Monday, June 2, 2014

Bring Your Garden Alive With Color

Everywhere you go there is color. Even people are color blends: the colors in our hair, eyes and even our skin establishes our unique image. The fashion industry has whole market built on whether you are a spring, summer, autumn or winter person. It's all about what colors compliment your physical color blend. Color defines us as individuals, you can't be gothic if you dressed in pink. Colors can even influence our emotions.

The Color Wheel

Gardeners are artists, our plants are our color palette, our rakes, hoes and shovels are our brushes and the landscape is our canvas. In order to create a masterpiece with our garden we must first expand our knowledge on color. Color in a garden is the thing that most individuals first perceive. An extraordinary garden is outlined around a consolidation of colors and tints. A ton of practice, some experimentation, in addition to a little training will help us develop our mastery of color in the garden. Since color plays such a vital role in our garden blueprints I am going to devote an entire week on the subject. Throughout this week I will show you how to plant several different color schemes (i.e. Polychromatic, Monochromatic, Triadic etc.). Yet before we do that we must gain an understanding of what color is and how it works. In order to do that we need to study the color wheel.
The color wheel is an essential tool for consolidating colors. The first circular color graph was composed by Sir Isaac Newton in the seventeenth century when he initially utilized a prism to part daylight into colors.
The color wheel begins with the three primary colors: red, blue and yellow. These three fundamental colors join to make all different colors. In order to get our three secondary colors we must blend our primary colors: Orange (red+yellow), green (blue+yellow) and purple (blue+red). Past these, six tertiary colors are prepared through mixtures of the primary and secondary colors. Most color wheels hold just these twelve colors, despite the fact that in actuality there are an unending number. These colors are arranged on the wheel by their connections to one another, the color progression is arranged by how the colors appear in the spectrum. The color wheel can also be broken down into warm and cool colors. To do this, draw a line between yellow/green and red/violet so that you divide the wheel in half. On the right half of the wheel will be your cool colors - blues, purples and greens. On the left your warm colors - reds, yellows and oranges. 

Warm Colors

There's an artistry to utilizing color as a part of the blueprint so it glimmers and serenades us, particularly when utilizing warm colors. Warm colors give sentiments of security and serenity, and can pass on the extremes of passion, enthusiasm and energy. Warm colors demand attention of not only themselves but anything adjacent to them. Reds and yellows are an excellent choice for centering attention on a garden focal point, or as a border along steps and other places where caution may be needed. As individuals enter your home, you may want an atmosphere of exhilaration. Bold colors like yellow, orange and red help make that inclination.

Choose and place your warm colors carefully as they can be overwhelming to the senses. If too many warm colors are used, the result might be turbulent, inducing a visual migraine on your garden's visitors. This could be further muddled by utilizing warm colors that clash, bringing about a used car salesman color scheme. You know, the striped pants with a Hawaiian shirt topped off with a plaid jacket. You simply must shield your eyes from this visual overload! As per color experts, this isn't simply a matter of taste. Evidently, our brains have an inborn aversion of too many contrasts at the same time.

Complement your warm colors with a backdrop of green, brown or gray.
The Canna lilies against the dark green hedge are dazzling.
A rule of thumb is to have around 10 to 15 percent of truly warm or hot colors in your garden blueprint. Remember, the principle color of gardens is green, a cool color. Most cool colors in the garden hail from foliage, yards and leaves of trees, bushes and plants, which structure the "foundation of our canvas." Warm colors have a progressive quality to them, making them appear to be closer than they truly are. Use them to attract attention to the areas of your garden you want to be predominant. Cool colors have a tendency to subside so utilize them to make parts of the garden appear to be more distant or less obvious. To make a flower bed look bigger, put warm colors in front and cool colors in back.

Colors that are exceedingly hot should be isolated by elevation, or beside a structure or hedge. If your garden is small, restrict yourself to a few colors, however, if your garden is large then be bold with your color choices. Use breathtaking warm colored blooms such as: Sunflowers, Black-eyed Susan, Crocosmia, just about any Cannas in yellow, pink or red, fields of Day lilies in yellow or red. Use warm colored plants that will bloom in the summer as this is when they are at their best. Pastels will look faded in full sun but warm colors will shine. For you container gardeners a splash of hot color can work for you too, to lighten up an entryway or to draw attention to a prominent area of your garden.

Cool Colors

A large portion of most garden blueprints will be comprised of foliage and grass which are generally cool colors. Cool colors inspire feelings of quietness, serenity and tranquility. Hence, for a meditation garden, purple and/or blue blooms would be a sensible option, especially when placed in front of a foundation of lush green. Ajuga „reptens‟ has beautiful whorls of tiny, blue-violet flowers on spikes rising above the foliage and thrives in shade or partial shade. In a sunny garden, Violas or Pansies would do well and they come in several different cool shades of blue, violet and purple.

Cool colored plants deliberately planted around a seating area makes a peaceful and serene spot to sit and visit or simply unwind. Essentially, blue and violet colored plants set around a fountain make us feel cool. Amidst a burning southern summer, this cool color respite is invigorating. Shaded zones of the garden might be lit up by utilizing cool-colored blossoms, for example, light pink or pale blues or even white. In the shade, darker colors have a tendency to get gobbled up unless they are encompassed by a lighter color to give contrast.  Blue is a retreating color and is one of the first to vanish at dusk, so plant blues in a hefty mass or with a divergent color to help it stay visible longer at night.

One of my most loved cool colored plant is the Hosta "Blue Angel‟ with its colossal, blue-green leaves and
bell shaped lavender blooms atop an erect, leafy, green scape. An, extremely cool plant!!
If your garden is small, you can manipulate the viewer's perception of it by utilizing cool colors. By planting cool colored plants towards the back you can make a little space seem bigger. To the human eye the back edge of the garden will seem to recede farther, giving the impression of a much larger garden. Cool color plants, for example, Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue', make an excellent foundation for warm colored blossoms, particularly when utilized within mass plantings. This fusion of cool and warm colors provides superb contrast making an eruption of dazzling color. There are numerous approaches to get cool in your garden. For a truly cool garden, get innovative and boost those cool colors! Keep in mind, there are no right answers, just numerous conceivable outcomes.

Tint, Shade and Tone

Before I end this post lets take a brief look at three words that are frequently used incorrectly: tint, shade and tone. These three terms are simple color concepts, yet when used with the color wheel can be quite powerful.

Tint is basically any color with white added.
Shade is basically any color with black added.
Tone is basically any color with grey (black and white makes grey) added. Tones are more pleasing to the human eye.

So now I hear you asking, Why do I need to know these terms, I can't change a plants color? Au contraire my friend you can. Consider this, you have a shade garden filled with dark succulents. While it may look nice on its own, by adding a few white plants to the garden you just transformed your succulents into soft, soothing plants by Tinting them. While there are not a lot of black plants you can still add Shade by using burgundy, wine, or maroon colored plants which will give your garden a deep, powerful and mysterious feel. Tone is the one we pay attention to the most in landscape design. Lets say you have some Echinacea Sombreros planted on top of a small knoll. If you cover the bottom of the knoll with something plain, like Mondo Grass, you are just accentuating the spicy red booms of the Echinacea causing it to become an eyesore rather than a focal point. However if you cover the bottom of the knoll with something like Dutch Clover then it's deep burgundy leaves and white flowers will Tone down the spiciness of the Echinacea and your garden will become more complex, subtle and sophisticated.

This bold garden has lots of energy, but the wine and white color combination
in the middle make it more subtle and complex.
Some color combinations draw attention while others create a sense of space and peace. Brilliant colors cause energy while cool colors are unwinding. It may sound complicated, but it's not. Remember you don't have to reinvent the wheel (pun intended)!

Landscape designers use certain color combinations on a regular basis because they work. So for the rest of the week I will show you how to use the color schemes to create varied effects in your garden blueprint. At the end of this week I will share with you a simple garden blueprint so you can have color in your garden year round.


  1. Definitely have a lot to learn about color. I have these turquoise pots and year after year can't figure out the right colors to add! Help. I tend to go red, white and blue for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

    1. Hi Tom,

      Thanks for stoping by. Turquoise is a cool color so it has a soothing effect. Turquoise is a mix of light blue and green, it is not teal it's not light blue and it's definitely not aqua. Sometimes turquoise will have yellow tints in it as well turning it into a warm color. Dark green foliage can look unbalanced in some turquoise pots which may be happening in your case. So try some plants with lighter foliage or ones that have yellow tints to them. Or better yet use plants that have lime colored foliage. If the pots are big enough you can try a Canna Lily, get the ones that are orange with lime colored leaves. If your looking for something smaller try a Hosta "Lemon Lime". It's lance shaped, lime leaves along with its racemes of bell shaped purple flowers should work well with turquoise. Of course it all depends on what color scheme you are trying to match with. If you plant something with warm white flowers in them you get an instant beach. If you plant something like Iris 'Lest We Forget' in them, the reddish gold tones will evoke and old Mexico feeling.


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