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Now Trending: 9 Surprising Purple Palettes for a Garden

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Now Trending: 9 Surprising Purple Palettes for a Garden

August 18, 2021

Purple has presence. It’s the color of courage on a military medal awarded for a soldier’s bravery. It was the color of power, on emperors’ royal robes in ancient Rome.

And in the garden? Purple is the first color to draw the eye, focusing attention on its deep, rich warmth. Mix and match it with as many yellows, oranges, pinks, or whites as you want, but you’ll still think that what you’re looking at is a “purple palette.”

What’s surprising about purple is how little it takes for it to be the dominant color in a garden. What we’ve noticed lately: purple on its own. A single variety of flowering purple plant against a backdrop of green? Now that’s a purple garden.

You can see what we mean with the examples below (including one exception that proves the rule), rounded up from our Gardenista archives. Here are nine purple palettes to add courage, power, and warmth to a garden.

New England Lupines

In Brookline, Massachusetts, lupines and grasses create a soft border alongside granite steps. For more of this garden, see The Bostonians: A Modern Agrarian Landscape in New England. Photograph by Justine Hand.
Above: In Brookline, Massachusetts, lupines and grasses create a soft border alongside granite steps. For more of this garden, see The Bostonians: A Modern Agrarian Landscape in New England. Photograph by Justine Hand.

“Native wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) is in decline in New England (and no longer exists at all in Maine), which is particularly concerning because it is the primary or only food source for the caterpillars of many endangered butterflies, including the Karner Blue,” writes Justine. Read more about efforts to propagate native species at Walk on the Wild Side: A New England Woodland Garden.

A closer look, lupine and daisies. Photograph by Justine Hand.
Above: A closer look, lupine and daisies. Photograph by Justine Hand.

See more growing tips in Lupine: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Flowering Chives

Purple flowering chives complement the silvery hues of a weathered board fence (spotted via Swedish-German real estate site Fantastic Frank).
Above: Purple flowering chives complement the silvery hues of a weathered board fence (spotted via Swedish-German real estate site Fantastic Frank).

See more of the garden of this stylishly renovated apartment for sale in the small town of Saltsjö-Boo, Sweden, at For Sale in Sweden: A Scandi Modern Flat in a Lakeside Chalet on Remodelista.

Morning Glory

In Courtney and Zach Klein&#8\2\17;s garden in San Francisco&#8\2\17;s Mission district, a morning glory “volunteer” is an offshoot of a parent plant located on the sidewalk side of the house. A determined tendril found its way under the house and came up the other side, in the backyard. Photograph by Matthew Williams.
Above: In Courtney and Zach Klein’s garden in San Francisco’s Mission district, a morning glory “volunteer” is an offshoot of a parent plant located on the sidewalk side of the house. A determined tendril found its way under the house and came up the other side, in the backyard. Photograph by Matthew Williams.

A purple flowering vine creates an element of high contrast against the moody backdrop of a facade painted gray or black (here the paint color is Benjamin Moore Day’s End). See more of this garden in Cabin Porn Stars: At Home with Courtney and Zach Klein in San Francisco.

Fountain Grass

Furry Pennisetum alopecuroides (also known as Chinese fountain grass) has deep purple hairs (which help to broadcast the plant&#8\2\17;s seeds) and creates a hazy drift of color in Osaka. Photograph by Harum.koh via Flickr.
Above: Furry Pennisetum alopecuroides (also known as Chinese fountain grass) has deep purple hairs (which help to broadcast the plant’s seeds) and creates a hazy drift of color in Osaka. Photograph by Harum.koh via Flickr.

When landscaping with perennial grasses, don’t overlook the colorful possibilities; most send up flowers. See more growing tips for growing Pennisetum in Fountain Grass: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Russian Sage

Above: Purple Russian sage is complemented by Stipa grasses and silvery artemisia in a perennials bed in northern Italy. Photography by Dario Fusaro via Cristiana Ruspa.
See more of this garden in Rehab Diaries: The Resurrection of a Medieval Nobleman’s Garden.

Ombré Effect

Above: Shades of deep purple, violet, and mauve intensify the effect in a perennials garden in Maine. Photograph by Matthew Cunningham.

See more of this garden in Landscape Architect Visit: Clamshell Alley on the Coast of Maine.

Salvia

Salvia nemorosa &#8\2\16;Cardonna&#8\2\17; surrounds a pool. For everything you need to know about growing it, see Salvia: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph courtesy of Artisan Landscapes.
Above: Salvia nemorosa ‘Cardonna’ surrounds a pool. For everything you need to know about growing it, see Salvia: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph courtesy of Artisan Landscapes.

Salvias come in many colors, including blue, lavender, and white, but for drama and emphasis in a garden it is difficult to overlook the deep purple of S. nemorosa ‘Cardonna’. With only a few colorful spikes, it makes a major statement. See more of this garden in Before & After: A Modern Courtyard Garden for a Historic Home.

Allium

In Concord, Massachusetts, a revolutionary landscape pays homage to the town&#8\2\17;s conservationist spirit with a pergola made from black locust trees harvested on site and milled locally. A densely planted cluster of purple Allium ‘Globemaster’ provides color and seasonal interest in the areas closest to the house. Photograph by Justine Hand.
Above: In Concord, Massachusetts, a revolutionary landscape pays homage to the town’s conservationist spirit with a pergola made from black locust trees harvested on site and milled locally. A densely planted cluster of purple Allium ‘Globemaster’ provides color and seasonal interest in the areas closest to the house. Photograph by Justine Hand.

See more of this garden in Garden Visit: A Revolutionary Landscape in Concord, MA.

A closer look: alliums, salvia, and peonies. Photograph by Justine Hand.
Above: A closer look: alliums, salvia, and peonies. Photograph by Justine Hand.

Aubretia

Purple aubretia grows over a stone wall in early spring. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: Purple aubretia grows over a stone wall in early spring. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

“Nicknamed rock cress, aubretia is a staple of old-fashioned gardens, planted in old-fashioned color combinations, where primary colors jostle for attention. Planted as a monoculture, it is an elegant thing,” writes Kendra. Read more in Gardening 101: Aubretia.

A closer look: the vibrant purple gem tone of aubretia is intensified by the matte gray stone that frames it. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: A closer look: the vibrant purple gem tone of aubretia is intensified by the matte gray stone that frames it. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published October 2018.

For more ideas for craggy bloomers, see Hardscaping 101: Ground Covers to Plant Between Pavers.

See our curated Perennials 101 guide for more purple flowers including BugleweedLavender, Hellebores, and more. (We add new perennials to the guide every week.)

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