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Garden Design Basics: Using Color to Set a Mood

Garden with Cool Colors

The blue and lavender flowers and silvery-leaved plants create a serene retreat.

Many of the gardeners I’ve met fall into one of two categories: those that plan their gardens and those that don’t plan. The planners evaluate their landscape, decide what kinds of plants they need and research the available varieties before they make a purchase. The non-planners see a pretty picture and can’t help themselves — they buy the plant and, once it arrives, they figure out where to plant it. Whether you’re a planner or an impulse buyer, you can have beautiful gardens if you stick to some basic garden design principles.

The first thing to remember is that you really can’t go wrong. After all, have you ever encountered an ugly flower? Even if a perennial bed doesn’t turn out exactly like what you had in mind, chances are it’s going to be attractive. And, unlike the wallpaper or paint color that looked great in the store but now grates on your nerves, perennial plants can be moved to a more suitable spot. It’s easier than repainting or re-wallpapering!

In the garden, the first thing that catches people’s eyes is the overall color scheme. You can find nearly every color of the spectrum in the blossoms and foliage of perennials and bulbs. Most people are drawn to certain colors, so if there is a color scheme you’ve admired — whether it is in a favorite sweater, upholstery, or garden — keep this in mind when choosing plants.

The intensity of the colors will set the tone for your garden. Here are three flowers in pastel colors:

Gentle pastel colors set a mood of tranquility. They look best when viewed from relatively close up, and they can looked washed out in the harsh mid-day sun.

Compare the pastels with these flowers in hot, bold colors:

Racy reds, vibrant oranges, hot pinks and brilliant yellows — these colors invigorate and energize a garden. Bright colors hold up well to brilliant sunshine, and attract the eye even from a distance.

You can “cool down” a garden by adding plants in cool colors. Plants with blue flowers and silvery gray foliage are especially calming.

February 3, 2011 · Suzanne DeJohn · 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Flower Bulbs, Gardening in Spring and Summer, Gardening in the Winter, How-Tos, Perennials

2 Responses

  1. Lorie Thompson - February 4, 2011

    I live on Long island zone 6 I believe it is. I have a front yar sourthern exposure. I would like to do the front in blues and some brights to “POP” (Lorid i am beginning to hate that word). Eventaully I hope to not have any lawn in the front yard but just plants. WQhat do you suggesti add to the yard this season. I hAVE SOME evergreen shrubbery and hostas and lots of young Hydrangeas planted. I love color! The more the merrier! But I reallize that in the winter it is important to have evergreens as well so the wyard does not look like a snowy wasteland. Suggestions?

  2. Suzanne DeJohn - February 9, 2011

    You might consider some broadleaf, flowering evergreens like rhododendrons and azaleas for areas in part shade (you mention hostas so I’m guessing there’s some shade). For full sun, there are some nice euonymus varieties with bright, variegated foliage. Plants with interesting bark are always good; I love red-twig dogwood. Forsythias bring bright, early spring color. Lilac Boomerang is a reblooming variety for two color shows. Adding plants that attract birds and butterflies is another way to add “living color” — Echinaceas and Salvias are good choices. Adding colorful bird feeders and some garden art also adds winter interest; consider our Hummingbird Garden Kit and Songbird Garden Kit. Good luck!