Bringing Color Theory to Your Garden

The Old House Web

Bringing Color Theory to Your Garden

by Kate McIntyre

Old House Web Columnist

Just as color theory dictates which trim color you choose for your house or which cardigan you wear with which pants, it also holds sway in your garden. By using your knowledge of color, you can devise a garden that brightens up a dark corner, focuses attention on a certain spot, or draws attention away from an eyesore.

Basic Color Harmony

In general, choosing plants with similar hues makes for a muted garden with a blended palette. For example, a garden with pink, lilac, and blue flowers feels harmonious, as if each plant belongs. A color scheme using complementary colors, such as red and green, blue and orange, or purple and yellow, injects energy into a space. If you have a shady spot in your garden, add shade-tolerant white flowers. Their light color brightens dismal corners.

Warm and Cool Colors' Jobs

Warm colors and cool colors perform different tasks in your landscape. Cool colors make objects appear further away. If you are trying to create depth in a small yard, cool color

s can help. Warm colors attract the eye, so they are perfect for spotlighting focal points of your garden. If you have an unattractive element in your garden that you cannot get rid of, such as an air conditioning unit, you can disguise it by planting cool colored plants around it and warm-hued plants in front of the cool ones. Eyes will be drawn to your vibrant yellow coreopsis flowers rather than the eyesore

Maybe all of this planning is not your style, and you would rather take a trip to the garden store to pick out whichever plants strike your fancy. This approach might serve you well, or you might end up with some clashing areas in your garden. The great part about gardens is that you can easily change their look by replacing plants that are not working. It is never too late to call in some mid-season transplants. 


"Garden Color," Horticulture and Home Pest News

"Using Color in Flower Gardens," Cornell University

About the Author

Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.

About the Author
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