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Make the right choices in colors

Nancy Brachey
Nancy Brachey writes about gardening for The Charlotte Observer's weekly Home & Garden section.

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  • Ask Nancy

    Q. I have bought beautiful chrysanthemums in pots. They have many, many buds and open blooms. How can I make them last as long as possible.

    A. Keep the pots watered. Do not allow the leaves to wilt because this will shorten the plant’s beauty. A daily check is important, especially if your plants are outdoors in a sunny spot.

    Water the plant slowly.

    If the plant is sitting in a saucer, let water stand in it for an hour or two to give the roots a chance to absorb it. But don’t let the plant stand continuously in a saucer with water in it.

    Snipping off spent blooms with small scissors will also keep the plant looking fresh.

Gardeners face lots of choices this fall as they plan and plant beds of pansies and bulbs. One of the chief concerns that seems to worry people is their choice of colors. There are plenty to choose from. Just look at the bulbs: yellow daffodils, red tulips, blue hyacinths and many more colors are in garden centers to tempt you.

The best choice for long-lasting color, fall into spring, comes in a huge array of pansies, in colors from pastel to bold.

It is a delicious task to make these colors work together, and the first rule is: Do not be afraid.

While colors may not always work together in fashion or home decor, most colors work great together outdoors.

Several considerations guide my thinking, and some of them should make combining colors easy for you.

• Start with primary colors: red, blue and yellow. A popular combination is red and yellow tulips. Another is yellow daffodils rising above blue pansies.

• Vary tones of a single color. If you are keen on one color in particular, go for it, but mix in lighter or darker versions. This is especially easy to do when you combine pansies and flower bulbs. For example, pansies and their smaller cousins, the violas, come in many blues, from pale, sky blue to almost navy. Daffodils aren’t just bright yellow. They are also pale primrose or soft tangerine, making a lovely combination.

• Make bold choices. Flower colors offer you a chance at this, often with surprisingly good results. Red and purple may not be obvious companions, but they look very beautiful together and rather unusual, too. Orange and blue is another bold combination that always looks great, especially if you get the bright orange and vivid blues in pansies and bulbs.

• Add white. White flowers such as pansies, daffodils, tulips or hyacinths make worthy additions to the bed. White adds a fresh look and makes some of the softer colors such as pink or yellow stand out. And it always looks sharp with dark blue.

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