After a winter in the northeast, where the outside colors are predominately white and brown, we are ready for some color in our yards! Visitors to the Garden Center in the early spring walk past tables filled with colorful pansy faces, and I see in their faces how the burst of color lifts their spirits. Colors have the power to create emotions, change our perception of distance and space, and alter our environment.
I introduce color into my yard with a collection of containers, which I plant seasonally with annuals (and some perennials). I enjoy the creative process of selecting which plants to combine in these pots. Customers will often ask me for advice when they are making their plant selections and I am happy to assist. I encourage them to pick the flower colors they enjoy, while also taking into consideration the container color and the colors in the surrounding environment (such as patio furniture cushions, house or shutter colors, etc.). Inspiration for color combinations to use in your containers and garden can also come from combinations we see in nature, like a wildflower meadow in bloom, or the colors combined in a fabric that you like.
Sometimes different shades of just one color can be used, to create a calming and elegant look. For example, pale pink blush flowers can be mixed with pink flowers of deeper color such as deep pink, rose, and magenta. One of my all-time favorite planters was a monochromatic planter where I combined several shades of blue with a little bit of silver. White, silver, gray, and black are neutral colors that can always be added to any color combination. Monochromatic groupings are best planted in pots of neutral colors.
You can also mix analogous colors, such as red and orange; orange and yellow; yellow and green; green and blue; and blue and violet. Looks such as these create a calming effect. Building on the above pairs, you can also introduce a third color, such as a combination of red, orange and yellow or yellow, green, and blue. A planter with pretty yellow daffodils, blue pansies, and a cascading green creeping jenny makes a great early spring arrangement.
If you are looking for a more dramatic effect with your containers, use complementary colors. These pairs include; violet and yellow; green and red; and orange and blue. These color pairs tend to really make each color pop and can create a more exciting mood. A red pot filled with red fountain grass, orange mums and blue plumbago is a recipe for a dramatic fall container.
Planters and gardens that are viewed from a distance are best planted with warm colors, such as red, orange, apricot and, tangerine. Warm colors also make a space feel smaller. The cooler colors are better for up close viewing and include blue, purple, fuchsia, magenta, and pink. These cool colors tend to disappear from afar. Cool colors make a space feel larger and can be used to increase the feel of a small garden.
When planting color into the landscape, you can use many of the same color blends as above. The neutral colors in the landscape also include brown and green. I picked a color combination of peach, coral, and blue when planting around my pool. I paired peach drift roses with blue catmint in one area. In a more distant bed I paired coral roses and purple butterfly bushes. I added some neutral dark green holly bushes and white oakleaf hydrangeas to complete the look.
I always like yellow in the landscape and there are quite a few yellow perennials to pick from. Try marrying yellow with purple for a nice bit of drama. I paired some yellow coreopsis with purple salvia in front of a neutral stone wall. Some pink shrub roses added another nice color to the combination.
White and silver colors show up in low light conditions, so if you spend more time in your garden in the evening or early morning you should consider plants with white flowers or silver foliage.
It is fun to experiment and play around with colors in your planters and landscape. Colors can certainly affect the way a space appears and our mood while we spend time in that space or by that planter. I hope I have inspired you to step out of your comfort zone and try some new color combinations this spring, whether you want to create a little drama and a party atmosphere or your own calm Zen zone for relaxing at the end of a long day.
Kathy Evans | Greenhouse Design & Sales