Gourdgeous Pumpkin: An Exciting, Colorful Backdrop

I'm always struck by the use of colored walls in garden design. I think the fascination began when I purchased Container Gardening (DK, 2004) by Paul Williams many years ago. The planting combinations are outstanding, showcasing a variety of styles and color schemes with excellent use of foliage, but it is the staging and photography which really makes this an exceptional publication. Many of the container portraits are shown set against bold backdrops: a masculine trio of steel grey pots in front of a lavender-grey wall with white trim, a terracotta planter in front of a tile-topped, yellow ochre stucco wall, a contemporary pair of glossy white and citrus green pots echoing the colors of a two-tier wall behind them. The simple styling places the focus firmly on the container designs while enhancing both their form and color palette.

When I visited RHS Harlow Carr in Yorkshire this summer I was struck anew by a display featuring two pumpkin orange walls and how effectively they set the theme for a Mediterranean-styled courtyard type planting. It's only a small area, tucked away in the southwest corner of the garden but it is one of my favorites.

Ruby hips of Rosa glauca seem to glow

The saturated color provides a canvas onto which to paint silhouettes of fruit, flowers, and foliage.

Wispy flower heads of fennel attract many species of pollinating insects

Both fine and bold textures are enhanced by the strong visual backdrop.

A grapevine trained on the wall: the foliage colors will intensify in fall.

Whether the warm pumpkin shade of the wall is repeated by using shades of burgundy and gold, or contrast is added using cool blues and silver, the effect is dramatic.

White heads of sea holly (Eryngium spp.) and cobalt blue bluebeard (Caryopteris spp.) set against the orange walls.

I would love to find a way to do something like this – the wheels are turning! Stucco doesn't hold up well in our Pacific Northwest climate and I don't have any fences in our garden. But maybe I can create a summer display area using painted cement board? I could paint it a different color each year: cobalt blue, turquoise, teal – and even pumpkin!

I'd love to know if you have done any thing like this – maybe used a colored section of wall to set off a sculpture or a water feature? Or maybe like me you're still dreaming? Share your ideas in the comments below and let's see what we can come up with.


PS. I will be taking our tour group to visit RHS Harlow Carr and many other wonderful gardens in Yorkshire and Derbyshire next June. Are you on the mailing list to be sent details when we open registration?

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  1. Belinda on November 2, 2021 at 7:06 am

    Hi Karen. We painted our cottage using Behr's Admiral Blue paint…added white window boxes filled with hot pink and lime plants and teal adirondack chairs by a white picket fence. The flowers and greenery popped. Enjoy your blog. Thanks for the inspiration in all things gardening.

    • Karen Chapman on November 2, 2021 at 8:37 am

      Oh that sounds absolutely beautiful! Our front door is very close to that shade of blue – it's a winner isn't it?