garden appear smaller because they look closer to you than whites or light coloured blooms.

A small but lovely example above of using contrasting colours to pop in the landscape. Lobelia and Marigolds, the opposites on the colour wheel. Lastly, a more subtle yet splendid, contrasting scheme with soft Lilac Irises and Hot Poker type plants (unknown ) in Yellow. The rest of the scheme is from differing shades of soft green foliage in the undergrowth and an old Olive tree with deep purple Irises.

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