When planning your garden, one of the first decisions you need to make is what colors you will choose. Since the amount of sunlight varies throughout the day, take into consideration how the flowerbed will look in the morning, mid-day and early evening. Also think about the amount of sunlight the planting area receives.
Shaded areas can appear brighter by using light-colored plants. Consider using light pink, light yellow, lavender, pale blue or white flowers in your shade garden. Dark plants in the shade can disappear into the background. You can still use dark colors in the shade garden, but be sure to surround them with lighter-colored plants.
Full sun garden areas can handle brightly colored flowers. This garden area will draw attention and stand out when you use reds, oranges, bright yellows, deep blues and purples. Pastels in bright sunlight will appear faded and washed out. For best results, stick to one, two or three colors. Repeating the same colors, even in different shades, gives a unified look to the garden. Repeating the same colors in different varieties of plants not only challenges your imagination, but also results in a garden that is uniquely you.
In addition to sunlight, basic color theory comes into play when selecting plants for your garden. You will need to decide if your color selections will be harmonious, complementary or monochromatic. Color choices include bright or pastel and warm or cool.
Harmonious colors are next to each other on the color wheel and have a soothing effect. These softer color combinations include blue and violet, orange and red, and orange and yellow. Using harmonious colors unifies a garden while still allowing a range of color.
Complementary colors are opposite from each other on the color wheel. These are high in contrast and add drama and excitement to your garden. Combinations of yellow and violet, orange and blue or green and red varieties are examples of complementary colors.
A monochromatic color scheme is composed of plants of the same color. You may have an all-white garden or a garden that is “in the pink.” Create extra interest in a monochromatic garden by using a mix of tones or shades of the same color in addition to various textures, shapes and sizes.
Foliage color should be considered in any color scheme. Foliage with green and white or green and yellow variegated leaves adds interest to the garden. There are also plants with chartreuse, lime green, bronze or reddish/purple leaves that add a bold element to your garden.
Pastels and muted colors set a peaceful and tranquil mood. These colors include soft pink, lavender, lilac and peach. When using pastel colors, consider where the flowers will be planted. Pastel flowers look best when viewed from a short distance and tend to look washed out in the bright, mid-day sun. Pastel colors can be used in distant parts of the garden to give the illusion of being even further away.
Bright or primary colors include red, orange, magenta and bright yellow. These colors are guaranteed to energize the garden. The color will show well in the bright sunshine and also attract your eye from a great distance. Do not combine bright colors with less intensely colored plants — the brightly colored ones will steal the show.
White flowers are in a class by themselves. They blend well with every color and can also be used as a transition between colors that do not normally work well together.
Warm colors include red, orange and yellow. They tend to make flowers appear closer than they really are.
Cool colors such as blue, violet, silver and white lend a calming effect and make plants appear farther away in the garden.
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