The Power of Paint

Flowers are pretty thin around here right now.  I’m gagging for a bit of colour.  A couple of years back I wrote about adding inorganic colour to your garden, but for some reason (can’t think why) I never included paint.

Paint must be one of the cheapest, easiest and most powerful ways of adding colour to the garden, or to back up or at least reference a nearby colour scheme, if that’s your thing.

I’d like to think that here at Floriade (The Netherlands 2012), the tulips were chosen first and someone knew the colour so well (people keep records of such things.  Wish I could manage that) that they painted the bench to match.  Of course it may have been the other way around and the bench colour was chosen first, but in the absence of any way of proving either, I’m choosing the flower-led explanation.  What’s certain is that the power of both the bench and the tulips was magnified, way beyond what you’d imagine

The greatest example of the power of paint must surely be Le Jardin Marjorelle in Marrakech (to which I’ve never been, and of which I therefore have no original images but you can see what I mean here), but within my own experience, the Mecca for painted furniture would be Chanticleer in the US, which has countless adirondack chairs arranged in convivial clusters throughout the garden and painted in colours that more often than not bounce out of, or sing along with, the surrounding planting.


In some cases it isn’t so much a colour match, as simply dark chairs and dark foliage in mutual validation


Of course, there’s easier and cheaper ways still of throwing some colour around.



  1. Hi Michael,
    When my next door neighbour in his Southern Highland woodland garden of 1 acre dominated by japonica camellias and tall rhododendrons, intermingled with cool climate deciduous trees and shrubs, was asked to open his garden in a recent very cold August, he took out the paint brush. He painted his large stylish iron gates alongside a tall photinia hedge, his garden iron lace chairs and tables, his iron arbour for evergreen climbers, and his driveway tall carriage lights, all Chinese red. Against the dark green foliage, the beginning new growth of the photinia hedge, the many red and pink shades of camellia japonica, and the emerging reds of the rhododendrons it looked spectacular and it still does whatever the season.
    Cheers, Lyn

    1. Good on ‘im. The repetition of the same colour is so powerful, isn’t it? Wish I could try it right away, but I don’t reckon I’d get paint to dry this side of November.

  2. So right, as ever Michael. And it seems that colour of any colour can work (so long as it’s not that sick blonde of new paling fences!). Magenta is one of my least favourite tones for instance, and I never thought it would be garden friendly, but the supertree structures in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay are magenta and they look great with hot pink crucifix orchids, purple leafed broms, and the purple-silver backs of alcantera. Here’s a pic to prove the point -

    1. They look amazing with the purple broms. Turns their foliage, which can otherwise just become generic-dark, into a distinct colour, derived from the magenta

    2. love your blog, BTW

  3. A number of years ago, inspired by some garden writing (it may have indeed been written by you, MM) about painting a swathe of wintering Miscanthus bright red, I found a can of ‘Massey Ferguson’ red paint in the shed and transformed a departed 2 metre high Prunus ‘Shirotae’ to a real talking point in our “Arty-Farty” garden. After a few months it finally rotted out and fell over, then found itself poked into the ground as a focal point in various places in the garden for the next few years. Yeah, tis true brightly painted objects (used with restraint) can be the perfect counterpoint for the surrounding landscape … not everyone feels the same though – did receive a few “what on earth did you do that for?” comments 🙂

    1. Love that idea, particularly being able to move it around and stick it in to tart up some aesthetically ailing part of the garden. And the finding of the paint can – exactly the make-do approach that’s just as likely to turn up something surprising

  4. Hi Michael, To match the paint I took a petal of my roses Rhapsody in Blue to Bunnings and they matched it perfectly and did a sample pot for me. I now have some painted stakes of different heights in that bed, looks good and it was so cheap.

    1. Isn’t it incredible what they can do with colour matching now? I remember the day when they’d just squirt a bit of tint into a tin (by hand), then mix it around with a stick, then ‘Yeah, that’s about it’.

  5. Love the chairs! About five years ago, inspired by a gardening article that described the last minute painting of bright red stakes to lift a winter garden just before a group visit, I took the paint brush to various fat bamboo stakes that were doing duty supporting young trees,. I really enjoyed the resulting bright, light lime green and bluey-green poles scattered around the garden, especially in winter. Sadly the last eighteen months they’ve been peeling badly and are looking very tatty — time to start again, this time using good outdoor paint and absorbent stakes

    1. Yeah, absorbent or not, frequent repainting seems inevitable. But at least it gives you a chance to change the colour scheme..

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