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(TNS)—Everyone’s a gardener in April. That is when cars almost automatically turn in the direction of garden centers, where everyone stocks up on their favorite plants for spring.

For many people, their first choices are some of the many annuals that are already in bloom with the promise of more to come in the months ahead.

The choices are dazzling, particularly in the great range of colors that are in the marketplace now. That raises the question about how to combine this fabulous array in your flowerbeds.

The first rule is to follow your heart. Most everyone has favorites on the color spectrum. Don’t be afraid to walk in and tell yourself, “I really like orange,” or “This year, I’m going for violet.”

The wonderful task of mixing them awaits. Some gardeners may fear this, thinking they may do it wrong and mess up the entire summer. Those of us who practice mixing colors know it works every time. That is because the colors of nature go together. The most beautiful flowerbeds I have ever seen combine many colors.

If you are just beginning, look at this task in a couple of ways.

The first is varying tones of one color. Pink and yellow flowers, for example, come in many shades from pale and soft to bright and vivid. It is the same with purple, which ranges from the palest lilac to the deepest violet. Tones of the same color always look good and interesting together. This is especially effective in large containers or hanging baskets.

A second approach is to choose the three primary colors, red, yellow and blue, and mix them up with various annuals. This makes a beautiful sight—refreshing, vivid and easy to accomplish.

You do not have to make a clear, one-third division among these colors. It is fine if one, say red million-bells or yellow marigolds, dominate. Let the blues and yellows provide the supporting cast. Yellow, even in small amounts, will add zing and zest to a bed, the same way it does with an arrangement in a vase.

By practicing those two approaches to color, you will gain confidence in mixing plants. That will lead you to the third method, which boils down to combining very bold colors. Red and purple, purple and orange or orange and blue may not seem made for each other, but they combine very well, especially when you choose vivid tones. If your eyes need time to adjust to these hot combos, add a bit of green foliage. The addition of silver or white will also accomplish softening.

©2017 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

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