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Garden Design: Color

As a designer, the first statement I usually hear from a client during an interview is: “I want more color in my landscape.” Deciding which colors will work best in your landscape can be based on many factors: house color, fences, pavings/hardscapes, front/garage doors and even the colors throughout your neighborhood can dictate which colors are right for your landscape. Sometimes, landscapes only needed a couple splashes of color to create a desired look.

Color choices are always going to be something personal and ever changing. Age, mood and even the time of day will be contributing factors in color preference; this is why choosing a color scheme can be so difficult. To “test the waters,” try creating small mixed containers of either cool or warm color schemes and place them on your porch or patio to see which is most appealing. Be sure to observe them during different times throughout the day to see how the changing daylight effects the various colors.

The Different Color Schemes: 1,2,3,4!

There are four basic color schemes: monochromatic, analogous, complementary and polychromatic. Each color scheme serves a purpose in the landscape. To go one step further, any of the four color schemes can be developed with either a warm or cool color pallet. For example, a red color scheme can be created using pinks, reds and maroon to create a warm pallet. The same can be accomplished with blue, light blue, and a deep royal blue for a cool color pallet. You get the idea.

1. Monochromatic
The monochromatic color scheme is one created with the same color, that is, it uses variations of the true color. A monochromatic color scheme tends to produce feelings of serenity and relaxation. Therefore, a garden intended for solitude and meditation would benefit greatly from a monochromatic color scheme as it is a soothing use of color.

2. Analogous
Another soothing use of color is an analogous color scheme. To better understand an analogous color scheme you must picture the color wheel. Analogous color schemes use colors that touch each other on the color wheel. For example, yellow and orange or orange and red. Colors from the cool side would include blue and purple or green and blue. This color scheme still has the soothing aspects of the monochromatic scheme but contains some variance and a little more interest.

3. Complementary
To create a very powerful statement you can consider a complimentary color scheme. Once again, picture the color wheel. To create a complimentary scheme the colors must be opposite of each other on the color wheel. Orange and blue, yellow and violet, red and green, etc. always makes a very bold statement when paired. Annuals are a great way to create this bold statement in small areas. For example, some orange and blue pansies around the mailbox or in areas where hardscape (patio, pavers, etc.) comes to a tight angle and space is limited.

4. Polychromatic
Let’s say you have experimented with the three previous options and you still don’t have the look you want. To make an extremely bold and powerful statement consider using a polychromatic color scheme. A polychromatic color scheme uses every color of the color wheel. By doing so you are creating more than just a cheerful color scheme; you are creating rhythm and movement throughout the entire planted area.

Making it All Come Together

How can you put this information to use and make your garden come together and pop? It’s important to remember that floral color is not the only color in the garden. Believe it or not, green is a color in the landscape, too! Foliage color has a tremendous impact in the landscape. For example, how could we use a hydrangea and a hosta together? Consider the chartreuse flower color of the Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ planted next to a Hosta ‘Sea Thunder.’ The chartreuse color is reflected between the two plants. Simply stunning!

Warm and cool colors have been mentioned but another, very important color that does not fall into either of these categories has not been considered. White! White can not only create a dramatic scheme in the landscape but it can be used to contrast with either warm or cool colors. The color white is often referred to as cleansing or spiritual. The use of strictly white can create a striking atmosphere.

How can we tie all of this information together? Groupings of the color pallet being used in the landscape should also be used as individual colors throughout the landscape to create unity. Unity is created by the color echo, or repitition if you will. Color echo is fashioned through the use of the same plants or just the same color but different types of plantings.

All in all, your color selection will change the overall look and feel of your garden. It can be used to liven up your space, create an area of serenity and much more. Be sure to incorporate annuals each season to add diversity, texture and even more color. Have fun with it! Just remember, before you start have a plan in mind. Knowing what kind of feeling you want your garden to have will make color decisions much easier. Whether it is bold or serene you want, do not be afraid to plant it!

Have Fun!
Bobby C.
FairviewGreenhouses & GardenCenter