What colour works best as a backdrop to plants? Our go-to is Dulux ‘Monument’, a steely grey that allows greens of any tone to shine – and flower colours to really pop. The accepted rule of thumb for colours in the garden is that if you want something to disappear you need to paint it the colour of a shadow. Dark-painted walls and fences dissolve rear boundaries and mask unsightly features, but also act as rich backdrop for plants. ‘Monument’ plays this double role with distinction, disappearing so that the plants in front of it are the focus of attention.
Our attraction to ‘Monument’ and its restrained good looks was recently challenged by a job that broke through the colour barrier. Walls in this property, designed by Jo Lawless, are painted in ‘Fired Earth’ and ‘Fuchsia’, both by Porters Paints, and the vivid colours make the planting sing.
The colours give a Luis Barragan vibe to the space. Barragan was a Mexican architect whose use of strong clean lines positioned him in the Modernist camp, though he rejected the idea of buildings as ’machines for living’ and instead believed that architecture should express serenity. He replaced Modernism’s plate glass fetish for a love of stuccoed walls, which he painted in vibrant colours that echoed Mexican artistic traditions. One of his most famous projects, an equestrian estate near Mexico City, built in 1968, features orange and pink walls, which contrast with the bright blue Mexican sky and are reflected in turquoise pools.
We used a range of different shades of green and different leaf textures to bounce against the bright colours of this property and give it a tropical feel. The success of the garden shows that you don’t need to go safe with colour choices – bold is definitely an option.