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Colour In The Garden

Posted on 14th June 2016

Many of us develop our gardens and borders over time and they have a tendency to evolve as time

goes on and can end up being rather a ‘pick and mix’ of plants in terms of colours, texture, form and

seasonal interest.

Green is the most restful colour for the human eye but an all-green border lacks interest however,

having a big mix of colour in the garden can be quite chaotic and tiring to the eye especially when

the combinations have not been planned and it is worth thinking about colour theory if you wish to

create a harmonious garden that is full of interest but that doesn’t give you a headache!

Colour wheels are used by artists and designers to create pleasing colour combinations and are

basically a representation of the three primary colours set apart, with their combinations blended in

between them, some colour wheels also show tints and shades of the colour as white or black is


They say that opposites attract and it is certainly true of what we call ‘complementary colours’!

Complementary colours give vibrancy and contrast to a scheme but work together in harmony to set

each other off. These complementary colours can be found at opposite poles of the colour wheel.

Orange and blue/purple are a classic colour combinations for fresh and energetic but flattering

combinations for colour in the garden.

Triad colours are found in any triangular formation around the colour wheel and by using three

colours you can add a little more interest but beware of using more than three colours – they will

fight against one another and will not give a pleasing result.

Monochromatic schemes take just one colour and add interest by adding hue and tone, rather like

using a paint pallet and adding various amounts of black or white to a base colour to create lighter

tints and darker shades. This can be created in the garden by choosing plants with flowers that

create this pallet. Tulips are a fabulous spring flower with many, many colours available and lend

themselves to this sort of planting, a mixture of herbaceous perennials and bulbs can take the colour

scheme right through the growing season.

Colours that sit next to each other on the colour wheel are said to be ‘harmonious’ and generally

work well together if you blend two or three colours. Red, orange and yellow give a warmth and

vibrancy to a scheme while blues, silvers and whites have a cooling effect.

Don’t forget to plan so that you have a succession of interest in your borders. If you plan really

carefully you could have a monochromatic spring colour scheme, a cool colour summer scheme and

a hot and vibrant autumn to go with the changing colour of the leaves.

Foliage should always play a part in a garden design and you should try to include a range of

textures. Ornamental grasses give a fluffy light effect and are an excellent foil for the flowers of

herbaceous perennials and give the scheme some depth throughout the growing season.