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Garden Ideas: 5 Uses Of Red In Garden Design

Red in Garden Design

Although it may be considered sometimes mildly bold the use of a feature colour in garden design, when one looks back through the ages and historically we quickly realise there is absolutely nothing new to its use at all.

Red seems to resonate more with some when referring to Oriental themed type gardens – a garden style that uses a usually green or basic colour range, at least when compared to that of the olde English type herbaceous borders. Historic, avant-garde or modern-day, that it is used to lead the eye from afar or [reworded maybe] to draw one to a particular space, in its most basic explanation what it does is change entirely what would have been a pretty bland and monotone photograph.

The following examples and explanations show that there is little variance behind the theory in the usage of the colour. More than that it also shows when used correctly just how effective one colour can change the entire feel of a gardens design and your space outside.

1. The Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

red bridge

On the go since the 18th Century – The Monte Palace Tropical Gardens are one of my all time favourites ever visited. But, can you picture just how boring [?] this image might be if the red was removed ? It may well be exciting to the plants person or horticulturist like myself, from afar or when up close – but as a garden to draw one in – would it actually do that ?

2. A Red Garden Bench

red garden furniture

A stark change from The Monte Palace Gardens of Madeira but – this is the most basic format in which I have used and can show this theory – put simple, a bright colour against a neutral backdrop. A solitary garden seat that prior to was beige and appeared so, aged in appearance on a dark shaded side to the garden that very simply needed a lift. Personally, I knew I liked sitting here – but it just didn’t feel it was entirely me when it was just so bland. Can you picture the grey beige bench ? A much, much happier place to sit and have a coffee now.

3. The Red Dead Tree

red garden feature

Just like the walkway of the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, the colour palette I used in this garden is a smooth groove from brown to yellow to green – all great neighbours on the colour wheel. What was required was something that would stand out whilst the similar coloured flowering Penstemons were not in flower, yet also compliment when they were. The red-painted dead Sophora isn’t as stark and unusual as one might think in situ – yet just enough to bolt some inspiration into a fairly solid toned plant choice colour base.

4. The Red Satellite

red satellite

Once again the colour palette here is quite close on the spectrum, but it was my recycling of my own satellite painted bright red that created the highlight in this garden. Sometimes it is the mildly unusual, highlighted, that can change the entire image of how a garden is perceived. Just imagine for a moment [once again] if you can how this garden might have looked had I chosen not to use it ?

5. The Red Exhaust Pipe Bird Feeder

red bird feeder

The exhaust pipe bird feeder – a little different, a little intrigue and whilst the planting had a little to go in order to make this image a little more picturesque, it is clear to see that yet again the neutral colour scheme is used to highlight the more unusual. Imagine if you will, that all the plants are red ? In which case I’d most likely have painted the exhaust pipe photosynthetic green.

And the more we think about it – the more we see it. Masses of green with red being used to highlight where we are intended to go towards and what it is the [beauty is in the eye of] beholder actually wants us to see. Highbury Stadium maybe an unusual one to finish off with but as an image, it proves the point – once again, just imagine if you will for a moment, should the seats be coloured green…. or see below.

More info:

highbury stadium

A bit green….

the aviva stadium

*all images by Peter Donegan.

Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, Madiera

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  • designer: Jóse Berado, Eleuterio Soares
  • owner: Jóse Berado Foundation
  • garden style: Portuguese-Oriental
  • size: 21 aces [8.5 ha]
  • climate: mediterranean
  • location: funchal madiera

[source: 1001 gardens you must see before you die]

It is very unusual for me, possibly, to go on holidays and then – for a break of sorts – to visit gardens…? It’s not really.

The island of Madiera is quite an intriguing place when one sees what is happening to the land on this small island [i believe we in Ireland had a similar situation some time ago]; Planning aside, horticulturally this entire island is a dream-land for the plant lover, botanist and garden enthusiast.

But, my review is of The Monte Palace Gardens or The ‘Jardim Tropical da Quinta do Monte Palácio’ and aside from the slightly touristy, yet worth it, cable car journey up and the timber sleigh down, they are absolutely stunning, breathtakingly beautiful and so worthwhile visiting.

The gardens themselves date back to the 18th century but the works on turning the ‘land’ into gardens of merit actually only started in 1987. If you do visit, I would suggest going twice as every path splits into two or three different directions and so one doesn’t ‘really’ get to see everything.

For the plants person there are over 100,000 plant species; For the architect, the buildings are simply amazing; For the garden lover it is paradise and if you ever wanted an oriental themed garden – this is were you should look for inspiration. If you’re not an uber-garden lover then it is simply relaxation in it’s finest form. My pictures probably don’t do it justice enough.

I try to visit a garden in every county and country I visit. Not all of them appear here. These gardens however would be up there with the very best of them.