The Use of Color in Your Landscape

The Use Of Color. Color can capture and hold your attention almost more than anything else in your landscape. It also gives landscapes definition and interest and adds another dimension to the landscape. By knowing a few facts about how the human eye relates to color, you can make it work to your advantage in your landscape. A color wheel is helpful to understand the relationship between colors.

  1. Red, red-orange and yellow are considered to be warm colors.
  2. Green, blue, blue-green, blue-violet, and violet are considered to be cool colors.
  3. To the eye, warm colors tend to advance and cool colors tend to recede. If planted side by side at a distance, the warm colors will appear closer and the cool colors further away. You can use these effects to create spatial illusions. Planting cool colored flowers at the rear of your garden will make the yard seem larger, warm colors will make the yard seem smaller.
  4. Spot plantings can have similar effects seeming to deepen a part of the yard or bring it closer.
  5. Cool colored plants are good for close-up viewing, warm colors are good for dramatic displays.
  6. Cool colors can easily be overwhelmed by warm colors.

There are different ways that color can be worked into the landscape. Some of the most common color schemes are as follows:

  • Monochromatic: Using flowers of various tints and shades of one color.
  • Analogous: Using colors that are closely related to one another on the color wheel.
  • Complementary colors: Combine colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel. These can be powerful combinations ? bold, that some people may find vibrant, however, others may feel that these colors clash.
  • If you want to try and blend strong colors, arrange them so that they intermingle, rather than being clearly defined. You can tone down colors by including silvery leaf or white flower plants. If you mix bright reds with bright yellows, try leading up to the mixture with plants of similar but less intense colors.

  • Polychromatic: This includes a mixture of all colors. These combinations often produce a carnival type atmosphere. These are often the result of random plantings. Although it sounds foreboding, these can produce pleasing combinations.

Before planting, take note of your background and surroundings:

  • Anything you plant will blend in or stand out against the surrounding vegetation, scenery and buildings.
  • Note the colors of your existing house and landscape. Almost any color will look good with white, cream or gray, but it is harder to choose plants that go well with more vivid colors.
  • Use colored foliage carefully. Although the plants will have color all season, plants with gold, blue, purple or silver-gray leaves are uncommon in nature and can look like they are out of place.
  • Vividly colored plants (purples, reds) may look fake in a rural or informal setting.
  • A single plant of a different color may stand out from its surroundings – watch the effect; it may look like a focal point or like something that is out of place. To blend in the plant, try adding different plants of the same color in the area to repeat a theme.
  • Variegated plants have leaves that are stripped, rimmed or spotted, generally with white. These plants are either loved or hated. They may have a subtle effect in your landscaping, but because of the foliage it may also look like you have a “sick” plant in your landscape.

Be willing to experiment with color, especially when using annuals. A great way to try mixing colors is by mixing up your plants in container plantings. Containers can be easily moved around and adjusted so you can see the effect that your colors have in your landscape.

Color in a landscape will be the first thing that catches your eye and can also stand out like a sore thumb. By taking some time planning your gardens, your landscape can be the envy of the neighborhood.