Gardens as changing palettes

Color in Your Garden, by Penelope Hobhouse. Boston: Little, Brown & Company. 239 pp. $35. A necessary tool for any ardent gardener is Penelope Hobhouse's ``Color in Your Garden.'' With characteristic thoroughness, the author has produced a tome which covers everything a gardener ever wanted to know about color.

The gardener's three-dimensional use of color is more challenging than an artist's because of constantly changing light and shade, the many angles a garden is viewed from, color variations in a single flower as it forms and fades, and after-images and influences from neighboring flowers and foliage.

Using a spectral wheel based on three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), Mrs. Hobhouse shows how to plan monochromatic gardens or combinations of harmonious or contrasting colors.

By understanding this complicated subject and the nuances of hue, value, and intensity, one has a greater capacity for creating a garden beyond the ordinary, whether inclined toward the subtle or spectacular. Color may be used to draw attention to a focal point, to unify with repetition, exaggerate the length of a border, give weight and solidity or lightness and fragility.

Seven chapters are devoted to separate colors of plants, which are listed alphabetically in seasonal subdivisions along with suggestions for combining plants in multicolored associations.

Monochromatic gardens may become more dramatic or effective with the right touches of other colors.

Hobhouse describes herself as having been a `` `good-taste-gardener,' planning plant associations based on leaf color, texture, and form with seasonal flowers just as a bonus.''

Now her accomplishments have expanded to encompass the beauty of blossoms such as ``dark violet-blue flowers weaving among a plan based on the shared bluish pigment of each of the colors.''

The resurgence of flower gardening is indebted to the intelligence and devotion of gardeners like Penelope Hobhouse. Be ready to be inspired.

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