May 2015: It’s Not Black and White, but it can be Monochrome

Colour will set the mood or tone of a bed, border or indeed the whole garden. The way we use colour in the garden is no different to the way we use colour in every other part of our lives. Did colour have an influence on your last clothes purchase or the colour of your sofa or the colour of your car or the colour of your interior decoration? Probably, yes, and taking control of the colour in your garden will increase the pleasure you get when you’re using the garden; be it looking at it from inside the house, relaxing in it, working on it or thinking about it during a ‘miles away’ day-dream moment. The same colour rules apply in the garden as anywhere else: White is lively but calm, blue is cool and makes the bed appear to recede, red is hot and makes the bed jump out at you, yellow is sunny and bright, green is relaxing and calm. But remember it’s not just flowers that are colourful, consider too the shrubs, trees, fruit, berries, trunks and stems as well as objects such as pots, posts, sheds, fences and furniture.

If you want to colour your garden using accepted colouring wisdom you will probably want to use the tried and tested colour theory. Colour theory is used by using the colour wheel.

Colour Wheel

Relationships between colours will give certain results. Use two or three adjacent colours to create harmony, for example red, orange or yellow. For striking contrasts use colours that are directly opposite each other on the wheel, for example red and green, violet and yellow. It’s up to personal taste but up to 5 colours can be used before it gets too much for the eye, use a dominant colour and work the others around it.

Monochrome schemes can be made using colours from a very limited section of the colour wheel. The most effective monochrome schemes use the 3 primary colours’: red, blue and yellow. White schemes are my favourite monochrome plantings, its effect is to lighten the garden and make the mood cheerful especially in shady areas or for evening sitting areas, white flowers seem to glow in twilight. Exploiting the shape, texture and tone of green leaves in a white garden will give lovely, eye pleasing effects and silver-grey foliage is an even better partner for white flowers. If you want to investigate plant colour theory further I would recommend ‘The Gardener’s Book of Colour’ written by Andrew Lawson.