For some, the huge choice of color in the garden offers an exciting design opportunity, but for others, choosing color schemes can be nothing short of daunting. Many different color theories are used by garden designers, but if you are nervous that your yard may end up a frenzy of clashing hues, or a poor palette of dull shades, the color wheel offers a helpful guide. Using opposing colors guarantees an eye-catching display. This simple but effective combination of fiery orange cosmos and purple-blue morning glories works especially well.
The color wheel is made up of primary colors (red, yellow, and blue),
and secondary colors (orange, green, and purple); the latter are formed
when the two primary colors on either side are mixed together.
These primary and secondary colors provide the foundation for successful
color schemes. You will see that each primary color sits opposite a
secondary color. These “opposing colors” are complementary and work
extremely well when used together in a garden context. Thus, red goes
well with green, yellow with purple, and blue with orange.
Bearing in mind that most foliage is green, and that—on a good day, at
least—the sky is blue, it is difficult to be strict about this theory,
because the majority of colors in the garden go well with blue and
green. However, it is undeniable that blue and orange do combine very
well, and that yellow and purple create a pleasing match.
Opposing colors create visual excitement, but can be overbearing.
Adjoining colors, which sit side-by-side on the color wheel, create more
subtle combinations. These were favored by Gertrude Jekyll, who created
many amazing gardens in the early 20th century. She divided the colors
into two categories: cool colors, consisting of blues, purples, lilacs,
and pinks, and hot colors, which include yellows, oranges, and reds.
Jekyll saw that it was important to use the in-between shades to create
subtle blends. Rather than planting only yellows and reds, fuse the two
with shades of orange and some plants with yellow and red in their
foliage to carry the color theme throughout the year.