After a long, gray winter, most people look forward with some degree of anticipation to the return of color to the landscape. Each season has its own colors and with careful planning, changing color can be a part of the landscape year round. Arrange your landscape with a focal point. It could be an attractive tree or shrub or architectural features. Perhaps you have a distant view that deserves to be the center of interest. Frame it with trees, shrubs or architectural features that are colorful and attractive.
Nature frolics with color but a little planning is in order to get attractive landscape designs. When you plant to put color into your yard the basics of high school art classes and the color wheel come into play. Cool colors like blue, green and soft pastels blend to make an area seem larger and very calm. Warm colors like oranges, reds, golds and yellows are vibrant and exciting. Use a warm or cool color theme to fit these purposes. Consider the colors of the sky, the greenery of foliage and natural features that provide part of the color show you seek. While it is not true of mixing colors in clothing, green is the neutral shade in the landscape, which goes with and forms a backdrop to everything.
On a color wheel, red, yellow and blue are the primary colors and all other colors come from mixtures of these. The primary colors are very strong and using more than two of the three together tends to make a raucous combination.
If you put analogous colors — hues that are next to one another on the color wheel such as purple and red or green and gold — together, you get a peaceful and sophisticated look.
Complementary colors accentuate each other. They are found opposite one another on a color wheel. Green is complementary to red, orange to blue and purple to yellow. In terms of light, white is a mixture of all colors, but in a flower bed, white can be used to accentuate other colors. Contrasting colors, which are two steps away from each other on the color wheel, put high energy, action and vigor into a design.
Consider the effects that colors make emotionally as they play off one another. Since plants are constantly growing and changing, there will be color variations you can capture through the season. That tree with plain green leaves during the summer months might explode into a mass of fiery oranges and reds as fall moves in. That same tree might start the spring season with masses of pastel blossoms. Shades of bark and evergreen foliage put some color into an otherwise drab winter season. Variations of textures, shapes and sizes add to the interest.
Plants also flower at varying times. With some planning, you can have something in bloom throughout the entire season. As one plant moves to a different phase, another will come into bloom or show up in some other way.
As you consider your options you know that there are thousands of plants available for the landscape in all sizes, shapes and colors. It can be daunting to choose among them. Take time to look at mature versions in catalogs and nurseries so you know what you can expect in terms of color. Magazines often offer ideas for attractive landscape designs. Before you buy, consider the growth requirements of the plants so you don’t spend your outdoor time providing life support for your acquisitions.
Many annuals bloom throughout the entire growing season and finish with frost. Perennials can provide color throughout the year. Choose some plants that bloom in the spring, some that bloom in summer and some that bloom in autumn. Some plants bloom on into the beginning of the next season providing garden interest during transition periods.
Sometimes plants that bloom in the spring will remain green and attractive after the blossoms are spent and will provide a backdrop throughout the summer for summer plants. For example arabis, aubretia and basket of gold provide a riot of purple, white and yellow blooms in the spring month and then settle down as attractive foliage ground covers throughout the rest of the season.
Don’t overlook ornamental grasses as part of your garden scheme. They provide variations in texture, height and even color. Some have striped or colored leaves, and during the summer and winter they may turn brown with seed heads that form interesting textures against the snow or sky.
Use the basics of color design and consider textures, shape, form and size to create truly artistic garden areas in your landscape.