The Color Of The Year; Favorite Uses In The Garden

“An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones”, that’s how the Pantone Color Institute describes color # 17-5641, Radiant Orchid, their choice for the 2014 Color of the Year.  The executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman, goes on to say; “Radiant Orchid…emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm”.

phaelenopsis orchid

Of course, a well-designed garden should always captivate and emanate joy, but it’s terrific that this color is getting it’s time in the spotlight. Looking to nature for inspiration is a timeless pursuit and it’s easy to agree with Pantone that this “enigmatic purple” is not only a “multifaceted hue ..seductive when combined with red and pairing well with its sister shades of lavender, purple and pink” but is also “…a modern and surprisingly versatile shade”.


Light plays along the edges of petals of a Phalaenopsis orchid. (photo by Joy Albright-Souza)

The particular shade of pinky purple that Radiant Orchid represents is not uncommon in the botanical kingdom, there are many flowers that incorporate this color in some form. The Pantone people point out that “ ..blending cool and warm undertones, purple is an appealing hue for distinctive combinations.…it is as adaptable as it is beautiful”.

cercis blossoms

Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ blossoms line the bare stems of this lovely garden tree. (photo by Joy Albright-Souza)

Looking like clusters of tiny orchids lining a leafless stem, the blossoms of the redbud, Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ show the beautiful range of purple from the most delicate bluish pink, through warmer reddish hues, to the deepest of purple sepals, before flowers give way to the new leaves of spring.

polygala dalmaisiana

Polygala x dalmaisiana is a dependable bloomer for mild gardens. (photo by Joy Albright-Souza)

One of the work-horses of the coastal garden is the South African milkwort Polygala x dalmaisiana. Also known as the Sweet Pea Shrub, it’s orchid-colored pea-like flowers can bloom almost year round. It can be short-lived but it makes a neat-looking filler for young gardens and if you look closely, the young leaves can be detailed with a pinky-purple line around the edge.

orchid colored hellebore

Hellebore hybrids are worth a closer look. (photo by Joy Albright-Souza)

Hellebores show the range of pinks and purples like no other late winter flower.  At the center, this delicately veined blossom is practically the definition of the color Radiant Orchid.

Often purples are at their best when they are the accent that shows off the beauty of other colors.

Russell Pritchard with Euphorbia

Euphorbia and Geranium ‘Russell Pritchard’ harmonize in the garden. (photo by Joy Albright-Souza)

I love the long blooming true Geranium, named ‘Russell Pritchard’, which shows off sprays of dime-sized orchid-colored flowers against a green background of foliage. It looks great when combined with a deep colored Euphorbia where it can pull out a sweeter note from the moody composition.

clematis combination

A clematis flower works its magic with Deutzia and Silene blossoms. (photo by Joy Albright-Souza)

Purple orchid-colored stamen tips on a creamy white clematis highlight the interesting texture and draw the eye into the center of the blossom, through contrast, in a way no other color could.

Don’t forget the edibles.

purple podded pea blossom

Colorful blossom from a purple-podded edible pea. (photo by Joy Albright-Souza)

In addition to traditional sweet pea colors,  I love adding edible purple peas to the garden. In most pea varieties, that produce an edible purple pod, the flowers are also quite colorful.  The pea blossoms themselves look like colorful little orchids neatly placed at the ends of delicate tendriled stems that shine in the spring garden.

The beautiful purples of kales and cabbages deserve recognition. The sometimes picoteed edges and cold-weather colors of these well-loved edible classics are beautiful in the kitchen and in the garden bed.

purple kale with dew drops

A silver ruffled edge compliments the color of this purple kale. (photo by Joy Albright-Souza)

These are just a few of the flowers that show off the range that this versatile color can achieve in the garden and illustrates the words of The Pantone Color Institutes Leatrice Eiseman, when she says; “Uplifting and bold without being overpowering, Radiant Orchid energizes almost any color palette and provides a unifying element for diverse spaces.”   — I would agree… in the garden and beyond,…this year and every year.

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Categories: Landscape Design


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