Big (Bright) Bang, part II

More color!

This wine barrel embodies simplicity and purpose: painting the metal bands yellow to accent the yellow flowers of the thunbergia vine took about fifteen minutes yet has a significant impact on the design.  It’ll be great when the vine covers the back wall …

A favorite spot in the Mission: Choosing an understated shade of green for the structure (which actually houses a pool table — cool!) lets the predominant colors of the garden – bright pink, purple, and yellow – seem all the more wild and vivid.

Selecting such a bright — almost florescent, really — green for the rear wall not only provides a cheerful backdrop for the plants but also offers a needed contrast to the earthy tones of the hardscaping: the grey tones of the pebble path, the wooden deck, and the worn bricks.  And for the grand color finale, check out this combo:



Big (Bright) Bang

If you keep up with our posts, you’ve probably noticed that gardening in urban spaces can require a bit of resourcefulness: work with whatcha got.  In a boring space adding color can dramatically change existing walls (and boxes, containers, decks, etc) fast.  And luckily paint is pretty cheap and easy to deal with.  Paying attention to the visual realm of color choice can make the difference between a pretty garden and an insanely gorgeous, fun, and impressive outdoor sanctuary.

In general, the idea is that brightly painted walls show off plants, while bright accents work to make flower colors pop. And of course, in San Francisco’s notoriously foggy clime, the extra brightness can contribute a lot. Here are some of our favorite examples of this “big bang, few bucks” strategy:

Though giving this planter box a coat of spring green certainly matches the bamboo nicely, it’s bigger value is in the contrast with the adjacent box and bench (made from reclaimed wood). The solid, bright hue sets off the natural beauty of the wood grain.

This tiny spot near San Francisco City College was so eye-catching we had to brake to a halt and reverse the Small Spot Gardens truck to capture it. The royal purple of the princess bush blossoms contrast perfectly with the bold gold and tangerine colors of the building (remember that color wheel from junior high art class?). The variegated, broad  leaves of the Cana and the California poppies tumbling over the dusty red wall are a nice touch, as well.

The dark periwinkle of this Ceanothus — one of California’s premier native plant genuses — is all the more striking against a pink-red wall.

In the back garden of Dynamo Donuts, painting the fence a muted yellow allows pink and orange blossoms to stand out in the foreground, while also subtly tying in the yellow edge of the sword-like agave leaves.

To Be Continued …

Getting Attention

In a city brimming with charming buildings and, uh, unique people, it can be easy to go unnoticed in San Francisco. These rectangular planters, though, do an admirable job of being an eye-catching and dramatic addition to the sidewalk. The orange, crinkly leaves and bark of the Japanese maple leap like flames, offering an intense contrast with the dark modernity of the house in the background. Some sort of brassica in the middle is a tad overgrown, but the color combo of the yellow flowers and the silvery blue foliage more than makes up for any legginess – in one plant you’ve got the gray that ties the garden to the house and great little sparks of light to attract attention.

Need a creative way to get rid of some pipes?  Hide them behind a crimson clump of phormium and a rectangular container.  Tie it all together with a simple wooden wall of the same color and from a distance it looks like a complicated custom built piece.  These small plots are a good reminder that the right mix of colors and growth forms can be both aesthetically luscious and functional, too.

Insanely low budget garden

This is one of the most creative and interesting gardens I have ever seen.  It’s a bunch of jade and aloe cuttings stuck into red painted plastic containers and aluminum cans.  The plants have a reddish hue and the combination against the blue is incredible.  Cheap, bold, compact, recycled, creative and on top of all that it’s all on a tiny plot covered with concrete.  Maybe not classy but definitely beautiful in its own way.  The dripping rust stains even work.