Colour In Flower Arrangements

The question of colour at any time seems to me to be so bound up with painting, as to make it almost impossible to discuss one without the other. There is so much to say that it is difficult to know just where to begin. Generally one starts with the study of colour charts (which, of course, we all did at school) learning that the three basic colours are red, blue and yellow, and that the opposite of each colour is composed of the two remaining ones mixed together. This explains why yellow goes well with purple, blue with orange, and red with green.

Flowers (i.e. colour in the garden) like a box of water colours or oils (i.e. colour in painting) come in so many shades of colour, and in such varied tones that their possible blending of colours when mixed are endless.

There is for instance, the basic difference between gamboge, raw sienna and chrome yellow but all are termed variants of ‘yellow’. Another point is that no two people see colour alike (what appears to be a clear cobalt blue to one person takes on the semblance of a greeny-blue to another, and so on). This makes the description of colour schemes precarious, but adds to the excitement and challenge of arranging flowers. It is important to remember that colour can either be used to emphasise other colours or detract from them—for example imagine say a grey and primrose yellow room, a flower arrangement in it might be of primrose and lilac which would tend to blend in and to emphasise the yellow of the room. On the other hand, a strong chrome yellow would surely clash with the primrose and drain the colour away.Colour In Flower Arrangements

A large hotel laid out its small garden this year, at what must have been a vast financial outlay, with one border full of crimson geraniums, and a row of the purple-pink variety at a little distance behind. It produced neither the surprise of a good startling clash of colour nor any suggestion of harmony, and seemed to be a good example of opportunity wasted. On the other hand, a white washed cottage with a deep leaf green door (a real Robin Hood green), and a harmonious border of white peonies, with rich dark foliage, white Iceberg roses and the chalk plant (gypsophila), is a delight to the eye and an opportunity used to the full.

Perhaps one wall of a North facing room may be painted in a warm colour (red, orange, yellow etc.) immediately giving the feeling that the room is a smaller, warmer place. (An orange or red flower arrangement would have the same effect, obviously). Imagine again a room painted in grey, white or green, when thinking in terms of a cool effect. A flower arrangement in these colours would give a similar feeling.

However, one can only make suggestions, very tentatively, and leave the rest to personal taste, selection, and experiment. With that proviso, here are some ideas for arrangements—using various flowers of one colour. This is formed by a list of colour combinations which I have found interesting. (These are groups which were all collected during the months of July to September).


  • GREEN: sorrel ; spurge ; large horseradish leaves ; a spray of green blackberries ; scabious buds ; hedge privet, with some of the leaf cut to show the green berries; hop flowers ; mignonette ; pale green heads of hydrangea.
  • WIIITE. Gladioli ; white scabious; chalk plant (Gypsophila); lilies; love-in-a-mist; Shasta daisies; pinks; carnations; phlox; white cornflowers; green grasses.
  • PINK: larkspur; carnations; hydrangea; dianthus; antirrhinums; cornflowers; bouncing Bet; asters; gladioli; geraniums; roses.
  • BLUE: delphiniums; larkspur; African lily (Agapanthus); globe thistle; flax; cornflowers; hydrangea; Canterbury bells; sea holly (Eryngium); love-in-a-mist; monkshood; scabious.
  • RED: geranium; gladioli; bergamot; corn lilies (Ixias); roses; godetias; snapdragons.
  • GREY: lamb’s ear (Stachys lanata); lavender foliage; cotton lavender; rosemary foliage; verbascum leaves; garden ragwort foliage; plume poppy foliage. (To these were added three targe white clematis flowers and white geraniums.)
  • YELLOW: yarrow (Achillea); golden rod; marigolds; montbretia; pansies; nasturtiums; dahlias; snapdragons.
  • PURPLE: larkspur; lavender; asters; Michaelmas daisies; hydrangea; monkshood; sweet peas; gladioli.

COMBINATION-COLOUR GROUPSColour In Flower Arrangements 2

  • Phormium leaves with green leek heads, poppy heads and dianthus foliage.
  • The deep green and tan leaves of the cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata) with buff Japanese chrysanthemums.
  • Solomon’s seal with guelder rose, green tulips, and longiflorum lilies.
  • Purple lilac, pink stocks, and purple sprouting broccoli.
  • White rhododendrons with whitebeam foliage and flame coloured tulips.
  • Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengii) with their leaves, two or three sprays of spurge and a bunch of marigolds.
  • White lilac, mauve lilac, broccoli with purple heads on it (some of them breaking into a pale yellow flower), Queen Anne’s lace, whitebeam flower, hollyhock leaves.
  • Blue-green heads of hydrangea with eucalyptus. Curving branches of the white shrub spiraea with white lilac (cut short) and white bluebells.
  • Green love-lies-bleeding with white African lily (Agapanthus).
  • Green tulips with deep cerise dianthus.
  • Lamb’s ear (Stachys lanata) with white sweet peas, white roses, and rosemary foliage.
  • Pink mauve clematis (Comtesse de Bouchard) with periwinkle.
  • Grey green buds of mullein with mignonette and deep wine hydrangea flowers.
  • White summer jasmine with everlasting pea, catmint, and two or three Ophelia roses.
  • Regal lilies, delphiniums, and Paul’s Scarlet roses. Buff coloured fox-tail lilies (Eremurus) with pale and dark delphiniums with deep rose peonies, blue cornflowers, and pink Canterbury bells.
  • White fox-tail lilies, allium heads, longiflorum lilies, and white peonies.
  • Elder flowers before they are quite out, with most leaves taken off, and deep yellow roses.
  • White foxgloves, Queen Anne’s lace, and mock orange (Philadelphus).
  • Curving branches of rosemary in flower with the bright yellow cluster of berberis flowers.
  • Yellow columbines with hare’s-tail grasses and giant cow-parsnip flowers.
  • Red polyantha roses with tradescantia foliage. Red bergamot with blue love-in-a-mist.
  • Feverfew with evening primrose.
  • Globe artichoke heads—rich purple—poppy heads. Green grasses, and small bulrushes (lesser reed mace).
  • Blue green heads of hydrangea with drying bear’s breeches (Acanthus) and carnation foliage.

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