Shades of Green, the “Little Black Dress” of the Garden

"Full Moon" Japanese Maple glows yellow-green in the landscape, intensifying the contrast of the red maple

“Full Moon” Japanese Maple glows yellow-green in the landscape, intensifying the contrast of the red maple beside it.

Green is a neutral colour in the garden, tying in all the other hues. It cools down hot brights, like scarlet, magenta and violet, providing transitions between the colours. There are a million variations of the green hue, from cool blue-green to a warm chartreuse. Garden designer Lucy Hardiman has great ideas for colour choices and combinations, and says this about green:

“Red jumps out, blue retreats, and green is the unifier, the garden’s go-anywhere little black dress.”

Now that so many perennials, shrubs and trees come in new green shades, especially all the variables of chartreuse, we have even more to choose from. Consider how a bright yellow-green, or chartreuse lightens up shady spots in the garden; it contrasts beautifully with warm colours like deep red, coral pink, and cool colours like the blue-green of hostas.

Green Annuals
We usually think of Zinnias with bright, hot colours, but a fairly new Zinnia,’Envy’, is a lime green. The star flowers of Nicotiana are particularly lovely in the “Lime Green” variety, mixing well with purples and reds. Coleus, comes in some great yellow-greens, ‘Lemon and Lime’ and ‘Electric Lime’. Chartreuse Sweet Potato vine, (Ipomoea batatas) ‘Margarita’ is popular for a good reason. It’s the ‘colour glue’ that allows bright pinks and reds in many street plantings to mix and mingle.
Variegated leaves, like those in Euphorbia marginata, or Snow-On-The-Mountain (green & white) and Nasturtium “Alaska” have a cooling effect, and help transition between other hues.

catnip and alchemilla together

Luminous yellow-green alchemilla contrasts with purple nepeta.

Coneflower, no longer only the species pink, like the elegant “Green Jewel“, developed by garden designer, Piet Oudolf. Don’t count out moss as a source of luminous green. Certain Hostas glow in the shade, like the red-stemmed “Designer Genes” and “Carolyn’s Gold.” Lady’s Mantle, (Alchemilla) is a frothy yellow-green that looks amazing with purples and blues. One of the most stunning grasses in the chartreuse hue is Hakonechloa macra’Aureola’, and the new
Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ is a superb new variety of the old favourite Bleeding Heart.
“Limelight” Hydrangea, and Annabelle Hydrangea have pale greeny-yellow flowers which are great in bouquets, and in the landscape. Japanese Maple “Full Moon” is pictured above, a really gorgeous addition to the massive numbers of great Japanese Maple cultivars. You can never go wrong by adding more shades of green to your landscape.

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