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

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