Colour in garden design is a personal matter. You may enjoy looking at a riotous mix of flower colours or you might prefer subtle colours. Perhaps you like different colours for different seasons; this might mean pastels in spring, a white garden in summer, and a profusion of reds, oranges, and yellows in the fall. You might want only different foliage textures all in green. There is no right or wrong.
The colour wheel helps you choose flower and foliage colours. There are three primary colours: red, yellow, and blue. When you combine these, you end up with the in-between secondary colours. Adding white to these colours gives you the pastels (colour tints). Adding black to colours gives you different colour shades. Take a look at the following colour wheel to see different colour tints and shades (the background is the colour of the February sky).
Three Common Garden Colour Designs
The colour wheel helps us create three common garden colour-schemes:
The monochromatic garden uses just the shades or tints of one colour (in addition to the green foliage). The monochromatic garden can be very dramatic and beautiful. Many people create a white garden. White gardens are great for those who only get to enjoy their garden in the evening. White will pop out of dark corners. White also looks lovely when bathed in moonlight or low lighting. You might like to use only different pink tints. Visit my blog, Pink Plants for Early Spring, for great shrubs with pink blossoms. Perhaps yellow is your favorite colour and you want to create a monochromatic yellow garden. There are also beautiful gardens that use no flower colours. Often these gardens are small and rely on interesting foliage for their success.
The analogous garden uses colours that are next to each other on the colour wheel (purple and red, blue and purple, green and blue, yellow and green, yellow and orange, and red and orange). Some consider this soothing and harmonious.
The complimentary garden uses colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel. These colours really should be called opposing, not complimentary. Without getting too technical about the type of colour wheel chosen, complimentary colours can be red and greenish-blue, green and purplish-red, blue and yellow, red and green, yellow and purple, and finally blue and orange. The complimentary garden is bold and eye-catching. Think how blue and yellow together brings out the best of both colours.
Warm and Cool Colours in the Garden
Red, orange, and yellow are considered ‘warm’ colours. They provide a feeling of warmth and passion. Green, blue, and purple are the ‘cool’ colours. They contribute to a feeling of calmness, serenity, and relaxation.
You can make a garden seem smaller by putting warm colours in the back of a garden with cool colours in front. Putting warm colours in the front and cool colours in the back will make the garden appear larger.