Need advice on a rainbow garden design

Ocean Springs, MS

I live in zone 8b. I want to design a rainbow garden that will provide interest year-round. I want it shaped like a rainbow and in the correct order of colors of a rainbow. Any advice would be appreciated. love, julie

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

I can't recommend specific flowers since I am in zone 4, but most catalogue companies have a search by color and size. You could go to the companies you like and check what they have or choose one from the Garden Watchdog. It will take a lot of research to get ones the right colors as well as bloom time. You might consider annuals and change them out by season.

suburb of Toronto, ON(Zone 5b)

I'm not much help either given the zone difference. But I've always liked the idea of a rainbow garden. The nearby botanical garden has a HUGE iris collection that is prosaically arranged by genus and species with no apparent thought given to color. What could be more appropiate to arrange as a rainbow than irises, given that Iris was the godess of the rainbow?! A rainbow iris garden could easily show the same botanical information as what is there currently but would offer an opportunity to introduce mythology and color concepts as well. Such a wasted opportunity to just plant them in blocks in no particular color order...

If irises grow for you, definitely include some in the rainbow garden! Daylilies would be good on the ROY end of the ROYGBIV rainbow of colors as they come in such a wide range of warm colors. It's the BIV end that will be trickier - probaably need a lot of annuals for that side maybe. Can you back the bed with shrubs with either or both of leaves and flowers that fit the rainbow pattern?

Port Moody, BC(Zone 8a)

froggies girl

You may be interested in the Pope design plans at Hadspen gardens, UK. Their schemes were all about graduated colours around the colour wheel, and colour harmonies. They have retired but I believe they published a book called Color by Design. The tricky part will be the seasonal consistency. As others have suggested irises would be good, if you have lots of sun, and they have a relatively consistent height. Good luck! It sounds like an exciting project.

Themes are fun to work on. Once I did a summer theme design that was part of a famous painting. I used all annuals and perennials as well as water. It was a school project.
Here are the some steps you should follow. First, decide if you want year round color or seasonal. They are really considered two different things. Year round is color that will continually be seen in any line of sight. You can incorporate all types of plant material (trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals) into this theme. Seasonal themes are more focused on specific areas set up for color during a certain time of year. You can attack your rainbow design many different ways.
1. Year round (perennial based) - In the spring use reds that will give a bright vibrant beginning to your rainbow and season. As the season progresses orange pops up and mixes with the red. Soon the red fades and the yellow mixes with the orange and so on and so forth until fall / winter when your purples are setting the tone for a cool striking winter.
2. Year round (annual based) - Install annuals in the spring with a good amount of bone meal or blood meal and watch them grow. That's year round!
3. Seasonal - (shrubs, perennials and annuals) Pick a season that all the colors of the rainbow will burst forth as one. By using all different types of plant material you might even create a year round affect as well. The shrubs and annuals will create this year round affect.
After choosing your time frame of bloom you want to choose your plant material. You want to decide on which plant material will best suit your desired year round or seasonal rainbow. Since there are thousands of choices when dealing with plant material I suggest that you just take some time looking through books and magazines. Talk to a local garden center or the neighbor that gets up and gardens from dawn to dusk with years and years of experience.
Make sure you measure the area and get things on paper so you have enough room for everything as well as proper dimensions.

Hope this helps.

Novato, CA

I think Zen nailed it .
For easiest and best control of color , work with annuals.

Look to the early work of the English Victorians to check out a style called 'bedding out'.
You'll probably find plenty of rainbow examples.

Another modern garden , though extremely gauche in my opinion , is Butchart ( ? spelling ) Gardens in British Columbia.
They have a penchant for Victorian bedding out planting and do it with the most visually disturbing ( as in poor color blending ) color planting schemes.
It's like the gardener designers have no sense of color or that they only know how to 'paint' with primary colors and have not yet discovered secondary, complimentary or analogous colors.

bright red common annual salvia next to yellow marigolds.
They completely forgot about the orange range.

That garden was the only one that I have ever visited that I was anxious to leave.

I think it is an excellent example to study in regards to poor color blending.

Ocean Springs, MS

Sorry it took so long to reply. All of your advice just AMAZES me! I think I found the right forum to make this post.
I have made these decisions so far.
1. There will be some evergreens for year-round interest (grasses and small shrubs).
2. Some hellebores for winter, as well as pansies, kale, and snapdragon for winter. I can grow delphiniums in our mild winters, so that gives me some BIV color.
3. I will be including some daylilies, oriental/asiatic lilies, salvia (red and blue), gladiolus, coneflowers (I have the coconut lime for green).
4. For some height, I'm going to include 2 trellises- one for the ROY side and one for the BIV side. Of course, the green will come from the leaves. I was thinking of climbing roses, honeysuckle, clematis and passion vine(BIV), yellow and orange trumpet vine.
5. For fall, I have mums, spider lily in red, orange, and yellow, sedum, aster, pink muhly grass, Karl Forester grass.
6. Of course, annuals will play a big part in the garden, with gallardia, cornflowers, coreopsis, marigolds, zinnias, pentas, coleus (I had one last summer that was green and blue- it was a sun coleus); and swiss chard (what a great way to brighten an area).
7. I plan to have 2 focal points - a birdbath in the front and a rainbow eucalyptus in the center!
Let me know what you think so far. And all your comments and suggestions are truly welcomed and appreciated.
love, julie

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

If you're looking for more blues/violets, I'd consider Anagallis monelli I don't know what zone you're in--here in 9b they're solidly perennial (although supposedly a short-lived one) but if you get too much colder then they become annuals. They'll bloom on and off in summer and fall. Also, I don't know if there are any Ceanothus species that would do well in the south, but some of them have wonderful deep blue-violet flowers (it's a shrub though, don't know if that works or if you were looking only for annuals/perennials). Purple's a pretty common color for petunias too, so you can always throw a few of those in. Or verbena.

Ocean Springs, MS

Thanks, ecrane for the suggestion. Would you happen to have any seeds? thanks, julie

Hattiesburg, MS(Zone 8a)

froggies_girl, if you would like to mix some shrub roses (or you mentioned climbing roses) into your design there is a place in Pass Christian called Countryside Roses(think thats the name) they are supposed to have a wide selection of shrub roses, china roses, antique, climbing, etc. Their phone number is:228-452-2697. As far as evergreen you could also mix in some dwarf salmen pink oleander as well as the larger red varieties, maybe some red bottlebrush. An interesting (and evergreen) approach would be to use yucca 'color guard' for your yellows, even though it has some green it has plenty of bright yellow in the leaves to achieve the effect your going for. Something like Plumbago could provide you with the blues(not the sad kind of blues) and of course there is a plethora of color choices with impatiens. The Muhly grasss is a great idea, they look outstanding planted in large drifts or groupings. If I think of anything else I'll drop you a line.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

No--sorry I don't have seeds. I'm sure it makes seeds because I've had babies come up on occasion, but I've honestly never seen them on the plant. I know you can buy them though--check Thompson & Morgan and, I think it was one of those places that I saw them for sale.

Ocean Springs, MS

jpolk34, the bottlebrush idea is great! I have one that is so big on my empty lot (I won't mention why it's empty; I'm sure you can guess). I bought one for my new yard, but one more in the rainbow garden will be excellent.
ecrane, thanks again for your idea. '

Hattiesburg, MS(Zone 8a)

No problem Julie, glad I could help. Let me know sometime how the rainbow bed is coming along.

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