Since it is the ultimate “look at me” color, people are often afraid of the color orange just as I’m afraid to show off too much cleavage. (At least I might be if I had cleavage.)  The color of construction cones, sports team jerseys and fast food restaurants, orange is often maligned as too stimulating, too attention getting, even vulgar. “Chrysophobia”, the fear of the color orange, is unfortunately quite common in gardening circles. Here is how you can get over it, and why you should.  Done right, your garden won’t end up looking like a stripper or a kindergartner. I promise.

 Orange is youthful, passionate, optimistic and playful. But just as a rock star must build to a climax if we are to experience a climax at all,  if you’re going to say “look at me” with orange in the garden, be sure you can hold the viewer’s gaze once you’ve got it. The singer who belts out an entire song without varying her intensity leaves us weary. The garden that is all bustle with no repose is similarly jarring. If you want your garden to be a rock opera or even a symphony rather than a lullaby, consider orange your ally.

First, don’t stop  with the orange in your 10 color pack of crayons. Seek oranges from the palest apricot through deepest red-tinged tangerine and saturated scarlet. Next, blend these with leaves of silver, blue gray, deep blue green, plum, and lime. Add flowers of lemon yellow, cream, and pale green plus deep plummy reds. Don’t forget about contrasting textures and leaf shapes while you’re at it.  These combinations will be both lively and sophisticated. Your retinas won’t burn, and your guests won’t fall asleep. Now, add moments of more striking contrasts with blues and purples. Can you hear the cymbals?

Orange is warm and inviting,  an oh-so-welcome contrast to our leaden northwest skies. Give the color of peaches, sunsets, and ginger kittens a try.

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