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  COLOUR IN YOUR GARDEN
 
Devon Gardeners
 
 

Most garden design advice begins with a discussion of colour, texture and form. Colour is arguably the most prominent factor in a garden design and often the first one considered. Colour is what most gardeners are drawn to.

We know what we like when we see it. Good garden design involves knowing how to combine colours so that the final product will be one we like. Only practice and experimentation will develop your eye for colour and allow you to see the differences between colours, but a good way to start is by studying the colour wheel used in art.

On the wheel, colours are arranged by their relationships to each other, in a progression. Violet-red to Red to Orange-Red to Orange to Yellow-Orange to Yellow and so on, in the same order as they appear in the spectrum. Most modern colour wheels only contain 12 colours, while there are many more subtleties in nature.

THE BASIC COLOUR PALLETTE
The Primary Colours on the wheel are: Red, Yellow & Blue 
Blending these 3 colours gives us the rest of the rainbow. 
Secondaries and Tertiaries round out the 12 colours shown on the wheel. 
Secondary: Orange, Green & Violet 
Tertiaries: Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green & Blue-Violet


COMBINING AND PLAYING WITH COLOURS IN THE GARDEN
Basically, it breaks down to 2 choices:

Harmonious (colours that are next to one another and share some value) or 
Contrasting (colours that don’t) 
Harmonious Combinations

Monochromatic
Choosing one hue and using it in its various shades, tints and tones. 
Less is More 
Can be a good beginners approach, as it avoids the chaos of too many colours 
Requires an eye that can see the differences within a colour 
Also a very sophisticated approach in its subtlety 
Texture and repetition become more noticeable and important 
Green makes a good transition from one shade to the next

Can also be employed as a progression, moving from one hue to the next on the wheel, the next... 
Analogous

Working with 2-3 colours that are adjacent to one another on the wheel (red, orange, yellow) 
Makes for an easier, less jarring transition for the eye 
Contrasting Combinations

Complementary
Uses two colours opposite each other on the colour wheel (red/green, orange/blue, yellow/purple.) 
No common pigment means maximum contrast. 
Can be a bit jarring if there is too much contract used 
Try to favor one colour and use the other as an accent or focal point 
Again, use texture and form for variety, rather than too much colour 
You could also work with 3 equidistant colours (Triads) or 
One colour and the 2 colours on either side of its complement (Violet with Yellow-Orange and Yellow-Green) (Split Complements) 
Polychromatic

Using every colour 
Actually requires as much thought and experimentation as the other approaches 
Can become a riot of colour 
Neighbouring plants need to be considered throughout the garden

THE BASIC COLOUR PALLETTE
The Primary Colours on the wheel are: Red, Yellow & Blue 
Blending these 3 colours gives us the rest of the rainbow. 
Secondaries and Tertiaries round out the 12 colours shown on the wheel. 
Secondary: Orange, Green & Violet 
Tertiaries: Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green & Blue-Violet

COMBINING AND PLAYING WITH COLOURS IN THE GARDEN
Basically, it breaks down to 2 choices:

Harmonious (colours that are next to one another and share some value) or 
Contrasting (colours that don’t) 
Harmonious Combinations

Monochromatic
Choosing one hue and using it in its various shades, tints and tones. 
Less is More 
Can be a good beginners approach, as it avoids the chaos of too many colours 
Requires an eye that can see the differences within a colour 
Also a very sophisticated approach in its subtlety 
Texture and repetition become more noticeable and important 
Green makes a good transition from one shade to the next

Can also be employed as a progression, moving from one hue to the next on the wheel, the next... 
Analogous

Working with 2-3 colours that are adjacent to one another on the wheel (red, orange, yellow) 
Makes for an easier, less jarring transition for the eye 
Contrasting Combinations

Complementary
Uses two colours opposite each other on the colour wheel (red/green, orange/blue, yellow/purple.) 
No common pigment means maximum contrast. 
Can be a bit jarring if there is too much contract used 
Try to favor one colour and use the other as an accent or focal point 
Again, use texture and form for variety, rather than too much colour 
You could also work with 3 equidistant colours (Triads) or 
One colour and the 2 colours on either side of its complement (Violet with Yellow-Orange and Yellow-Green) (Split Complements) 
Polychromatic

Using every colour 
Actually requires as much thought and experimentation as the other approaches 
Can become a riot of colour 
Neighboring plants need to be considered throughout the garden

The eye is drawn to the lightest value first.Crucial to consider in monochromatic gardens. 
Guide the eye with light values and use darker values as contrast and focal points. (That’s why using a green hedge behind a flower border works to draw the eye toward the darker flowers. 
Also using evergreens and structure and bones in the garden.) 
To get a strong feel for the values of the colours in your garden, look at it in B&W. 
Temperature: The Degree of Warmth of a colour

You’ve probably heard colours referred to as either hot or cold. Temperature is less cut and dry 
than the above terms. It tends to be something you sense more than quantify. Red, Yellow & 
Orange are considered warm colours. Green, Blue and Violet are considered cool. 
However, temperature can be altered by blending colours. Add some red to violet and you get a considerably warmer colour.

CONDITIONS THAT CAN ALTER colour
Keep in mind that the perception of colour varies from person to person and can greatly be affected by surroundings. 
Lighting: Light changes the saturation of colour. Red turns dull at twilight while white begins to glow.

Surface Texture: The texture of a leaf or flower will affect how the light hits it and therefore how the colour is perceived. The smoother the surface, the more light is reflected and the more saturated the colour appears.

Proximity: colours loose their definition at a distance. A monochromatic garden can turn into a blur. Conversely, too much contrast close up confuses the eye and makes for an unsettling garden.

colour Interactions: Just putting a contrasting colour next to a flower will change the way we see its colour. Gray can muddy true reds. Violet can become hotter next to a vivid orange.

Age: colours change as plants mature. Sometimes the colour will change entirely. This is not so much a matter of perception, but it does need to be kept in mind when planing a design.

Season: Nature changes her pallette as the year progresses: spring pastels, summer vibrants, fall jewel tones. It’s only fair that the gardener should have the same prerogative. This is where choosing plants for a succession of bloom is paramount. 
Combining colour well is a matter of trial and error. If you’d like to experiment on a small scale, you can start as simply as putting together a bouquet. Containers are a colourists best friend. You can test combinations in a pot and even move the pot around your garden to further explore. 


 
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