When we bought our house most of the garden was enclosed by humongous evergreen hedges and there were lawns everywhere so that green was the predominant colour. When I designed the right south-border in front of a rather high evergreen hedge, I needed something that would tone down all that green. I opted for a purple leafed smoke tree on the right and a purple leafed Japanese Maple on the left. And right in the middle of this long and narrow border (only 1.2 meters wide) I planted a Mespilus germanica with reddish-purple leaves, cut into a sphere shape. I choose purple because it's one of my favorite colours, it contrasts nicely with all that deep green of the conifer hedge and it compliments the ochre yellow gravel path.
I also planted 2 standard roses, Magenta, to add instant height and the magenta colour goes so well with the purple leaves. The colour scheme for the flowers in this border ranges from white to light pink to deep pink to purple during the summer months and autumn. In spring there's yellow and blue as well.
Here's a close up of one of the Magenta roses, as she is right now. Lovely isn't she, and her scent is to die for! I also like the shape of the flowers, so very luscious.
Two obelisks were added for some more instant height and to support 2 non-climbing clematis. The clematis have also purple leaves and stems with tiny white flowers. Along the path with ochre yellow gravel, I planted a few purple leafed Ajuga reptans and some Sedum spectabile, also with purplish leaves.
Purple is the recurring theme in this border and it's found in minute details such as this
the leaves of Geranium phaeum Samobor
the edges of the leaves of this Phlox
and here, very subtle indeed, the flower stems of the Saxifraga X geum pick up the purple theme again. I love this combination of Japanese Maple underplanted with Saxifrage as it works so well in every aspect. There's contrast in colour, leaf shape, size and the leaves of the Maple are mat in finish whereas the Saxifrage leaves are very glossy.
The Japanese Maple also contrasts well with the hedge that is rather a solid block of unmovable green, whereas the Maple is very light and airy and dances in the breeze.
Another purple leafed plant I have used in this border is Heuchera, here in combination with the deep pink Centranthus ruber. Note the contrast in leaves of both plants, both in colour and shape.
And how is this for an exercise in contrast? Fun, isn't it? I love playing around with colours and shapes and am not afraid to try something out. If it is not a success it is not the end of the world, is it? There's always next year! One of the perks of gardening is that you get to try again, and again and again so there's no need to be afraid but instead go boldly where no one has gone before!
Leaves are very important as they are there for a much longer period of time than most flowers. Going for contrast in leaf shape and colour makes the border also interesting when there are no flowers around. Still, my aim is to have my borders in flower for as long as possible, after all they are the jewels in the crown!
The great thing is not to be timid in your gardening, whether it's colours, shapes, juxtapositions or the contents themselves. Splash around and enjoy yourself.