Purple - The All-purpose Garden Color

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the color purple in the summer garden? Not necessarily that it adds a touch of coolness in what otherwise might be a hot landscape. Nor that it evokes passion or even a bit of regality. It is that purple is an all-purpose color that works well with others.

Purple works in any garden scheme or situation. That can't be said of many colors. Mix up flowers in the pink-red scheme with those in the yellow-orange range and a fight breaks out. But purple looks good with both so you can use purple as a bridge color to tie them all together.

Purple as the New Neutral

The red and violet of the sweet pea is an exquisite combination.

Call purple the new neutral, the one color (besides green, of course) that works in any garden, any time. It acts as a harmonizer between warm and cool tones and will unite all the colors in your garden.

Add purple to the summer garden with the deep velvet tones of annual petunias and clematis Etoile Violette, to pale shades of lilac and wisteria, to name just a few beautiful purple plants.

Combining Purple with Other Colors

Purple mixes well with gray, and some purples are naturally set off by their gray foliage, for example buddleia, caryopteris, cat mint, lavender, globe thistle and Russian sage.

Purple looks especially crisp with white, and adds a nice touch of contrast to a white garden.

Purple can have a different effect in the garden depending on how it is used and the plant combinations it is placed with. For a cooling effect, use purple to offset pink, lavender and white. In darker areas, purple tends to disappear so use it against lighter colors, such as heliotrope with pink and white impatiens or Johnson's blue geranium scrambling under pink roses.

Wisteria's lavender flowers look striking against a white fence.

For a hot, tropical effect, try purples with orange or red, such as salvia Purple Majesty mingled with Pat Austin or Gingersnap roses, or purple verbena bonariensis towering over orange canna lilies.

A sensational color mix is purple-foliaged plants with variegated or chartreuse colored leaves, such as heuchera Crimson Curls with helichrysum Limelight.

Because yellow and purple are complementary colors, pairing them makes both colors appear much stronger than they would otherwise.

Low Maintenance Purples

Cut statice is good either as a fresh or dried flower.

Many of the lowest maintenance perennials are purple. So a purple scheme is ideal for xeriscaping, or dry gardening, which focuses on using drought tolerant plants. Lavender, Mexican sage, statice and certain kinds of flax need little water once established.

Purple Looks Great in Any Light

And, finally, purple looks great in any season under all kinds of light. Pinks and light colors disappear in the summer, especially in very sunny regions where they are overpowered by the sunlight. Many summer flower colors look great in the summer, but garish in the winter. But purple flowers look good in any season, whether the sun is high or low.

Whether you want to tie together some disjointed colors in your planting scheme or enhance others, take advantage of the color purple’s ability to blend with all the other colors in your garden.