Marsala in the Garden; How to Use the Color of the Year

“A naturally robust and earthy wine red” that’s how the color “Marsala” is described by the Pantone Color Institute when introducing their 2015 Color of the Year. “Dramatic and at the same time grounding…it’s red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness”, says the Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman of color #18-1438.


lillies and wine with hot tub

A pot of earthy-red lilies provides a splash of warm color for a spa-side patio. Photo and design by Joy Albright-Souza.


This warm shade compliments almost any color, in the garden, and is a no-fail hue for unifying backgrounds. In the landscape, it works almost as a warm neutral due to it’s place on the other side of the color-wheel from green. It looks right at home in the garden, playing well with many flowers and accessories and creating dramatic focal points.


glazed ball with phormium closeup

Phormium “Guardsman” adds a range of  red tones that brings drama to the landscape. Photo and design by Joy Albright-Souza


Nature uses this color often, not only in the deep reds of blossoms but also in slender stems, robust leaves and the dusky  sheen of bark on certain shrubs and trees.

Pantone says; “the impactful, full-bodied qualities of Marsala make for an elegant, grounded statement color when used on its own or as a strong accent to many other colors.” This “…stirring and flavorful shade….encourages color creativity and experimentation..” which of course, is nature’s particular specialty.


Forest Pansy and Pieris

The warm range of color in Cercis “Forest Pansy” provides contrast with the greens of nearby plants. Photo Joy Albright-Souza.


To quote Pantone; “An earthy shade with a bit of sophistication…a matte finish highlights Marsala’s organic nature while adding a sheen conveys a completely  different message of glamour and luxury.” No where is this more true than in the garden, where the matte texture of  bricks and clay create a perfect earthy and unifying background. While a warm-wine shade with shine, as seen on my favorite red-glazed pottery, attracts more attention and creates a worthy focal point.


potted garden group with bricks

Using brick in the landscape creates a unifying background  for the variations of green. Photo and design by Joy Albright-Souza.


“..Marsala is a great go-to for …a captivating pop of color…”, not only is this the recommended way to use this deep warm red in fashion, but it’s the  perfect role in the landscape. Providing contrast, but not too much, to a gardens mixed palette of greens.


red ball fountain flowing closeup

The warm red glaze of this garden fountain reveals detailed beauty upon close inspection. Photo Joy Albright-Souza.


Whether this lovely color is given the name “Marsala” or the title of similar traditional beverages, such as Madeira or Port, it is certainly a “rich and tasteful hue”.  Like its namesake wine, it is a color born of nature, often refined by a human hand and enhanced by the passage of time. Isn’t that the perfect description of a garden?


Nandina with red glazed pot

The variations in my favorite red pottery compliments the red stems of Nandina. Photo Joy Albright-Souza.


Eiseman says,” Marsala  enriches our mind, body and soul, exuding  confidence  and stability…a subtly seductive shade…that draws us in to its embracing warmth.”

That’s exactly what we want…in a garden.


red ceramic balls in the landscape

A series of red glazed balls appear to roll down this hillside garden in the Santa Cruz mountains. Photo Joy Albright-Souza



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Categories: Landscape Design


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4 Comments on “Marsala in the Garden; How to Use the Color of the Year”

  1. January 7, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    Refreshing to see these lush gardens during my dormant season. Thanks!

  2. January 7, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    I have a red pot exactly like the one you show with nandina – never knew how to describe that red. Marsala is perfect. Great posting, Joy!

  3. January 8, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    Glad you guys liked this. I have always found that particular red pottery to be very versatile…even without a good name!

  4. January 12, 2015 at 1:51 am #

    Wonderful and inspiring interpretations of marsala!

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