Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Color in the Landscape

Good garden design necessitates good use of color.  Just think for a moment of a beautiful yard or garden.  It might be your own or someone else's.  Maybe it's a house you pass on the way to school or work.  What do you like most about it?  If you are anything like me, color is what really grabs your initial attention--and also what fills your memory.

Certain color combinations create certain moods or convey a certain theme.  Red, orange, and yellow are best for conveying energy, vibrancy, speed, and excitement.  They also make a garden seem smaller and hotter.
Very thrilling, right?

Pink, blue, and purple, au contraire, are more relaxing, cooling, and peaceful.  These colors definitely make a garden feel larger.  Purple especially is a distance/depth workhorse.
Totally different effect...

Greens, whites, and grays are best-used to compliment the main colors or to soften transitions between them.  I think it is also important to note that the importance of green in the garden can easily go under-appreciated.  Green is essential for giving a garden its structure, connections, and some visual relief.

So which colors do I prefer to work with?  Depends on the specific spot.  In my front yard, I tend to work more with pink-white-blue-purple plants.  The western side yard is very much an orange-yellow-white (plus occasional purple) scheme.  The backyard is very polychromatic with certain areas following one half of the color wheel, and another area following another half.  I also have one bed in the back that is strictly yellow with just two, lonely purple plants for sexiness.  One corner of the backyard is white-pink-blue.  The main backyard planting area however is dominated by reds, oranges, whites, and purples.  And finally, the eastern side of the house is white and purple.  I think ALL gardeners should grow a multitude of plants and follow the color scheme(s) that works for them, their house, and their taste.  Some of the most beautiful gardens are monochromatic (all-white and all-red landscapes are particularly stunning).  Yet the overwhelming majority of high-quality garden designs use all of the main colors--and many shades/tints within them.

If I was up against a firing squad however, I would tell you that I prefer pink-white-blue-purple gardens the best.  For me, gardening is about peace.  These colors convey that...for me.

Along those lines, the Dallas Arboretum has created a wonderful bed of flowers as you can see below.  They have used the classic blue annual, ageratum, with the equally classic pink/white/purple "summer snapdragon", the angelonia.  Unfortunately, angelonia is not a very "popular" annual for beginning gardeners, for which I have no explanation!  It is an excellent plant that loves hot sunshine.  I was already working on a very similar design when I stumbled across this great picture online.  T'was VERY nice to see that my brain does a good job of conceptualizing:

I am currently working on ways to adapt this concept in my own landscape.  This spring, we are going to be repainting the shutters, door, fence, etc from "harvest red" to a rich, dark ocean blue.  A lot of my current landscape sketches are revolving around increased use of the kinds of refreshing colors you see above:  white especially.  I think that the soft pink and glowing blue will look awesome with our macrophylla hydrangea bushes and the dark green foliage of things like lilac, oakleaf hydrangea, arborvitae, daisy, shrub roses, and echinacea.  

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