Catherine StewartDesigning fresh and pretty gardens

I rather like a ‘girly’ garden. Fresh. Pretty. Flowers. Stuff. (Even pink). I rarely admit to it as, design-wise, such a garden always seems to be deeply unfashionable, even condescendingly referred to as ‘twee’. Which is a pity as more potential gardeners might engage with the whole notion of growing things if they felt comfortable giving them a decorative and pretty home.

'Fabric' - Deakinlock garden in the Fresh Gardens at Chelsea Flower Show 2014

‘Fabric’ – Deakinlock garden in the Fresh Gardens at Chelsea Flower Show 2014. Although I do not get this current fashion trend of antlers. What’s with that?

Garden design seems to have become very ‘masculine’ in the last few decades. Lots of strong shapes, simple planting, controlled clipping and pared-back minimalism. I don’t know why I think of that as masculine necessarily, except that most of the men I know dislike clutter, have an aversion to fabric and aren’t impressed by flowers. And pink, other than a few flowers (if you must) would definitely be off the table.

MIFGS 2009 Design Yen Ong

MIFGS 2009 Design Yen Ong

So I trawled back through thousands of photos – of show gardens, public gardens, open gardens and botanical gardens to see what I could find that was ‘fresh and pretty’ and included pink. And there wasn’t much.

Glenice Buck Designs at Grand Designs Live, Sydney

Glenice Buck Designs at Grand Designs Live, Sydney

Lots of quietly classic green on green. Delicate white and frothy cream. Sunny golds. Brash orange. Loud fire engine red. Snazzy purple. Rich, rusty browns. A few dreamy blues. Beige and grey everywhere.

'Greenart' design jason Hodges. MIFGS

‘Greenart’ design jason Hodges. MIFGS

Boboli Gardens, Florence

Frothy pink peonies in the Boboli Gardens, Florence

But nearly no pink, except in a few, scattered flowers. There were only a very few gardens out of hundreds, from both show gardens and real gardens, where pink came close to being one of the dominant colours.

Laurent Perrier garden. Design Luciano Giubbilei. Chelsea Flower Show 2011

Laurent Perrier garden. Design Luciano Giubbilei. Chelsea Flower Show 2011

Now I’m not saying that all women like pink as obviously they don’t. Maybe it’s the infliction of Barbie and all her paraphernalia throughout a girl’s childhood or, in my case, the awfulness of a dusty pink highschool uniform that suited no-one, which causes a life-long aversion to pink. Pink certainly seems to be forever stigmatised as a ‘girl’ colour, in a way that blue is not as a boy’s. And things that are seen as inherently ‘girlish’ are never valued the way something masculine or even androgynous will be.

But pink is SO pretty with green that, whenever I see it, I am irresistibly drawn to it. I still don’t understand why it is the only colour missing so comprehensively from most designers’ colour palette.

Belair garden, Berry, NSW

Belair garden, Berry, NSW

Australian native plants garden

Australian native plants garden

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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Creator, curator and editor of GardenDrum. Sydney, NSW.

11 thoughts on “Designing fresh and pretty gardens

  1. Emma on said:

    Amazing garden! I’ve always wanted such kind of a garden that has not only plants but also a nook where you can relax. Regards!

  2. Hello Catherine
    I’m pleased that someone else also likes pink. I also love the colour – it is warm and radiant and so very feminine. It is also a wonderful colour with green – both colours working really well together.
    Alison

    • Garden Drum on said:

      Hi Alison,
      Pink is a very underused colour and depending on the shade, I agree that it blends well with so many colours, including green.

  3. sandra pullman on said:

    Hi Catherine
    I love this blog. Pink is great besides green my favourite colour. Your first picture is so gentle and restful. I have heaps of pink in my garden. I use pink as my structural colour if that makes sense – there are lots of other colours they tie into the pink.

    Yes, and there is too much beige in the world. Stupid Port Phillip Council made one home owner removed his colourful fence of the different colours and paint it beige – it is awful because 2 local residents complained!

    • Ah yes, there are those who would beige the world if they could. Kill joys.

  4. I love pink flowers! There are plenty of pink flowers in gardens and sold in garden centres but you’re right – designers seem to avoid them.

  5. Pink is a colour I have always avoided using in any structures in a garden but after using it in the show garden I have realised how it works so well with any shade of green – Will be using it more.

    • And with you designing those gardens Glenice, they will look amazing.

  6. I use pink in my designs too, but you are right, Sydney especially, is so masculine at the moment. I think pink is one of those colours that either looks amazing or awful and people are either nervous or put off by the awful versions they see. The pretty pink of Jason’s hydrangeas above are to die for but personally I can’t get my head around pink Callistemon. As long as we all have what we like in each of our gardens, that is all that is important in my view!

    • GardenDrum on said:

      So true Janna.
      In many ways it comes down to personal taste & as long as we have what we like in our own gardens then that’s the most important thing!

  7. I’ve got a shocking pink callistemon next to a red grevillea and lots of orange. As long as the colours are all equally saturated, I think it works.

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