Just potted: Pink and Yellow, Colours for an Indian Summer

It was the Dahlias that did it. Hilary Squires, Ethical Florist at East Oxford’s Farmers’ Market (EOFM) has been selling the most stunning lemon yellow, yolk yellow, and clear pink dahlias for the last few weeks – on a cold spring morning they would make your eyes water, but in the balmy days of an Indian summer they were perfect.

Dahlias from EOFM

Anyway, it got me thinking. When we did planting design colour portfolios at college I don’t remember being asked to do pink and yellow! Or pink and orange. Not very ‘designerish’ and so many clients just don’t want yellow in their garden at all. But I started looking and realised just how often pink and yellow are found together- in nature, and in cultivated flowers.  Just think of the fruit of the Spindle (Euonymus europea) – perhaps more orange than yellow, or at least the rich orange-yellow of an egg yolk, combined with the richest pink you could hope to see.

Euonymus europea

Euonymus europea

And the colour combinations of a summer meadow, with the yellows of vetches and hawk bits, and the pinks of clovers and grasses. In garden settings these combinations can work well – think of the new Merton Borders at The Oxford Botanic Gardens with their glorious mix of Echinacea pallida and Echinacea purpurea. Or just look at this suburban front garden planted every year with pink Cosmos and yellow Rudbeckias by mother’s  neighbour, well over 80 now.

Merton Borders

Merton Borders, Oxford Botanic Garden

Front garden

Front garden, Shepperton

Having been musing along these lines I then took my mother to Waterperry gardens to see the Autumn borders – I’m not sure I would recommend all the colour combinations there, but the pinks and yellows certainly sang. There were combinations of Rudbeckia fuldiga with Asters such as Aster n.a. Andenken an Alma Potschke where the yellow of the Rudbeckia picked out the yellow stamens of the aster. The colours together would have made a Bollywood poster look dull!

Aster n.a. Andenken an Alma Potschke

Aster n.a. Andenken an Alma Potschke

Rudbeckia fulgida var deamii

Rudbeckia fulgida var deamii

So next year, when I’m planning my largely green garden, there’ll be a corner, somewhere, for an Indian summer planting to remind me just how bold nature can be, even here in England.

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