Bold, vibrant colour transforms an outdoor space like nothing else can. Choose a paint shade with punch for tired garden furniture and, at a brush stroke, you give the whole garden a lift.
Amid safe pastel planting, for instance, a pair of fire engine-red chairs looks spectacular — Little Greene’s Atomic Red in Estate Emulsion fits the bill.
Alternatively, find six sizzling colours — including scarlet, turquoise and sunshine yellow — of Adirondack chairs, those handsome American slatted wood outdoor armchairs, at countryfieldgardens.co.uk. These are, however, made of recycled plastic, are UV resistant, and won’t need repainting.
You can also bring overwrought metal café tables and chairs into the 21st century — and get rid of the rust at the same time — with Hammerite’s Direct To Rust Metal Paint in luscious Rhubarb Compote, which will do more for your patio than regulation dark green or grime-gathering white.
If you’re planting up containers, include a few glazed pots that will make your displays twice as vibrant — a glazed turquoise pot teamed with purple petunias, a lavender longtom making rose-pink calibrachoa all the rosier — see Kew planters at terraceandgarden.nordicshops.com. Alternatively, paint cheap-as-chips terracotta flowerpots with Cuprinol’s Garden Shades tester pots, available in a wide matte palette from lime and olive to raspberry and navy iris.
Paint the patio or garden wall a strong, clean colour and you open up a world of enticing possibilities — a burgundy potted acer with a backdrop of pale pink, a scarlet-flowered Japanese quince against lemon. In front of a cool blue wall on a London terrace, landscape designer Christopher Bradley-Hole planted a grove of violet bearded irises, thus intensifying both colours.
Instead of pulling out the living room cushions, invest in deckchair stripes with a dash of Deauville. Find RE’s French canvas cushions in primary brights at re-foundobjects.com, or check out Kirkby Design’s new Terrazzo range of water-repellent outdoor fabrics in zingy stripes, chevrons and basketweaves, at dcch.co.uk. Throw a bold-striped canvas runner from RE down the patio dining table and, believe me, nobody will notice the jasmine hasn’t flowered.
One fabulous plant colour won’t make the garden sing, but put two or three great shades together — in one small group, or with bold colour blocking — and you’ve got a whole rhythm section. Chelsea Flower Show was full of great colour combos this year, including the chartreuse green of euphorbia with the purple of flowering sage, colours which translate well to containers too, with, say, acid-green golden marjoram teamed with purple petunias. Matthew Wilson’s tangy choice for Royal Bank of Canada was Euphorbia Fens Ruby with sage Salvia Caradonna.
From these striking bass notes, it’s a simple matter to add highlights of bright orange from Geum Totally Tangerine, which Adam Frost on the Homebase garden contrasted with taller crimson Cirsium Atropurpureum. In the Sentebale garden, Matt Keightley contrasted grey-green grasses with bright orange perennial wallflower, Erysimum Apricot Twist. In the L’Occitane garden, a scattering of scarlet poppies throughout the space provided a great colour pop, while burgundy rose Chianti made a luscious counterpoint to apricot foxgloves.
Designers love to use rich shades to create drama, and we all can, in the simplest way. For example, purple lupins, everywhere at Chelsea this year, needed just a tall, slate planter to show them off at Capital Garden Products, and in the Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden, Chris Beardshaw gave them a perfect supporting cast of crimson Cirsium and sugar pink Verbascum.