All gardeners like to have color in their gardens.  Not all of us are fortuneate enough to have that inherent sense of design and color to make our selections of plants really stand out and be stunning to our garden visitors.  Here are a couple tips to help.  first of all, concentrate the color.  This is a simple technique.  Instead of using only one plant for color, use at least a few to make a bolder splash of color.  This works especially well with annuals, perennials, and bulbs, but also with low growing shrubs, dwarf conifers.  Also group that color into clumps which have the effect of intensifying the color you are using.  Just think how memorable a clump or bed of flowers are in your mind’s eye, and then think of only one plant… a dramatic difference is observed.  This is more obvious when you see a planting of spring bulbs or herbaceous plants, planted in a row of single plants… it just looks skimpy.  But those same numbers of plants, planted in a clump or group, now creates a mass of color which catches the eye of any passers by. 

Another big tip which many professional landscapers, designers, landscape architects, etc. use is to use plants in combinations which contrast (for bold color splashes) or complement(enhancing the main color and it’s neighboring colors on the color wheel) to create a braoder spectrum of a certain chosen color scheme.  Flowers and foliage can be used in conjunction here, since there are so many leaves which are colored, sometimes as showy as the blooms of other plants.  I particularly like foliage effects since they can last for a very long time.  (not including fall foliage colors which can be very brief)

Lets take for example some of the many Heuchera and Heucherella cvs. and plants that can contrast with them(foliage and/or flowers)  These low growing perenials are easy care, yet much of their charm lies in the colors of their bright foliage.  Almost and endless array of color choices and combinations in the leaves alone.  When you add a complementary or contrasting plant next to it, the colors show themselves off to advantage.

I know this can be intimidating to the new gardener, but use a tip that the most seasoned gardeners, horticulturists, use.  Just put a pot of one plant you like next to another plant you like, and see how they play off each other, observing colors, textures, and heights.  That is what professionals do if they find a plant new to them!  They try it out right at the nursery!   This works for any plant combination. Big or little plants, herbaceous or woody plants, deciduous or evergreens, all  work well when tried in this simple easy fashion.  Again, the traditional color combinations are a beginning, but do not limit yourself to just those.  Try combinations you like, or those you thing might work well together….often the do just that!

This works especially well in mixed container plantings.

A nice combination of plants is Heucherella Yellowstone Falls with blue morning glories!  or red/crimson, scarlet morning glories.  Another is to use some of the double pink or red morning glories with Heucherella Redstone Falls.  The various different shades of ered work well together. 

For shrubs, try Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora ‘Pinky Winky’ with evergreen ground covers like Disporopsis fuscata, or hellebores, or ferns or even Japanese anemones (Anemone hybrida cvs.)

Or you may wish to try it with Lorpetalum ‘Purple Majesty’

Hostas with Japanese maples is a classic combination (and they grow together in the native habitat as well !

Any of the ferny shade perennials will also work well.  Aquilegia(coloumbines), Thalictrum(meadow rue), Aruncus and Cimicifuga as well as astilbes in this combination give a ferny, or lacey effect to the planting.  You can use shade hydrangeas to substitute in shady spots.

Native iris hybrids with manzanitas or flowering currants(Ribes sanguineum glutinosum cvs. R. speciosum, R. malvaceum) are other candidates for this plant combo in full sun- partial shade.