Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Garden Designers Roundtable: Got Color?

Paeonia suffruticosa

Color is an exciting and dynamic design element that really lures us, hooks us, and reels us in. Creative use of color is one of the easiest ways to personalize and customize gardens of any size. However, you may be overwhelmed - to the point of paralysis - by the vast array of color choices that are now available for both flowers and foliage. Here are a few simple tips to help you "get color" in your garden.

Get a clue. Look to your region's natural environment and the exterior finishes of your home and hardscape. Would you like to echo (repeat) those colors or contrast with them?

Design by owner-gardener

Here, the rich oranges of the flowers and foliage echo the architectural accents of the home. The bright blue of the containers serve as a sharp bit of contrast.

Below, the soft, muted tones of the fence and house siding are echoed in the soft violet-pink colors of Echinacea and Agastache.

Design by owner-gardener

Choose a color palette. The chaotic use of too many different colors can look downright muddy. Consider using one of the following broad color groupings instead; they're practically fool proof!

Warm colors in combination are cheerful, energizing and easy to see even in low-light situations. Warm colors include yellow and any hues that contain yellow such as orange, some reds, and green.

Create depth and complexity by including light, medium, and dark values in this palette.
Below, the warm coral-pinks of Penstemon and Kniphofia set the stage, then are accented with bright yellow and deep red.

Denver Botanic Gardens

Then add some zing by including a few accents of blue or purple. Keep in mind that flowers in bright, warm colors "advance" and give the illusion of being closer and larger than they are.

Denver Botanic Gardens

Washington Park, Denver

Cool colors in combination are very calming and restful. Cool colors are those that contain blue, including purple, green, and some reds. Include light, medium, and dark values of these hues for a more interesting design.

Denver Botanic Gardens
Above, a Phormium provides a welcome jolt of bold burgundy foliage color to a planting of Rosa, Nepeta, and Delphinium.

Below, an accent of yellow flowers, Coreopsis 'Zagreb' brightens up a xeric garden.

Designer unknown

Cool colored flowers and foliage, especially in darker shades, will "recede" and appear smaller and farther away than they are. Don't let them disappear completely!

Above, the deep violet-red of Lysimachia foliage strengthens this soft, cool color combo of Geranium, Iris, Amsonia and Crambe.

Use a signature color. Repetition of a specific color throughout landscape serves to unify the entire property and create a stronger sense of place that is uniquely yours. A signature color (rather than a signature plant) allows you to choose plants that will be successful in different growing conditions (microclimates) around your property and through the year.

Above, silver (foliage) is the signature color for this garden.

Have fun. Choose colors that make you happy. Your garden is all about you!

Please continue to explore the world of color via today's Garden Designers Roundtable. Click on the links below to read more by today's participants...
Susan Cohan, Miss Rumphius' Rules
Andrew Keys, Garden Smackdown
Christina Salwitz, Personal Garden Coach
Genevieve Schmidt, North Coast Gardening
Ivette Soler, The Germanatrix
Rebecca Sweet, Gossip in the Garden
Rochelle Greayer, Studio G
Scott Hokunson, Blue Heron Landscapes
Douglas Owens-Pike, Energy Scapes


Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" said...

I like how you started with the architecture and hardscape and led us through color selection for the garden.

This is useful guidance for those undertaking a garden design project on their own.

Great photos too.
Shirley Bovshow
Garden World Report Show

Anonymous said...

Very painterly and yet very informative.

Debbie @ GardenofPossibilities said...

Wow, lots of great tips for thinking about how to use color when designing a garden. The options are as numerous as the available colors and it definitely helps to have a strategy before you start buying and planting.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Thanks, Shirley! I think architecture/hardscape are a great place to start the process of creating a harmonious color scheme.

Lesley, thanks for joining us from the UK! I imagine you are seeing lots of fresh spring color in your gardens now?

Bingo, Debbie! Having a strategy is what it's all about. Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the conversation!

Susan aka Miss R said...

Nice take on warm/cool schemes. Loved the Phormium and Delphinium combo--unusual and elegant.

Sweet Home and Garden Carolina said...

Gorgeous, Jocelyn. Lots of great examples of how to use color harmoniously.

Flowers said...

What an incredible blossom. I am not at all familiar with this plant, but it sounds like one I would like to get to know better.

Andrew said...

"Choose colors that make you happy. Your garden is all about you!"

Truer words have never been spoken. Thank you for them!

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Thanks, Susan. That great planting combo was created by the talented folks at Denver Botanic Gardens.

Carolyn, I think we all want to live in environments that are pleasing to the eye, both indoors and out. Thanks for stopping by!

Andrew, life's too short not to surround yourself with colors you love!

Christine B. said...

Great idea about chosing a signature color to repeat throughout. Right now my s.c. is white: we still have a couple of feet of snow left to melt.

Christine in Alaska

MulchMaid said...

I liked this simple yet succinct overview of color use in and around the garden. You made me realize I'm always happier with the results when I use colors I really love. Great post!

ScottHokunson said...

Excellent advice Jocelyn and the pictures are great! I love the combo of Penstemon and Kniphofia together. Are you snow free yet?

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Christine, I am in the same boat, color-wise! During "the season" my signature color is yellow. It doesn't take much, but it packs a lot of punch.

Thank you, Jane! We all have favorite colors and it's fun to learn new tricks to make the most of them.

Scott, those warm pinks can be a bit tricky to work with, but the folks at DBG really know their stuff! I got 10" of snow on Tuesday, and 3-5" more expected Friday night. March is a real roller-coaster around here! Thanks for stopping by!

Genevieve said...

Jocelyn, what a lovely garden tour! I love the variety of the photos and your commentary helped me "see" some of those themes and feelings in the gardens.

susan morrison said...

Very nice! The phormium combo was straight out of my own design playbook. Your post is a reminder to stop and think about what I'm doing when I create a planting plan. It's easy to get caught up in the details and forget to step back for the bigger picture.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...

Genevieve and Susan, thank you both for your insights. As experienced garden designers I think that we sometimes go on auto-pilot because we have confidence in what we are doing. Writing these posts about very specific design components is always a great refresher course in the "hows and whys" of what we do!

Jocelyn H. Chilvers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Germi said...

Nice work!
Your photos really worked to illustrate your points - I tend to go right to the warm colors and stay there, but looking at the beautiful cool combos you showed ... well - I need to explore that part of the palette!


rebecca Sweet said...

Beautiful photos - especially the one taken at Washington Park! I always think I gravitate towards the cool colors, but tend to end up using tons of oranges and yellows. I guess the Warm Colors win!