Garden Design Basics: Color

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Color isn’t just for paintings; it has its place in your garden too! With proper planning, color can make your garden look more balanced and really help tie the landscape together! Whether you’re looking to transform a flower bed, a container, or your entire landscape, knowing the basics of color and how colors interact with one another is incredibly useful when designing any part of your garden, big or small. It’s time to break out a color wheel and get ready to use color to transform your space.

Color 101

Ever wondered why certain plants look great next to each other and some look out of place? Color may be the explanation! While some color combinations can naturally look pleasing to the eye and harmonious, some can appear chaotic and overstimulating. We’re here to break down 3 popular color combinations/schemes and explain why these colors work so well and how to use them in your garden.

Analogous Colors

Analogous means closely related. When three colors border each other on the color wheel, they create what are known as analogous colors. While these color combinations appear complex and interesting in the garden, they never look fussy or complicated; these colors look very natural when paired together.
Image of two color wheels each displaying three plants that are examples of analogous colors

Analogous color schemes are often found in nature, from oceans to sunsets to even some of your favorite plants; many things around us display analogous color schemes. Plants like Rainbow Rhythm® ‘Orange Smoothie’ daylily or ‘Flamenco’ red hot poker artfully display this color scheme naturally, but you can also design your garden to take advantage of these pleasing color combinations. If you’ve been struggling to make your garden appear balanced, try experimenting with analogous colors, we’ve shown a combination of plants below using yellow-green, yellow, and yellow-orange plants.

Monochromatic Colors

Monochromatic color schemes are variations of one color, like what burgundy and pink are to the color red. Luckily for us, plants naturally come in endless color options, giving us so much variety to choose from. Just because monochromatic color schemes only focus on variations of one color, that doesn’t mean a monochromatic garden or flowerbed would be boring! By mixing in a variety of textures from leaves and flowers, we’re able to enjoy plenty of interest and visual contrast with just one color! Using monochromatic colors is a perfect strategy for those looking to make their garden feel interesting without appearing complicated. You’ll never have to worry about your garden feeling chaotic; these colors look naturally harmonious together.

Great Garden Tip: When planning a monochromatic garden, be sure to get plants with enough color variation. Getting plants that are too similar in color can lead things to look flat. Try mixing lots of light and dark-colored plants.

Complementary/Contrasting Colors

Complementary colors are colors opposite each other on the color wheel. There are three main complementary color pairs:

  • Blue and Orange
  • Red and Green
  • Yellow and Violet (Purple)
three color wheels demonstrating complimentary colors

Also known as contrasting colors, complementary colors are known for providing high contrast when paired together. Sometimes these color pairs can look too intense; if that’s the case in your garden, look for tints or shades (plants with colors that appear mixed with black or white, like the color pink) to help tone down the saturation and intensity. Adding darker or lighter variations of complementary colors can make them more pleasing to the eye and look more harmonious in your garden.

You can often find complementary colors in nature. Take a walk around your garden and may find some plants exhibiting this color scheme. Plants like ‘Yarai’ Japanese iris and ‘Red Lightning’ coral bells look so appealing for a reason; they exhibit a perfect display of complementary colors. Using contrasting colors in your garden design will help pack a punch and help certain parts of your landscape pop and stand out while still creating balance.

Understanding the basics of color can be incredibly helpful when designing your garden. Whether you’re looking to create a sense of balance or have certain parts of your garden pop, the color of the plants you choose can help you accomplish these goals. Get creative! Test out these color schemes in containers, try finding which one works for your space or is most appealing to you. The best thing about gardening is there is no right or wrong way to use color.

Written by: Miranda Niemiec, click here to read bio.

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