Colour in the Garden

Colour in the Garden

Gardeners, like all artists, use the power of colour to create and enhance the mood and impact of their landscape design. Through our understanding of the properties of colour we can elevate our compositions balance and unity.

Each colour holds its own lexicon of meanings, both personally and globally. Whether you fall into the category of a pictorial landscape gardener or and avid horticulturist, the colours you select in your garden will determine its emotional value and character. Some techniques that will aid your colour palette selection include placing the blossoms of your selected plants together to see how their colours interact. It is also beneficial to place differing background materials (vines, shrubs, trees, plants) against your blossoms to see which ones best aid your colour design, and whether you want your leaves to complement or contrast your blossoms. Colour themes that you can create in your garden include:

Monotone Gardening

This glamorous gardening concept, first used by Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst, refers to the use of a solitary colour (in Vita’s case white) with your various greens as your background. Colours that work best are white, pink, yellow and blue. (Actually blue-grey, as true blue is almost impossible to find for an entire growing season.) Monotone gardening is particularly effective in a parterre garden or balcony situation. If you decided to monotone garden remember to balance your blossoming times throughout the year and to use a background leaf that has grayish hues in it as it will create a softer background for your colour choice. Also, avoid using various tones of red. If you choose to attempt a monotone red garden, beware mixing blue-reds with yellow-reds. A white monotone garden will look particularly beautiful at dusk and in the evening.

Analogous Colour gardening

Analogous gardening was used to spectacular effect by England’s Gertrude Jekyll. This gardening colour regime refers to the use of any 3 consecutive colours on the colour wheel. (In Gertrude’s example, Red – Crimson – Violet) An analogous garden is generally a theatrical, yet visually delicate experience. This colour scheme works best in a “secret garden” or in a sweeping border backed by a copse of trees. However, keep in mind that analogous gardens are rarely restful, as they demand attention to their modulations of colour. Plantings that work well for this colour theme include opium poppies, mallows and lobelias in shades of pink, crimson and scarlet.

Complementary Colour Gardens

This refers to the usage of colours directly opposite each other on the colour wheel (such as Red and Green). Gardens created with this colour scheme evoke a strong sense of power by intensifying each of the colours chosen. Colours opposite each other, such as yellow and violet, compete with each other for visual dominance by pulling our eye back and forth between them. This gardening style is exciting and intense. Some combinations that are effective include yellow Primroses set against a grouping of violet Grape Hyacinths. The paintings by Gaugain show this to a spectacular effect. Monet’s gardens at Giverny used complementary colour schemes in its borders to create visually powerful designs.

Mixed (Clashing) Colour Gardens

Walking through a garden with a mix of all the colours of the rainbow enlists joy and delight. It’s nearly irresistible when you are at a nursery or ordering online, to resist each successive colour and plant you encounter, for each one holds its own history and meaning. A mixed scheme will look vibrant and fun. It is generally the garden we remember from our childhood, and depending on the time and light of the day, each colour will “hold court” for a short period of time. When working with this colour scheme remember to use plenty of white to separate, refresh and strengthen your colours. The majority of Monet’s Gardens at Giverny and those in his paintings were mixed colours

What colours mean

Blue – Symbolizes authority, dependability and truth. Blue in your garden will cool surrounding colours, while it gives your composition a sense of serenity. However, keep in mind that sky blues will lift your spirits, while grey-blues will add a hint of melancholy.

Red – Conveys passion, power and Drama. Red is the colour of love, and conversely hate. Use red in your garden in all its guises (crimson, scarlet, magenta, cerise, etc.) to bring excitement and vivacity.

Yellow – Symbolizes happiness, spontaneity and fun. Yellow in a garden creates visual motion, drawing the eye from blossom to blossom. It also captures the sun in your design and enhances the sense of effortless, airy design.

Violet – Conveys spirituality, aristocracy and mystery. Violet adds a sense of majesty to the landscape and mixed with yellow, creates an arresting image of beauty and youth.

Green – The background of all gardens. Green is the colour of vitality, growth and regeneration. The colour green has the power, depending upon its intensity and clarity, of dimming, brightening, refreshing or overpowering your garden design. Its predominance in your landscape makes it the colour you most need to analyze in your design.

Orange – Symbolizes equality, peace and luxury. The usage of orange in the garden creates an inviting and outgoing design. Orange is also the colour of autumn, and depending on its hue, will give a warm hue throughout its location

Colour Hints

o Vivid, bright colours in a distant flowerbed will make it appear closer to the viewer. o Blue tones will make a bed recede into the distance. o Warm colours near a patio will give it a more outgoing and “fun” feeling. o Separate clashing or mixed colours with white blossoms. o Use scarlet blossoms to make the green of your leaves more intense.

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