Two-Color Gardens

Learn how to combine two flower colors to create a garden with nonstop visual excitement.

White Plus One

twocolor_White Brick Lined Dirt Path With White and Lavendar Flowers Oakleaf hydrangea, snapdragon,
and sweet alyssum are the stars in this
circular garden, but nuances of
lavender scabious, bellflower,
delphinium, and salvia soften
white's glare.

Combined with any color, white has the impact of a mint sprig in lemonade: It adds an edge of refreshing crispness. White's chameleonlike nature also makes it the color companion valued most in the garden. Next to warm yellows and reds, white softens. With cool blues and purples, it appears frosty and defined. Free from color, white assumes whatever tint stands next to it.

Drifts of white in a red-hot border lower the temperature. A red-and-white scheme strikes a balance between excitement and relaxation. For a fresh-faced look, pair yellow or orange flowers with white blooms that have warm-color centers.


Planted next to receding blue flowers or foliage, white illuminates, yet the overall effect is quiet and harmonious. Whites drawn from either variegated foliage or flowers become highlights when interspersed among green, particularly in a shady setting. Combined with pink, lavender, or silver, white appears enchanting. White roses peeking out among lavender phlox, or lavender clematis draped on a white arbor, look stunning at twilight.


Gold Plus One

twocolor_Yellow Daylilies With Fuschia Flowers Yellow daylily and coreopsis add
sparkle to a purple palette of
smoke bush, coneflower, petunia,
and phlox.

When yellow joins other flower colors, the scene invariably lightens and brightens. Yellow boosts the border with the visual equivalent of laughter. It shimmers in shady places.

Purple tones, from purplish green to lavender, respond warmly to a yellow partner. Bright spring yellows frequently pair up with purple and blue blooms. But what about a late-spring follow-up act of yellow peonies (Paeonia lutea) with purple-leaf rhododendrons; lavender irises and gold Veronica repens; or 'Baggesen's Gold' honeysuckle and hardy ginger (Roscoea purpurea)?

Use yellow shrubs as ornamental highlights in flower borders. They'll add spark to mellow monochromes of purple or pink. Many gardeners greet the spring with bright yellow forsythia, but other shrubs also spread wonderful buttery color in plantings. For shade, Kerria japonica bears single or double popcorn flowers of pure gold against vivid green stems. Kirengeshoma, a large perennial, and Rhododendron luteum twinkle with pale yellow flowers, while mahonia glistens with sprays of bright yellow. In sunny gardens, witch hazel and broom (Cytisus) flower in early spring. Golden-leaf varieties of weigela, elderberry, Caryopteris, and barberry enhance borders with their glow.

twocolor_Yellow and Purple Flower Assortment With Green Lawn Chairs and Pillar A mass of purple and yellow pansies
shine under a cloud of lavender.

Yellow and white form a winning combination that glows dramatically when reflected in water. A midsummer border could pair fragrant yellow-throated Lilium regale and 'Stella de Oro' daylily, or white astilbe and a gold-variegated ornamental grass. By adding 'Goldenmosa' goldenrod or 'Garden Sun' Helenium and white mums, the gold-and-white show lasts through the fall.

Many daisylike yellow flowers provide late-summer color. Sustain the sunshine of coreopsis, Helenium, and black-eyed Susan by snipping off faded flowers after their first bloom. A second flowering soon follows.

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