Artistic colour echoes

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Tradescantia Sweet Kate in the garden of Jill Hankinson in Sydney

Still suffering slightly from the angst of seeing all those wonderful cool climate plants growing in Victoria last week, I was uplifted by a visit to a wonderful Sydney garden on Friday, which reminded me of how fabulous OUR gardens can be and what gorgeous plants WE can grow with ease. The garden of Jill Hankinson has beautifully colour-themed borders filled with a profusion of lushly growing plants mingling together in a most naturalistic way. Borders in a variety of microclimates - including challenging dry shade - showcase what can be achieved in our climate, and provided a feast of inspiring ideas for our garden group. There are many unusual plants to see, a superb garden design, lovely vistas at every turn, fantastic bespoke metal garden structures - and what I enjoyed most of all was the use of colour and in particular, colour echoes, in all the borders. I have mentioned this concept in a previous blog: creating colour harmony and cohesion in the garden by combining two (or more) plants together that share a colour but have some other difference. For example, you can repeat the flower colour of one plant with a nearby plant that has foliage (rather than a flower) of a similar hue. Or pair a flower of a certain colour with a similarly hued bloom with a contrasting shape. Other techniques are to match the colour of a flower's bracts, calyces or central eyes to a nearby petal or leaf, or to place a flower nearby a garden sculpture, ornament or piece of furniture of the same colour.

Iresine herbstii with Salvia and cannas in the garden of Jill Hankinson in Sydney

Jill uses this idea in some of the most artistic and clever ways I have ever seen in a garden. The front garden chiefly comprises two deep and wide beds separated by the front path, with cooler colours on one side of the path and hotter hues on the other. In the cool-coloured border, soft pinks, whites, silvers and blues are highlighted with clumps of the cerise-veined purplish foliage of Iresine herbstii 'Brilliantissima'. The sumptuous colour of these veins is echoed in nearby bold Canna hybrids and a dainty low-growing Salvia microphylla cultivar (possibly 'San Carlos Festival'): thus giving contrast of form yet all unified by a single colour. The hue was repeated elsewhere in the bed in the dramatic trumpet flowers of Lilium bulbs and the petite pendulous blooms of a delicious variegated form of Fuchsia magellanica, again providing diversity of texture and shape.

Canna striata with Spiraea japonica Goldflame in the garden of Jill Hankinson in Sydney

In the hot-coloured border, I admired the echo of the yellow-veined Canna striata with Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame', which has lime-yellow tints to its new foliage. The superb gold-leaved form of the Tradescantia hybrid known as 'Sweet Kate' grows alongside brilliant yellow Alstroemeria and highlights the yellow stems and veins of rainbow chard growing amongst the flowers (pictured at the start of the blog). A background of dark-leaved Canna hybrids provides a dramatic contrast to the golden foliage and was echoed in an underplanting of bicoloured deep purple and golden yellow pansies still in bloom nearby.

Hydrangea quercifolia with Pilea cadieri in the garden of Jill Hankinson in Sydney

In the shadier back garden, I was mesmerised by a mass planting of oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) in full bloom, with their long, crisp white panicles of flowers. These were stunning on their own but the addition of white-variegated foliage, including the white-flecked groundcover Pilea cadieri, to the scene enhanced the effect. There were many other Hydrangea specimens in the garden, all at their peak of bloom. I spied a combination of the elegant pink-tinged lacecap Hydrangea serrata 'Grayswood' paired with the perennial form of Cleome in the same tints, which created a pretty vignette.

Coleus cultivar with Euryops chrysanthemoides and Canna in the garden of Jill Hankinson in Sydney

The back garden also has some hot-coloured borders and a favourite plant is coleus (Solenostemon cultivars). These plants have an amazing diversity, including many multihued forms, which are ideal for creating colour echoes. A particularly robust yellow and burgundy form (which I have in my own garden, from a wonderfully talented local gardener who lived in my area) is grown with yellow daisies of the long-blooming Euryops chrysanthemoides and a dark-leafed Canna. A lime-yellow shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeeana) flourishes nearby, adding to the picture. A brilliant orange-red coleus with a yellow margin to its leaves was paired with Canna and flowers of a similar colour, along with the rusty-red version of the shrimp plant.

The garden is a masterful creation of a highly skilled gardener who has the ability to arrange plants with a truly artistic eye. Our garden group came away with many ideas for planting combinations and some treasured cuttings to try: a most satisfying outing!