What Color is Your Garden?
One of the simplest ways to manipulate the look of your garden is to choose the right color scheme. Color is also a great way to show off your personality and style.
It’s a well-known fact that color influences mood and feeling and is probably the single most powerful garden design tool. A simple color change can totally alter the entire look and feel of your landscape.
To better understand color classifications and how to use them, you can refer to a basic color wheel. Colors on the right side of the color wheel are considered “warm,” while those on the left are considered “cool.” For gardeners, it is most important to understand how colors may or may not complement one another and the distinction between warm and cool colors.
Warm colors, such as red, orange and yellow, are active and exciting. Red colors tend to increase body tension and stimulate the nervous system. In this way, warm colors can actually make a space “feel” warmer and more vibrant. Cool colors, such as blue, green and violet, are passive and calming. Cool colors can release tension and have soothing effect on the viewer. Using cool colors in your garden can actually make it “feel” cooler and more inviting. To the eye, cool colors tend to recede, and warm colors tend to advance. In practice, this means that cool-colored flowers at the far end of your garden will seem to disappear and warm colors will stand out.
If you’re not sure where to start, or if coordinating colors just isn’t your forte, you can always refer to the classic color schemes you find on the color wheel. The monochromatic color scheme uses variations in lightness and saturation of a single color. This scheme looks clean and elegant and has a soothing effect on the viewer. The primary color can be mixed with neutrals like dark or silver-colored foliage plants or white flowers. The analogous color scheme uses colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. One color is used as a dominant color, while others are used to enrich the scheme. An example would be reds, oranges and yellows used together. The complementary color scheme is made up of two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. This type of color combination creates a high-contrast, high-energy look. Nice complementary schemes include blue with orange, or purple with yellow.
Don’t forget foliage when designing your garden color. You’ll need to mix in a few plants with strong foliage color, such as coleus or ornamental grasses, to help create contrast. There are many “cool” and “warm” foliage plants and many can be used in either type of color scheme.
About the author: Leslie Finical Halleck is a Dallas-based freelance garden writer and horticulturist. She is the General Manager of North Haven Gardens in Dallas.
For Leslie’s full story, including a variety of color combinations and plant recommendations for sun and shade, see the July/August issue of Neil Sperry’s GARDENS Magazine. Click here to subscribe. Back issues are also available.