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Designing with Colour in the Garden

The most significant sense to the human is sight, from which we judge aesthetics and formulate opinions.

To the eyes colour is perhaps the most obvious feature identified in a garden, closely followed by shape.

Colour and Emotion
Blue and green are regarded as cooling and restful colours.
Red, oranges and yellows in contrast are considered warm or hot, and active colours.
A garden therefore full of red and oranges will be great in winter to help you feel warm, however it may feel too hot for summer. Alternatively a garden full of blues, green and white in summer will help you feel cooler.

Colour and Space
The cool colours above are considered great for small gardens as they help to make the space feel larger.
Warm and hot colours are perceived as closer to the eyes and therefore make the space seem smaller. These colours are also best in large gardens when creating focal points and statements, as they will appear closer and therefore entice the person to walk towards the coloured objects.

The Basics of Colour
The colour wheel, a tool used by all colour consultants, identifies the primary colours (red, blue and yellow) and their relationship to secondary colours (orange, green and violet) plus tertiary colours (a blend of a primary colour and secondary colour).

Harmonious colours are those that sit next to each other on the colour wheel, such as green and green-blue.
Complimentary colours are those that are opposite to each other on the wheel, such as orange and blue.
Both these simple ‘tricks of the trade’ are used to create a harmonious garden with focal points of contrasting colours that compliment the design.

Around the world, there are famous white and green gardens, as well as blue and silver gardens. These gardens, referred to as mono-coloured gardens, are in fact great examples of successful use of tints, tones and shades of the respective colour (hue).

As for what constitutes colour in the garden you need only to look to flowers, leaves, trunks, fruit, paving, decking, retainer walls, fences, etc. Everything you see in a garden has a colour and hence affects the overall design.

The intensity of the colour (hue) is known to vary depending on the time of day, plus the location on earth. For example, during morning colours are generally more intense than at midday. Similarly the afternoon sunlight and sunsets can influence the perception of colours within the garden.

Using Colour en-masse
City parks are ideal locations to see how mass planting of colours (such as flowering cannas) can create eye catching visual effects. Large expanses of bold colours are perfect for large spaces.
For smaller gardens, it is sometimes better to simplify the use of colours. Even the use tints (a lighter colour), shades (a dark colour) and tones (a grey variation of the colour) will provide sufficient interest to satisfy the small space. Provide touches of contrast colour and even pastels for interest.

Colour and Themes
When creating a Mediterranean garden many designers use the green of leaves as a base colour then add splashes of red, orange or blue to compliment the theme.
A tropical garden will rely on lushness of foliage accentuated with dramatic coloured foliage and striking flowers.

Colour and You
If you are afraid to use colour… don’t be.
A quick glance at any TV makeover show or even award winning local landscapes will see the full colour spectrum.
A simple repaint of the fence will successfully create a new mood for the garden.
If still cautious, then consult your landscape designer for advice.
At the end of the day, the home owner and landscape designer, must realise that although the principles of colour can be utilised, a garden is in fact a dynamic living environment which changes in tones, tints and shades as the sun moves across the sky and the plants themselves change with season hues.

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