Understanding colour, and where to deploy it for best effect, will transform your garden from a jumbled mess into a perfectly designed palette, worthy of a Show Garden. Green is a fail-safe colour in the garden, as it naturally brings a scheme together, but it’s the other shades that really bring out the personality of a plot.
Even the most flamboyant designs sometimes require a modicum of taming to ensure that colour schemes are strong, rather than chaotic. Using the colour wheel to select hues that complement or contrast will allow you to change the feel of your garden. You can create moods for different areas – calming, soft colours for a quiet spot, and vibrant, hot colours to enliven and push you onwards around your garden. Colour is never wrong; we all see it differently and how you use it to please you is your choice. But keep in mind the benefits of the colour wheel and you will be amazed at the results.
More on using colour in the garden:
Harmonious plant combinations
Using the colour wheel to create harmony requires discipline. Harmonious colours sit next to each other on the wheel and work best in threes. Usually one of those colours is dominant, with the others as background highlights. Both hot and cool colours can create harmonious effects – just keep tones to the right spectrum and the results will last the test of time. Bear in mind that your favourite plants may not fall into that grouping.
Complementary plant combinations
Complementary colours sit directly opposite each other on the colour wheel, or sometimes they're evenly spaced around the wheel. These colour combinations create a more dynamic effect with a punchier feel than harmonious shades. Examples include purple and yellow, and orange and blue. They are colours to uplift your mood and work well with some light foliage woven through to add a little ‘down time’ to the scheme. There are shades within shades in all colours, but generically these colours work together. Don’t just think of flowers when considering blooms – coloured leaves can also be used as one half of a complementary scheme, or perhaps even consider a scheme just using foliage alone.
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Clashing plant combinations
Of all the ways to use the colour wheel this is potentially the most courageous. It creates an assault on the senses that's almost impossible to process visually, but the effect is really dynamic. This is a ‘what works for you’ approach – plant what you love, where you want and when you want. Be sure to use lots of green as a linking element. It will be the colour that stops a clashing scheme from being too much to absorb. If in doubt, work with no more than five clashing colours, and if possible work them through in bold swathes.
Using plants to make an accent
If you like using harmonious colours, but still crave an element of oomph within your scheme, adding an accent colour is for you. It’s a simple idea, but one that really works – by dropping a single blue or purple plant into a sea of yellow or orange you can add significant impact. Admittedly, this may not give you a huge amount of longevity in the scheme, so select a statement plant that flowers for a significant length of time, or choose something that can be deployed for its foliage alone but is still vibrant and can add contrast.