Book Review: Fearless Color Gardens, by Keeyla Meadows
Keeyla Meadows is an artist and garden designer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her garden is indeed fearless, as Judy and I can attest after seeing it during the 2013 Garden Bloggers’ Fling.
When we got back I wanted to read Fearless Color Gardens, her book about color and garden design. She has another book, Making Gardens Works of Art, which I have not yet read.
What Keeyla says about color in the garden isn’t necessarily so different from what you would find in other books. However, I found it helpful for getting my mind around this aspect of garden design. For me, this is the sort of subject where I need both repeated and differing perspectives from several authors in order to feel I have some real understanding.
The more fanciful aspects of Keeyla’s prose, such as her conversations with her muse and other imaginary characters, will be enjoyed by some people more than others. On the other hand, she writes clearly and provides just enough repetition and summarizing to let her points sink in.
One thing she stressed that really resonated with me is that the garden’s color scheme should include everything that can be seen, not just plants: containers, artwork, hardscape, outdoor furniture, and the house itself. This seems obvious but it had never really hit me before.
If it had, I never would have chosen white when our house was repainted. White really doesn’t go well with our garden, it was just the house’s color when we moved in. If I had thought about it, I might have chosen a cream yellow. (Keeyla is leery of white in general, she feels it doesn’t blend well with other colors).
Similarly, our sombre-colored pots don’t go with our flowers at all. After reading this book I went out and bought some blue and yellow spray paints.
I like the way Keeyla presents designing for harmony and contrast. Despite her bona fide fearlessness, the approach she urges seems fairly restrained. She advises picking one color, then choosing variations that are close neighbors on her color triangle. (She has a color triangle rather than a wheel, with three primary colors – red, yellow, blue – each taking one corner.)
For example, lets say you pick blue. You could mix a variety of dark and light blues, perhaps with purple and violet. If you want contrast, then pick a second color as a counterpoint to the range of related dominant colors. You can have variations on the secondary color just as you do with the dominant color.
The author talks about the need to think of each section of the garden as a picture in a frame, with each frame needing a focus. This is fairly standard. However, it is also curious because a striking aspect of the author’s garden is that almost every part of it is crammed with visual stimulation – which for at least some visitors detracts from any sense of focus. So what really constitutes a focal point could be an interesting topic for further discussion.
In any case, I found Fearless Color Gardens to be a fun and useful book, beautifully illustrated, and I would recommend it to any gardener who is still trying to get a handle on this subject.