Using Color in Your Garden

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As a gardener, you are an artist.

(I know that’s sometimes hard to believe. When you are on your knees, pulling weeds, dirt smudged on your forehead from where you wiped away the sweat, it can be hard to see yourself as something that glamorous.)

I read a great quote recently that said artistry wasn’t limited to being a painter or a writer or a musician – it was about producing beauty through skill. That’s what you do.

So if we extend that metaphor, your garden is the blank canvas that you can create beautiful pictures with every year – and plants are your paints.

Good artists will tell you that they create for themselves and not the audience or the critics, and that’s true of gardening as well. When you create your garden, the person it should please is you. Let the latest trends inspire you, but don’t feel you have to be a slave to them.

However, following some general rules can make it easier to create the look you want. Chief among these is how you use color:

Light is always changing in a garden, so as you plan your space, think about what your garden will look like in early morning light, full day sun and twilight. What time are you most likely to be enjoying your garden?

Shade and sunlight also will change the way you perceive color. A general rule of thumb is that lighter, more pastel looking colors are great for shady areas because they contrast with the darker background, whereas darker colored plants and flowers will tend to get lost in the shade. The reverse is true in sunny areas; bright colors and dark hues look spectacular in the bright light, but pastel colors can get faded out.

Certain shades promote calmness, like soft pinks, lilacs, and peach colors. Meanwhile, bright reds, yellows, and orange will give energy to your space. White is your all-purpose go-to color.  White flowers can make your garden feel “lighter.” They also get along with every other color, so they can serve as a buffer between two colors that might clash.

Speaking of color, a great tool for putting together your color scheme is the color wheel. It’s an excellent indicator of what colors pair together well. The general rule is that colors next to each other are “harmonious” and soothing, while colors across from each other on the wheel are “complementary” and work well together while giving your garden a little more contrast and drama.

Finally, remember that flowers aren’t the only color in your garden. Everything from furniture to fencing to foliage (and other things that don’t begin with the letter F like pottery, containers, birdbaths, and pavers) will contribute to the palette you use.

Have fun picking out your colors and painting your masterpiece!

Happy gardening,