Landscaping your yard or designing a garden that is pleasing to look at is not as difficult as you might think. Ultimately, this is your space and you can certainly fill it with your favorite varieties and colors. However, to achieve a look that unifies the area and brings out its best features, you simply need to observe a few simple color rules that can make an enormous difference in overall appeal. A handy color wheel can act as a simple guide, directing your many choices and options, but before you grab it and head to the local nursery or garden center, you need to analyze a few important factors.
Is your garden sunny or shaded? Is it exposed or private? Do you want to enjoy the boldness and warmth of this area, or do you prefer a cool, restful spot? Once you answer these questions, the next critical decision is to decide on your favorite outdoor color. This will become the anchor color for all your other planting choices, and here's where the color wheel comes in.
If you want bold, exciting colors to wake up an otherwise boring yard, you may want to choose a complementary color scheme. The three primary colors, blue, yellow and red, each have "opposite" colors that create the greatest visual impact. As the idea implies, these colors lie directly opposite on the color wheel. For red, green is the complement, for yellow, purple is the complement and for blue, orange would be the choice. If these seem a bit overwhelming, adding foliage can calm them down. Be careful about adding white for this purpose, especially with powerful colors because it can be disruptive and un-unifying.
If the contrast seems to startling and distracting, you can tone it down by choosing a split-complementary format, using you main color and the two colors adjacent to its opposite instead of the opposite color itself. Ultimately, you will want to scatter your main color throughout your garden beds, usually centered as a focal point and surrounded by its complements. For example, if you love blue, choose iris, lupines, delphinium, salvia and monkshood for seasonal variation and texture. Then feel free to add white, yellow, orange and even light shades of pink to each planting area. Keep in mind that plants bloom at different times and what each combination will look like at its peak.
Perhaps you would like a cooler, quieter garden to relax in after a hard day's work. A monochromatic color scheme chooses one color and shows it in different intensities and shades. The blues and greens are considered the "cooler" more restful colors. However, you will still need to add variety of sizes and textures to keep the appearance from becoming bland. White works nicely in a cool color scheme, especially in a shaded setting because it tends to keep the garden alert-looking.
Multi-color flowers can also serve a valuable purpose in your garden. When chosen to complement your color scheme they become the unifying transition elements between bold, otherwise brash, colors. Using foliage and these multi-color plantings to buffer intense areas actually creates a visually appealing bed or border and permanent beauty.
Once you know the effect you wish to create and you have chosen your anchor color, it's time to head to the nursery looking for plants that fall within your color scheme. If you are unsure about combinations, let them sit side by side in pots for a few days to see how you like the effect. The wonderful thing about a garden is that it is always a work in progress. Move and play with colors until you find the effect that makes you smile. That's what gardening is really all about!
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