Hot walls add flash to room or gar­den

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - MAUREEN GILMER Maureen Gilmer is an au­thor, hor­ti­cul­tur­ist and land­scape de­signer. Learn more at MoPlants.com.

Great theater helps us tran­scend re­al­ity and rise above our ev­ery­day vex­a­tions. It cap­tures us in a way that is con­tem­pla­tive and in­spi­ra­tional by stim­u­lat­ing brain waves we of­ten over­look in this fre­netic world. Per­haps this is why one hot wall in a room of the house or in a gar­den can make pro­found changes to the char­ac­ter of the ad­ja­cent space. Hot col­ors are stim­u­lat­ing to the eye, but nowhere do they func­tion as well as when painted on a gar­den’s ac­cent wall.

What makes a hot red or or­ange or neon yel­low wall so amaz­ing is how it works with green plants. Red hues are com­pli­men­tary to greens, mak­ing them vis­ually vi­brate when paired. That’s why hav­ing a hot wall can be­come a real theater for fea­tur­ing your most beau­ti­ful plants.

When you grow a suc­cu­lent in front of a hot wall, some­thing unique hap­pens. These of­ten rigid and ge­o­met­ri­cally-shaped plants fea­ture crisp clean edges and bold forms com­pared to softer shrubs and peren­ni­als. In the open air, these edges aren’t as crisp be­cause back­grounds are more neu­tral, so they can lose some of their drama this way.

With plants such as the South­west­ern na­tive ocotillo, the stems are stiff, rod­like and thorny. When the plant is dor­mant, which can be any time of year, the bare wood is just as at­trac­tive against a hot wall. This plant adds tex­tu­ral in­ter­est to con­tem­po­rary struc­tures with­out main­te­nance.

Big pot­ted plants are out­stand­ing against a hot wall. It’s also the per­fect back­ground for art. Blend all of these to­gether for a beau­ti­ful com­po­si­tion of plants and ac­cents to show off their own texture, color and form.

Never for­get that walls are shadow boxes. If front-lighted by plac­ing the low volt­age fix­ture in front of the plants, their shad­ows are cast onto the wall be­hind. Shad­ows can elon­gate to ex­ag­ger­ate spines or other shapes for dramatic ef­fects. It’s great fun to use a so­lar light to illuminate the plants and cre­ate the larger shadow re­sult you have in mind.

For those who’ve never ex­per­i­mented with hot walls, the key is to do a color test be­fore you de­cide on the hue. Do a color test on the wall you have in mind by paint­ing each pos­si­ble can­di­date color in a siz­able square. This lets you see how hot it re­ally is in the sun­light. Study the col­ors at dif­fer­ent times of day to see how they ap­pear then, and un­der night light­ing as well. This should help you make a choice in real time, not off a swatch or at the store, so the wall looks the way you want it to.

Hot walls are ideally stucco, but any kind of sid­ing or fence ma­te­rial can take hot color, too. Use in any sce­nario as an im­me­di­ate prob­lem solver, par­tic­u­larly in small city gar­dens and rental yards. For less than $20, you can cre­ate your own hot wall in a week­end. Turn the back of the old shed into a beau­ti­ful set­ting for your per­sonal space. Con­trol pa­tio views by of­fer­ing a vis­ually com­pelling fo­cal point. Make that old condo court­yard new with 21st-cen­tury mod­ern hues.

The beauty of one hot wall is you can change it next year, and the one af­ter that. It can evolve with your own in­ter­ests and pal­ette over time. You’re not com­mit­ting to a huge area, so if it doesn’t look quite right, try an­other shade.

TNS/MAUREEN GILMER

Oddly enough, even red bougainvil­lea looks great against a can­taloupe col­ored wall and high­lighted sculp­ture.

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