Designing a Garden for Color
by Lee Wyatt
(last updated February 21, 2020)
One of the most important elements of garden design, and arguably the single most important from an aesthetics point of view, is color. While many people may not realize it, but color always plays a role in the flowers we choose, and where we plant them. Usually though, this part of the design process goes unnoticed, or at least underutilized. Designing a garden expressly with color in mind can be extremely beneficial when creating a garden that you can be proud of. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
- Understand the color wheel. When designing a garden for color, perhaps your most useful tool is going to be the color wheel. Understand this, and you will be able to properly plan the overall color scheme. The basic color wheel is made up of three levels of color: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The three primary colors are red, blue, and yellow; the secondary colors are orange, violet, and green; the tertiary colors are yellow-orange, yellow-green, and blue-violet. As you can see each subsequent level of colors are made by blending the colors of the previous level.
- Consider harmonious schemes. Harmonious color schemes are great color schemes for beginners to use. These schemes are generally centered on one specific color with a couple of different shades, tints, and tones to help accentuate that color. One example of this is how you could choose orange as the primary color for your garden, but also have plants that have red and yellow in them to help accentuate that orange color.
- Consider contrasting schemes. A bit more complex of a color scheme is to use contrasting colors. This is a little more complex because, instead of using one color as the primary focus you are actually using two opposing colors. You can find these "opposing" colors on the color wheel pretty easy, simply choose one color and see what color is opposite it. Some examples of these colors are color combinations such as red and green, yellow and purple, and blue and orange. Just as with the harmonious schemes, don't just pick two primary colors and have that be all. Rather pick colors that are on either side of the two opposing colors as well to help balance everything out.
- Your home should be part of the scheme. When designing your garden for color, make sure that you also consider your home. After all, the home is going to be the single largest colorful element around, so use it in your planning. One way that you can use this is to have it be the "primary" color in your design scheme, and you "balance" it out with complimentary colors as described earlier.
- Don't forget the accessories. Just as with the plants themselves, you can use colorful accessories to help tie your garden scheme together. Using such things as benches, hammocks, gazing balls, and even decorative bird baths can help ensure that your color scheme is well coordinated and unique.