Rethinking red: Single color herbaceous borders at Floors Castle

Until recently, I had little interest in color-themed borders or even gardens (though I admit I've yet to visit perhaps the most famous example of this style, the White Garden at Sissinghurst). As a lover of unique color combinations, the idea of working within such a narrow palette held little appeal. However, a recent trip to Floors Castle, in the Scottish Borders, made me reconsider single-color gardens and opened my eyes to the possibilities that lie within manipulating tint, tone and shade in a narrow slice of the spectrum.

Floors Castle has a lovely nursery and retail plant center, and just adjacent are a series of gardens that begin with single-color borders in blue, red and pink/purple. When viewing each color, the other colors are hidden, and the effect of so many plants in one hue is dramatic. That in itself would be interesting, but upon closer inspection all sorts of individually compelling blooms reveal themselves, which make the borders work both in long view and close-up.

As with most creative pursuits, a little constraint can force greater ingenuity. The definition of "red" is pushed through its range of blue-red to yellow-red and everything in between, including my favorite terracotta, as in these gorgeous dahlias.

It was a typically overcast Scottish day, and I wonder if my response to this garden was so strong because I'm craving spice and heat in this summer that's felt like a winter to me--as I write this it's 35 degrees Fahrenheit warmer at my farm in Virginia than here in Edinburgh.

I do know that the cloudy sky really made the colors pop. I suspect the effect would have been more washed out in full-sun and less dramatic.

Until visiting Floors Castle, I wouldn't have been too excited about a "red border." But this is a single-color border done right, with enough variety to keep it intriguing, and it's fabulous. I only wish the plants would have been labeled in some inconspicuous way, as there were many I didn't know but would love to have in my own garden.