As a young lad working in my parents Garden Centre, I had many an enquiry that perhaps, I was not sufficiently qualified to entertain. One specific one, stuck in my mind for many years, it concerned an elderly lady, who wanted to create a ..White Flowering…only planting scheme for her whole garden. This sounded at the time sounded somewhat ludicrous, my theory was all colours of nature mix, and that cutting out plants because of there colour was short sighted. I used the Amazon rain forest as an example of how all colour of nature mix in harmony. I have not changed my mind but I can see the merits in harnessing colours where they can make a better impact.
From my perspective it is all about shape structure and definition but for many gardeners it is Colour that comes first and sets the mood of the Garden. It’s also important not to forget, that there is some excellent colour contribution, to be considered from foliage many are variegated meaning the leaves are two tones. Fruit and stems also add to the general colour variation. When planning it is best to look at the desired colours year round, for example a Dogwood, looks pretty dull in the summer but in the winter its bright red or yellow stems can make a high impact in the winter garden.
To put it in simple terms colours fall into two different categories, dark and bright colours. Dark colours, like blue, purple and pink, tend to create a calming effect and are perfect for creating a retreat where one can unwind from the chaos of life. They also can make areas look larger than they are in a small garden as it creates a more spacious feel. Also worth taking into account is that neutral colours will work with both dark and bright colours.
Bright colours on the other hand draw the eye and make spaces seem smaller. If there is a large space that needs to appear smaller use bright reds, oranges, and yellows as it makes the planting seem closer to you. Bright colours are also great for drawing attention to areas you would like to show off like an entrance, seating area, or a piece of garden artwork.
Using the “Colour Wheel” which is the spectrum of colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet all set out in an easy to follow circle. This method allows colour to dictate both mood and style in a garden. For example Blues and Whites create depth while hot reds and oranges make a border literally jump out at you.
Selecting contrasting colours from the Colour Wheel is the best method. It is quite straight forward choose two colours from opposite sides of the Wheel and use them both together for example one side of the wheel is what we call warm colours — yellows, oranges and reds.
A great combination is blue Agapanthus and Yellow Rudbeckia .Yellow is psychologically the happiest colour in the colour spectrum and there flowers stand out in the landscape, helping to make a large garden feel cosier for example and are very much a morning colour. Yellow Lilies are a striking flowering addition to any garden and yellows such as Sunflowers, Marigolds, Potentillas mixed with orange Dahlia or Canna Lillies, create a confident feel.
Based on colours in the colour wheel red compliments green, blue compliments orange, yellow compliments violet. Plants in different shades of the same colour can create a really impressive garden and purples, blues and whites look very sharp.
Then there is the single colour planting like White. In a shaded area it is subtle and stylish, so with my ears ringing I have now undertaken, to plant an almost all white area on the shady side of my house this summer using Busy Lizzies .White flowers also enhances a garden at night similar to how scents intensify after sunset. White flowers almost glow at night making them the strongest colour for a late evening/night impact. Not only are these luminous blooms beautiful to look at, but many of them have high impact night fragrances with jasmines, philadelphus, Romneya (Tree Poppy) and Choisya all producing excellent fragrance.
Blue flowers planted along the sides of a long, narrow garden will make it seem wider as blue is the first colour to fade from sight as night falls, you may want to incorporate light colours into the blue border. If you use your garden more in the evening stronger blue shades that petunias, salvia and lobelia produce will make a better impact.
Use colour on seating, pergolas and fencing really enhances the garden consider panting pots and adding strong colour window boxes that will complement or contrast with the plants. A vivid blue bench or brightly painted table can make the garden feel brand new
Colour is for many gardeners the most prominent factor in a garden design we know all know what colours we like so constant experimenting by planting placing colours strategically develops ones eye for colour and how to use them best. This in turns means getting the best out of our garden which is what us gardeners all strive for.