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Gardeners are artists who use flowers and foliage as their paint colors. Therefore, enjoying or planning a beautiful garden is a perfect way to review basic color theory.
Understanding basic color theory will help you with your garden vision. Colors in your garden include
- flower blooms,
- the many shades of foliage (greens, grays, magentas and earth tones)
- the color on structures like birdbaths, garden seats, painted pots, window boxes or bird houses as you plan and plant.
A drift or color mass (not single plants) creates the best color impact.
Color choices in your garden can set a mood. There was a garden color exhibition at Kew Gardens many years ago. Because of the different color masses, the energy or calm feelings changed. As you walked from the hot red, orange color masses you experienced energy. This feeling changed as you entered the garden of soothing blue purples. Likewise, you might get a sense of color causing a feeling even when you look at this garden color wheel.
Color Theory and the Garden
Warm color (yellows, oranges and reds) are energetic and demand attention.
Red is the color of energy, passion and power. Red is a very visible color that increases focus. Because red attracts attention, it can lead a viewer away from something unattractive in the landscape.
Red works best in a garden at mid and close range and has less effect in the shade or distance.
A saturated (intense) yellow in flowers is the color of sunshine. Yellow is associated with hope, happiness, energy, optimism and joy. It is thought to activate memory and stimulate the nervous system.T
Red and yellow primaries make orange. Therefore, orange a combination of the energy of red and the happiness of yellow. Because orange is the color of joy and creativity, orange makes one feel energetic and well.
Just as in painting, warm colors come forward and appear closer. Therefore, warm colored masses can make large garden spaces feel more intimate.
Cooler hues (greens, blues and purples) tend be associated with feelings of calm.
Green (the color of life) is a restful and relaxing color: associated with energy and renewal. Luckily, all gardens contain green which has physical and mental effects. Therefore, green can reduce anxiety and depression and increase feelings of hope, harmony and compassion.
In shade gardens, lime green or chartreuse will sparkle and light up the darkest places. Furthermore, green provides the architecture: the garden structure of the placement of hedges, trees, grass and in the late fall and winter, evergreen shapes hold a garden together.
Blue represents the sky and the sea and is linked to open spaces, freedom, inspiration and sensitivity. Therefore,Blue is is thought to mean trust, sincerity, stability and intelligence.
Purple is the most popular flower color used in garden. Because of its calming effect, it’s no wonder. The calm stability of blue and the energy or passion of red makes the secondary purple color. Purple denotes nobility, abundance and dignity. Purple affects the mind by lifting spirits, calming nerves and encouraging imagination and creativity.
As in painting, cooler colors recede. Therefore, in the garden, cool colored masses can make smaller spaces feel larger.
Gertrude Jekyll, a master garden planner, used blue to create the illusion of greater depth in the same way that landscape painters use misty-blue mountains. Hence, her blues were always at the most distant end of her flower borders.
Color Theory in Garden planting
Complementary colors are located directly across the color wheel. For example, blue is the complement of orange.
Complementary colors provide high contrasts in garden plantings. When complementary colors are used together, they intensify each other. For example, a red flower against green foliage looks brighter.
Analogous colors follow each other in sequence on the color wheel. Furthermore, adjacent colors on the color wheel will blend together if their intensity or saturation is similar.
An analogous color scheme in the garden creates color harmony because colors that are next to each other on the color wheel mix well together.
Gardening with one color can result in a feeling of calm or serenity. In addition, in a garden of one color, differences in plant form or texture become more important.
Suggested one color garden schemes include:
- Purple: lavender, violet, and deep purple flowers
- Red: various pink tones, maroon, burgundy, red, and red-orange
- Yellow: pale, buttery-colored flowers to deep gold
- Blue: blue and blue-violet to purple blooms, blue-green foliage
- Black: deep red or purple to nearly black flowers/foliage with silver, gold, or bright colors
- White: white flowers set off by silver foliage plants
- Pink: pale pink (nearly white) to deep rose colors
- Orange: pale peach to fiery orange blooms
- Green: green, grayish-green, and blue-green to purple or yellow-green
Read more at Gardening Know How: Color Schemes For Gardens: Creating A Monochromatic Color Garden.
Color Temperature of Single Colors
As in painting, it is necessary to remember that there are temperature differences in each color hue. For example, purple flowers can be red purple or blue purple. Noteworthy, because sometimes both color temperatures of a single hue won’t work well together.
Neutral Color Gardens
Some gardens feature neutral color schemes. Since I am a color junkie, I have no examples of this to share.
However, once frost sets in, shades of brown, along with silver and gray are important in the garden. In addition, ornamental grasses backlit by low winter sun makes a beautiful glowing, mellow effect of neutrals.
For more garden and color inspiration continue reading.