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Don't Be Afraid Of Color In The Garden

Do bold colors in the garden scare you? I have to admit I don't get very creative with the color choices in my garden. I like the safe colors and combinations. I guess I'm not much of a garden daredevil, preferring dark colors or the same colors everyone else around me has. Today I took a photo walk with Garden Faerie who was visiting Chicago for a few days. We walked the length of Grant Park taking in the garden sights and characters on the street. One of the places we visited was the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park and afterwards we headed down Michigan Avenue to see the public plantings. The contrast took a bit of getting used to.

If you've ever visited the Lurie Garden in the spring you may understand why the color scheme in Chicago's plantings was a bit jarring at first. We went from a cool and subdued color pallet to something that looked like it sprouted after someone sowed a bag of Skittles.

multicolored tulip

This beautiful tulip is comprised of all the colors used along Michigan Avenue south of Randolph.

orange and yellow ranunculus flowers
We tried to figure out what the yellow and orange flowers in this planter but neither of us could remember the name. After a few blocks we decided they were anemones, but after I labeled the picture and uploaded it to this post the name came to me, ranunculus. Several business and buildings had planters full of blooms, but their pastel color choices looked pathetic in comparison to the explosion of color around them.

orange yellow purple and red tulips planted in Chicago parkway
The parkway planted with red, yellow, purple and orange tulips. Congress facing east with Buckingham Fountain in the distance.

orange yellow red and purple tulips and crabapple trees
The same parkway looking west. Normally, I'd say this combination of yellow, red, purple and orange tulips would be garish and something I wouldn't ever try in my garden. But after a dull winter that seemed to have sapped my creative energy; experiencing these colors was exactly what I needed. I feel reinvigorated and see the promise of everything around me and my garden. Maybe I'll even add some yellow and red blooms to my garden, maybe.

orange and yellow trees
One of my favorite parts of spending the day with Garden Faerie today was coming across this forest of trees painted orange and yellow. The trees appear to have been dead and were painted and installed here to make a statement. Have you ever walked through a forest of orange and yellow trees? I have. It was awesome.

Here's a larger pic of one of the scenes from above. Click on it for the larger view. Go ahead, click it. It's only color.

Big, beautiful, life-affirming color.


  1. Stunning picture of the flowers, will definitely make my day. Keep posting.

  2. Love this post--such vivid colors!--as well as your blog, which I've just now discovered after Googling "how to make your own newspaper pots." Your blog post from 2007 was a great help. If it's okay with you, I'd like to add you to my links at both my blogs: and

  3. It's, like, I was totally there, LOL. One of the houses I bought had a dark, deep burgundy dining room, which totally freaked me at first but then I embraced it and painted other rooms other colors. I love the orange accent wall in my bedroom! Becos my current garden is so big, I don't have plant material back to back or blooming all at once side by side, so not as much color as I'd like. Had a really fun day, esp. sliding down that Picasso, something I *never* would have done on my own. That's color in a different way! P.S. Guess what flowers I saw in a planter at the rest stop on the megabus trip home? Yellow Runuculus! P.P.S. Your photos look so similar to mine (currently downloading) that I could just link to this post instead of writing my own--HA stupid & lazy! ;-) P.P.P.S. My Prunus x cistina had gone from buds to full blooms while I was away and its normally demure pale pink flowers seemed so bright at night they really jumped out at me--color in yet another way. P.P.P.P.S. My feet still feel like they're missing 1/4" on tendon and I have to stand for 2.5 hours teaching the compost class this evening. DOH!

  4. I love those orange trees. All winter I would drive past them on the drive and try to figure out WHAT was going on. Finally heard Jeffrey Baer (?) talking about them on Chicago Tonight. Apparently there are some blue ones somewhere too.

  5. Oh my god...this is stunning! All the color! I Love ranunculus...I see it on the blogs and it is just gorgeous! Those trees really got me! I thought they were real...some new thing that was just amazing. I love the idea of what they did with these dead trees! Great idea!!! live in a magical place, Mr. Brown Thumb!!!

    Happy Earth Day to ya!!!

  6. wow I really like those painted trees! too bad they didn't opt for live ones though...I wonder...would thinned out water based paint harm live tree branches....hmmm.
    And I discovered ranunculus last year - loving them! bloom from late fall all the way through spring in socal!

  7. I love this post! definitely a lot of color, i think i might go ahead and check it out today before work, i really enjoyed the last picture you took...very beautiful.

    LOL i remember sliding down the Picasso as a little kid all the time..i guess its almost the right of passage if your from

  8. I love the color - but over "there". It definitely is the right thing for the cityscapes and I would enjoy it there, but in my own garden - never, never, never!

    I am died in the wool - "blue", pink, purple and white, but just the nicest little touches of pale yellow. Anything else makes me so uncomfortable! I think I see the garden as my retreat, and those are the cooling, soothing colors.

    In an effort to be fair to my spouse, I have put in some dark-leaved things, including some new azaleas this spring. Unfortunately, the bloom is cerise! Fortunately, they will only last a couple of weeks and then calmness will be restored!

    I want to try to buy some rananculus for the house. Have tried growing it, but apparently it's crack for chipmonks!

  9. Looks awesome! I friggen love Chicago! Those colours are great and really add some kick to the urban landscape.

  10. Those trees are fantastic!

  11. Now that's a riot of color! I love it! :)

  12. These are gorgeous! However, on your other, ChicagoNow, blog (where I can't comment without creating an account, so I won't), I think the person who commented is confused about which flower is liatris. The blue one in the pictures is not, but the purple one - I've never heard it described as blue - in your link clearly is. Perhaps you could clarify, or maybe just let 'em wonder... (and perhaps think twice about blogging for a site that makes people give up a wealth of personal information just to speak up!)
    Thanks for these spring posts... I have missed your stuff!

  13. Ann,
    Glad you liked them.

    Miss Kitty,
    Feel free to link to anything on this blog that you find useful. Glad the seed starting post was helpful.

    LMAO. I'm still laughing at the day we had yesterday. Thanks, you don't know how much I need it. or maybe after walking through the orange forest and me being all blabby, I guess you do. :0)

    They must've looked so much cooler in winter. I wish I would've known about them then. I'll have to see if I can locate the blue ones.

    I see the ranunculus all the time too and didn't ever really pay it much attention. Now I'll probably become obsessed with them and add them to the garden.

    Mary C,
    Monica (commenter above) and I were talking about that and we're pretty sure painting trees would clog up some important parts that helps them grow and "breathe," although, now I can't think of the scientific names of those parts. LOL.

    Finding My Green Thumb,
    Hope you got to see them! I didn't start sliding down the Picasso until iw as in H.S and I try to do it at least once a year.

    LOL. I feel the same way as you do about color. Although, after seeing all this color I'm feeling kinda brave and want to try it.

    They really do, even more so in person. It was awesome standing near the lake and looking back at the city and seeing the colors picked up in the skyline.

    Diry Girl,
    Glad you liked them.

    Glad you liked 'em.

    I was a little confused too. I wasn't sure if the commenter there was referring to the first pic or the pic I linked to. Although, in the pic that was linked in the post they definitely look blue. Maybe it is a different variety?

    You could always use "fake" information when signing up for websites that require information. I have a separate account for registering to comment on places.

    Thanks everyone for commenting.

  14. Wow, wow, wow! They look stunning!

  15. Wow!
    Lots of colors. Love it!

  16. A very encouraging post. Thanks for sharing great Chicago pics. :-)

  17. The flowers are so colorful! I like to have a garden this colorful!

  18. Boo hiss, sorry I missed all that color, and hanging out with you guys.

    I was always more of a pastel sort of girl in the garden, but now in my old age, I'm really into color, and try to cram as much color as I can into our shade garden.



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