Harmony in the Garden Blog

Garden Designers Roundtable – Burgundy in the garden


Color is the topic for this month’s Garden Designers Roundtable discussion – and once again it’s a MASSIVE topic full of endless possibilities!  

How on EARTH can I narrow down such an all-encompassing topic such as this?

I’ve decided to write about the most important color in my designs – Maroon. Or burgundy. Or dark purple – whichever term you prefer. 

I’m not necessarily talking about maroon colored flowers but am focusing on the color of the foliage.  Foliage is SO important in a garden since the leaves of a plant stick around long after the flowers have been dead-headed and are composting away.

Why is maroon my #1 color of choice? The reasons are many: the deep, dark shades of burgundy create a sense of ‘moodiness’ to a garden, create the illusion of shadows when there aren’t any, create the illusion of depth, visually cool down a garden’s hot tones, separates and highlights other colors, as well as leads the eye to specific destinations.

It’s a powerful color, commanding respect among its fellow plants.  It’s got moxie. Take a look below at some examples below which illustrate my point.

1.  Adding Depth

In this photo, imagine if the red fountain grass was another green grass (like the ‘Karl Foerster’ grass next to it).  The bed would be very flat looking with just the lavenders and the green grass.

However, once you add even a single dark burgundy plant like this one, all of a sudden 3 layers of this bed are emphasized.  

Burgundy also draws attention to the home’s warm tones of the burnt orange walls, and the complementary colors of the surrounding plants.



Here’s another bed where I wanted the entire grouping to look as if it’s a flowing fountain of cascading flowers. 

I placed the strongest color (the dark ‘Bronze Baby’ Phormium) where I wanted the eye to begin the journey – in the very back of the bed. 

From that point, the flowers of the Weigela, calla lily, and million bells now appear to cascade downwards.


This is a fairly small planting bed (10 x 10) yet it looks much deeper because of the appearance of shadows and layers created by the burgundy colored plants.  

The line of sight begins at the lower left with the dark maroon begonia, then travels to the silver Senecio greyii, then up to the dramatic burgundy Hebe, and finally the Phormium.


2.  Manipulation

Maroon is one of the few colors that you can use to really manipulate a design.  

See how the burgundy foliage of the two ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maples gently leads the eye down the path and around the corner?


Another example of leading the eye are the burgundy colors of the Barberry, crepe myrtle, and Japanese maples along the pathway.

In addition, notice how the other maroon colors highlight and emphasize the varying levels of the raised beds?


The placement of the dark purple Aeonium next to the gate is a fantastic way to encourage your guests to slow down.

The eye is automatically drawn to it, pauses, then travels upwards to the jasmine vine which is about to bloom (also echoing its burgundy colors).

3.  Separate & Highlight

See how the deep burgundy of the ‘Zwartzkopf’ Aeoniums really catch your eye?  

If it weren’t for this deep color, the bed would be a little ‘ho hum’ with only shades of green.

The burgundy colors really stop your eyes in their tracks, causing them to slow down just a bit and notice the other plants around it (not to mention the gate discreetly tucked in the very back).


Again, the maroon color of the Ajuga allows the surrounding colors to stand apart from one another. 

It’s not much easier to notice the gold of the Euonymus and the dark green foliage of the Liriope.

The maroon color also emphasizes the different layers of the bed, adding further depth and height.

In this planting combination the dark maroon Loropetalum adds a lush, dramatic quality to the trio helping to emphasize each color.

It also visually ‘cools down’ the surrounding grey Helichrysum.



Thanks for stopping by!  Please set aside some time to read my fellow ‘Roundtablers’ perspectives on color, where you’re sure to get lots of inspiration for your own garden this spring!

Christina Salwitz : Personal Garden Coach : Renton, WA »
Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA »
Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA »
Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO »
Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT »
Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ »


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