The other day I was looking for inspiration while perusing the paint chips at a big box store when one jumped out at me. Lo and behold it was Pantone’s Color of the Year — Radiant Orchid. Glowing, almost vibrating, it reminded me of a long-gone friend who used to brighten up the long Maine winters by painting the rooms in her otherwise stark New England house brilliant colors. By the time spring rolled around every room in her big old house would glow with a different shade. I have no doubt Maggie would have pounced on Radiant Orchid like a chicken on a June bug.

Talk about a jumpstart for a color-starved gardener. My first impression (aside from the obvious orchid connection) on how the hue can translate into the garden was the hale and hardy purple cone flowers that are no doubt soldiering through the long and cold winter deep under the frozen ground to reappear next summer in all their glory. Next I thought of the stalwart deep purple-pink foxgloves, and lilacs and then those blousy-fragrant peonies popped into my mind’s eye view.

But there are a lot more blooms out there to tempt us with their orchid tones, including several new ones that are worth noting. Have no doubt that the developers of new plants do pay attention to color trends both inside the home and out.

“An enchanting harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health. It is a captivating purple, one that draws you in with its beguiling charm,” saidLeatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute in a Pantone press release.

The release goes on to say, Radiant Orchid complements olive and deeper hunter greens, and offers a gorgeous combination when paired with turquoise, teal and even light yellows. Radiant Orchid blooms with confidence and magical warmth that intrigues the eye and sparks the imagination. It is an expressive, creative and embracing purple—one that draws you in with its beguiling charm. A captivating harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid emanates great joy, love and health.

Indeed this year’s color choice is one made for gardening interpretations. Just imagine those color combos you can create with flower and foliage. And do not forget the garden accessories that can pop when Radiant Orchid is used to paint outdoor furniture or incorporated into cushion fabrics. Even planters and plant supports can hum this colorful tune.

From Old House Gardens comes this offering: To add a bit of Radiant Orchid to your garden, try our spring-planted 'Nellie Broomhead' dahlia, 'Fidelio' gladiolus, and 'Caprice' iris, and for fall planting there's the incomparable Byzantine. To find other possibilities, use the "Color & Foliage" choices in the Old House Garden website’s easy, Advanced Search.

Starting from seed, a low, fragrant cushion of ‘Summer Romance’ alyssum presents a lavender, violet and rose pink flurry of blooms all summer. The cleome ‘Color Fountains’ sports pale-pink to rose-violet heads of flower and monarda ‘Bergamo Bouquet’ has luscious rose-purple blooms to color up the perennial bed and attract bees and hummingbirds as well. Sweet pea ‘Cupani’s Original’ blooms with bi-colored flowers of deep maroon and orchid-violet. Find these, and more, online from Renee’s Garden Seeds (

Proven Winners ColorChoice line of shrubs includes the sensuous Lavender Chiffon, a double Rose of Sharon for dependable mid-summer blooms. Pair it with the lush Black Beauty or Black Lace Sambucus for extra drama. Both are hardy to Zone 4. Other ColorChoice shrubs with orchid-colored blooms include Invincible Spirit and Cityline Mars and Cityline Berlin hydrangeas, hardy to Zone 5. Cityline boasts big, eye-catching, purple and white variegated flowers.

For a double-dose of contrast with orchid overtones against chartreuse foliage, opt for the ColorChoice selection of Spirea, Double Play Gold, hardy to Zone 4. Also on the Radiant Orchid wavelength is Spilled Wine Weigela is a compact shrub with hot pink flowers and deep burgundy foliage, hardy to Zone 4.

A new phlox from Tesselaar Plants, Volcano Phlox Purple, is the exact shade of Radiant Orchid. The plant developer’s new Sweet Spot line of decorator roses, meanwhile, features three of Pantone’s top color picks for 2014: No. Celosia Orange, No. 5 Freesia Yellow and No. 6 Cayenne.

“What’s even better,” said Anthony Tesselaar, cofounder and president of Tesselaar Plants, is that all four of the line’s flower color combos change in their variation of shades over time — like a season-long kaleidoscope.”

No matter what form it takes, whether in annuals, perennials or shrubs, picture the pep and presence that a touch of the Color of the Year Radiant Orchid can add to your garden.

Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the Garden Writers Association’s Silver Award of Achievement, and she gardens in Camden. Got questions, or comments? Visit her blog, and join in the conversation at: or ”friend” her on Facebook to see what’s new in the garden day-by-day.