Book Report: Fearless Color Gardens
Keeyla Meadows’ ‘FEARLESS COLOR GARDENS’ is part art class and part self-empowerment seminar. I enjoyed this book immensely. Meadows, like myself, approaches gardening the same way an artist approaches a painting: by gathering tools and materials and creating a palette from which to arrive at a finished piece. In spite of the fact that Meadows’ plant choices differ from my own (we live in very different climate zones), I sense we’re kindred spirits. Intensely personal, the author has a distinct point of view that she backs up with revealing anecdotes. It’s also a tad zany: she’s guided by a personal muse named Emerald, advocates doing the ‘hokey-pokey color dance’ as a way to arrive at a color scheme, creates a salad made of simpatico garden hues and trades the traditional color wheel for an equilateral triangle. In her book, flowers give gardeners ‘permission’ to be colorful … for someone like myself, flowers need not weigh-in, I have no fear of color. Still, it was exciting and constructive to read about, and see, Meadow’s color process, which involves exuberant sketches and color studies.Of course, there’s no end of color-drenched photography to enjoy too, most of which are from Meadow’s personal garden. But, what I enjoyed most about this book were the photos that included containers, hardscape designs and Meadow’s mostly self-created garden art. In the photo, above, she created the pot, and painted the figures, choosing the surrounding plants to complement it. Like a child opening a new 64-crayon big box, I feel the same kind of delight at seeing so much eye candy at once … it’s also an encapsulation of Meadows’ entirely color garden philosophy. Here’s more …
Can root vegetables inspire a ‘Fearless’ color scheme? Of course, they can … Meadow’s sketchbooks include not only carrots, but also lolling odalisques, tribal mask look-alikes, geometric abstract studies, wanton still lifes and, oh yeah, garden plans that somehow combine it all …
Are color choices a matter of taste? Yes … and if you have doubts try eating them. Meadows espouses playing with color by playing with your food and I think it’s a great idea. I’m going to paint something chipotle and tomatillo later — right after lunch!
Opposites attract without temerity in the author’s garden. First, yellow and purple, traditionally opposites on the color wheel, get chummy via painted walls, mosaic tiles and colored cement … the same materials bring shine and texture up against dull and flat and they both get happy. It’s all reflected back in the mirrored door, allowing a view of a bench and verdant foliage. Meadows promotes setting up the garden as a series of ‘framed’ vignettes and this is a gorgeous example of the concept.
Meadow’s fearlessness extends to the artwork in her garden. This closeup of the mosaic from the previous picture features hand-made ceramic pieces as well as commercial mosaic tiles. Purely personal and imbued with the author-artist’s personality.
This visually striking patio camouflages a leased asphalt parking lot! Talk about fearless … the central concrete patio was poured in place directly on the asphalt; river rocks, gravel, pavers and a fountain and planted containers are added, and an urban retreat is born … I love the energy the spiral focal point creates, as well as the mix of materials.
Meadows loves a garden bench. They frequently show up as the central feature in her garden vignettes. This bold perch’s rustic good looks are enhanced by bodacious complementary colors and contrasting shapes. In this instance the colors were chosen to play off the surrounding flowers.
What’s the biggest thing in your garden? Why, your house, of course … Meadows advises extending your color story onto the walls of your home, and using it as a backdrop for your plant choices. But, don’t stop there — paint a mural, too. This amazing persimmon/orange wall combo, combined with colorful foliage and ceramic tiles, is visually pretty hot.
The cool colors, the rounded form, the Buddha-hand ceramic shapes … this could only be a meditation seat. A perfect time-out in the garden, Meadows created this as a setting for rejuvenation and self-nurturing. It displays many of the qualities I enjoyed about the author’s style: the rough, hand-made quality of the garden art, the audacious color choices, the trust-yourself-to-do-it-yourself spirit. Hippy-dippy maybe to some people, Meadows’ unconventional tactics have real-world payoffs. I also love her affection for rocks, concrete and showing your hand through art … this is a book to keep in one’s garden library for when ideas fail you, or your gardening energy’s beginning to flag. Get the book at your local bookstore, or online here, it can’t fail to inspire you to new chromatic heights!
NOTE: All photos in this post are by Keeyla Meadows, from her book ‘Fearless Color Gardens, The Creative Gardener’s Guide to Jumping Off the Color Wheel’, published by Timber Press, copyright 2009.