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The Southern Gardener: There’s a lot to love about outrageous orange

I can remember my groovy house in the early 1970s. Orange shag carpet, orange plaid curtains, orange striped chairs, orange wallpaper. I even had an orange suit.

What was I thinking?

Orange was very trendy; it will forever be associated with a different time in my life. How quickly a color can fall from grace in decorating a home, perhaps even in the garden.

Orange is one of those colors that people either hate or love. Some stay “garish”; I say “vivid.” It is obvious I love it. We need orange in our lives.

Some say orange symbolizes energy, vitality, cheer, excitement, adventure and good health. If that is true, I need to drag out that orange suit and wear it again.

We associate orange with autumn, when leaves begin to turn. That is, if the September heat has not burned them to crunchy bits to litter every surface. Many of those once-green leaves may have missed their finest moment, the fall color change.

Over the last few months, we have talked about using the color wheel in the garden. The color wheel is a tool to help gardeners, artists and interior designers see the relationships between colors. The color wheel is a means to create a fabulous garden design with contrasting colors and harmonious colors, using warm or cool colors and their various tints.

Orange is not a primary color on the color wheel. The primary colors are red, blue and yellow. Orange, a secondary color, is a combination of red and yellow. Orange is not quite as “in your face” as pure red or even yellow, but it is an adaptable color. There are 30 tints of orange, from an intense 1970s orange to a mellow peachy orange.

When we mix yellow and red to make orange, we come up with orange-yellow, yellow-orange, red-orange and orange-red. Orange is no longer a leftover from an earlier era but a dynamic color on its own.

On the color wheel, the complementary (contrasting) colors for orange are blues, greens and violets. Related to orange are the hues adjacent to orange, the harmonious colors of red and yellow. I am partial to orange and red in the garden.

Orange is an eye-catcher. Anyone working in traffic wears a bright orange vest. Traffic cones are an outlandish shade of orange. Prisoners often wear orange, making it hard to disappear.

The ubiquitous October pumpkin is orange. There are hybrids in shades of green or white, but sometimes they do not feel like the real thing.

The shelves at Hobby Lobby are covered with Halloween items in orange. We can barely wait for the delectable dark orange of a slice of pumpkin pie.

Japanese maples sport magnificent orange leaves when the seasons change. The sunset at Blue Mountain Beach, Fla., is a vivid orange, not to be forgotten or duplicated.

Orange is the only color named after a fruit. Then there is the flashy orange carrot. Sweet potatoes are a delectable shade of orange.

Orange is also the color of your fingers after you eat a bag of Cheetos.

Those who spend their days analyzing the effect of colors on our psyches say that orange combines the energy of red and the happiness of yellow.

Orange is a warm color. Orange flowers stand out from a distance. They are terrific front yard flowers, as they draw in the viewer’s eye, especially if the garden is a distance from the street.

If the gardener really wants to knock the socks off a passerby, try a mix of orange with yellow and red flowers. Surround red drift roses with a border of orange ‘Profusion’ zinnias. No one will overlook this combination.

Purple and orange are equally dramatic together. Orange in the garden mixes well with most colors and brings the combination to life.

I add vibrant orange flowers to my garden whenever I can. I remember once planting an enormous container, then trying to decide what was missing. It was orange. In went orange ‘Profusion’ zinnias. Perfect!

Plants with orange berries or flowers are available 12 months of the year. Some are annuals; others are perennials.

There are shrubs and trees that can bring orange into the landscape for shorter times during the year. Every fall, cars line up to view the colored leaves.

For all the orange doubters, I say try it. I guarantee there is an orange for every landscape.

Sherry Blanton, “The Southern Gardener,” writes about gardening for The Anniston Star. Contact her at Follow her on Facebook at Southern Gardener-Anniston Star.