Colour for the Gardener

Colour is everyday and commonplace yet somebody with an artist’s eye can help us to truly see it and understand what it is doing. Andrew Lawson wrote “The Gardener’s Book of Colour” in 1996 and Pimpernel Press has recently released a revised and undated edition.

The Gardener's Book of Colour

The years since it was first published have seen a move in gardening towards a more natural style and planting and a move away from beds and borders where colour and the combination of colours were always of utmost importance. Only last week I was reading about Gertrude Jekyll, the great authority on colour in the garden, while this week I am reading Andrew Lawson on the same topic and it struck me as remarkable that both had an artistic background and both were outstanding photographers. It is a much used comment that somebody has an artist’s eye or a great eye for photography and it is simply perfectly true with Andrew Lawson.

I feel my own sense of colour is rather poor and, were it not for a kind admonishing voice, would certainly leave the house on occasions in rather odd colour combinations of shirt/tie/trousers. My favourite socks have rainbow coloured vamps – which, fortunately, are not visible while I wear shoes. I remove my shoes when I go to my granddaughter’s house so she can see I appreciate her beautiful Christmas gift.

Andrew Lawson can bring an understanding and appreciation of colour even to one so challenged as I. An introductory chapter on the power of colour – “Colour is the most potent weapon in a gardener’s armoury. Nothing in a garden makes more impact” – is followed by a chapter on “Understanding Colour” with an explanation of the colour wheel, saturation, tones, light etc. A treatment of single colours follows explaining how each colour performs in the garden and how each is best used before chapters on harmonies, contrasts and mixed colours. Each topic is lavishly illustrated by reference to plants we can use in our garden and the book finishes with a section, “Keyline Drawings” which refer back to photographs of garden planting schemes in the book, presents them in line drawing format and lists the plants used.

The book is wonderfully written and illustrated and the major contribution to this central aspect of gardening since the writing of Gertrude Jekyll.

[The Gardener’s Book of Colour, Andrew Lawson, Pimpernel Press, 2015, HB, 232 pages, £25, ISBN: 978-1-9102-5802-6]

Paddy Tobin

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