Garden Photo of the Day

Color-Blind Plant Combinations

Turning a weakness into a strength

Today we’ve got some photos that Joe Hopkins sent in, along with information about the garden by Scott Dunlap.

Joe asked that I get some information to you on the garden. We live in Buffalo, New York, and are very involved in the annual event Garden Walk Buffalo. We generally get well over 2,000 visitors over the course of the two days. Joe plants over 150 pots in the yard. Our home is on a typical city lot, very long and very narrow. Our driveway butts up to our next-door neighbor’s house, so adding the pots allows for extra garden space right on the blacktop. People are generally shocked when they find out that section of the garden is all pots. It works out very well.

One of the big challenges for Joe is that he has a major color deficiency. He is not quite color-blind, but it’s very close. Somehow he has turned this into a plus. He is naturally fearless when it comes to color combinations. Colors that he can identify and that he likes are sprinkled throughout the garden, bringing it consistency. His color deficiency also forces him to focus on values and textures rather than the colors themselves. For example, he has a passion for the textures and values in coleus. He spends a great deal of his summer searching for new and different varieties. Friends who own a greenhouse just south of Buffalo have dubbed him “the Coleus Man.”

Joe has also built some amazing outdoor living areas into the yard. Again, on the blacktop he made a beautiful living area with a rug, seating, and umbrella all surrounded by a beautiful wall of potted plants. Just past the living area is the dining area, again surrounded by a living wall of potted plants. It is amazing that such a small yard has so much to offer.

Gardening is Joe’s passion. It is what keeps him going. His passion is somewhat contagious, as he has given the bug to several friends and relatives.

The lush garden created on the driveway by countless pots.

This whole garden seating area is packed with plants, all in containers, all on the surface of the driveway.

This is what the very same space looks like in winter when the pots are all empty, waiting for warm weather and time for planting. What a transformation!

Varieties of coleus bring lots of color and texture.

dahliaThe dark leaves and light yellow flowers of this dahlia (Zones 8–11 or as a tender bulb) make a dramatic contrast whether you are color-blind or not.

High contrast of dark and light leaves in a wide range of textures makes this container shine.

One last view of this wildly beautiful and creative garden.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

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To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.

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View Comments


  1. Icgirl 05/06/2020

    Now that’s a major commitment! And a major love!

  2. nwphillygardener 05/06/2020

    Such great lessons! We can thank Joe for reminding us what we can achieve with limits imposed. Whether that's about too little space we are permitted to dig up, or about our vision. Accomplishments created by ardor outside the norm should never be viewed abnormal but inspirational.

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 05/06/2020

    The transformation from the empty winter pots to the tropical paradise of color and texture in the summer is miraculous. I can well imagine what a hit Joe's approach to making such triumphant use of his available space is to garden lovers and admirers. His creativity and commitment must give smiles and ideas to so many.

  4. User avater
    simplesue 05/06/2020

    That is so cool- the most amazing container garden ever, and "wildly beautiful and creative" is a perfect description!
    I'm always so amazed with gardeners that can -transform- an otherwise uninviting area into something like this garden!
    I bet only 1 out of a 100 people have the vision to see a spot like this asphalt- and then transform it into a place of interest and beauty. Wow!

  5. Maggieat11 05/06/2020

    Absolutely LOVED this post. Thank you, thank you!
    So creative, so interesting, so inspiring! Congratulations on a fabulous garden...oh, wish Buffalo was closer!

  6. user-5117752 05/06/2020

    Joe, you are an amazing gardener, designer and creator of great beauty!!! BRAVO!!! The transformation from the ugly drab of winter to your magnificent color combinations, the lushness of your design is truly an act of magic (and very hard work)!!! You bring great joy to the garden world!!! Thank you so very much!!!

  7. user-5117752 05/06/2020

    Oh, I forgot to mention the lamp!!! Talk about creativity!!!

  8. Sunshine111 05/06/2020


    THANK YOU!!! 😊😊☀️❤️❤️❤️

  9. btucker9675 05/06/2020

    Wondrous!! This is the best possible example of growing "pot"! : )

  10. schatzi 05/06/2020

    We should all be so talented! Colorblind or not, Joe has created wonderful color and texture combinations. How he keeps it all watered is beyond me. Absolutely lush and gorgeous.

  11. Cenepk10 05/06/2020

    Fantastico !!!!!!!

  12. andrella 05/06/2020

    I have had the enormous pleasure of visiting Joe and Scott’s gardens during Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest garden tour in the country! Joe has been at the for front of this passionate group of gardeners for years. In addition to being the most creative and successful gardener I have ever met, I have witnessed him use his skills and generosity to help transform an urban neighborhood from a crime infested blight to a lovely, caring community. He did landscaping and maintenance for elderly neighbors (with his own money) and encouraged and taught anyone interested in plants and beautification. The domino effect was magical. So exciting to see his work here in Fine Gardening!!

  13. Patchworkgardener 05/06/2020

    GORGEOUS! Glad there. Was a “before” picture. Unbelievable what a difference after all that potting. You’ve created a beautiful and unique garden against the odds. It must take a long time to get it all done. But so worth it. I love it. Thanks for sharing

  14. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 05/07/2020

    Hats off to Joe! Nice work buddy :)

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