We all know plant collectors who have one of everything, with no repeats. Maybe you have tendencies that way yourself.
The inside of my little house was painted with a similar effect to a plant collector's garden, one room at a time, with the cheap "oops" paint they have at the big home centers. Each room was a different color. Needless to say, it gave a very chopped-up, disjointed feeling. Both of these situations lack symmetry and cohesion.
Last spring, I went to a "round-up" gathering of members at a Dave's Garden subscriber's home and garden. The trip was arduous; we got lost more than once and the place was at the end of a long, winding, country road.
While this particular person prized her irises above all, and the gathering was timed for peak iris viewing, what struck me the most was the symmetry in her gardens. They had the typical, rambling New England look to them, yet the same colors were repeated over and over, even the same plants! This was no plant collector—this was truly a thoughtful gardener. I resolved to apply some of what I saw to my own tiny yard.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
I usually want to have one of each kind of plant, not five of the same thing. Possibly I am rebelling against learning repetitious multiplication tables and the kind of repetitious, tedious spelling lists we studied as children.
This type of garden may also result from budgetary constraints; we can't afford three so we buy one. But as I grow and learn as a gardener, I realize that repetition can be a unifying feature if I want things to look designed instead of haphazard. We can learn to divide our plants, or grow new ones from cuttings, to repeat them for free in our landscape and create unity.
Thus, when I found I had three plants of the lovely blue Geranium 'Rozanne' instead of the one I meant to order, I didn't give or trade away the extra two, I found a way to use them as my friend does to create unity on my (tiny) property and plant them in different places. You may remember my favorite colors are orange and blue (not like Howard Johnson's, tasteful orange and beautiful blue).
My front door is now a lovely G. 'Rozanne' blue, my bathroom is blue, I have tasteful orange tulips and orange roses. Well, now it looks like I'll have an elegant, deep cream bedroom to match my elegant, deep cream house with the same exact color of soft cream trim throughout the house, maybe making it seem a little more spacious.
The new kitchen floor is a neutral "Southwestern" color that I'm choosing to consider orange, and I certainly have a lifetime's worth of beautiful blue accents. Other beautiful blue flowers include Campanula spp., Platycodon spp., morning glories, pansies, little blue bulbs (which include a number of different suspects), bachelor's buttons, delphinium, and many others, some of which you can find in this article. Tasteful orange is much more abundant in nature than in plastic; think of marigold, nasturtium, geum, helenium, wallflower, and many tulips. Oh, and dahlia, zinnia, and of course poppy! I sometimes have trouble finding orange without yellow, but check this article for ideas.
Better Homes and Gardens suggests "keep your color palette neutral or low-contrast and wrap the room—the walls, the ceiling, and even the flooring—in the same tones for a seamless look that visually expands space."
I can't bear low-contrast—my favorite colors are the high-contrast, color-wheel opposites blue and orange, remember—but I do promise to use green as a unifying backdrop in my garden, with splashes of beautiful blue (especially in the wide-open ceiling, when provided) and tasteful orange everywhere I can squeeze them in.
Photographs courtesy of Dave's Garden subscribers htop, starshine, Calif_Sue, poppysue and LarryR. My garden doesn't look this good yet!