Colour in the Landscape

Colour Wheel

Colour your landscape By Design


Gardens are constructed with form, texture and colour to become a composition of living art. When I am creating a garden design one of the fundamental concerns is the use of colour. Clients often request colour as an objective to be incorporated into a design. But what is colour and how should it be used in a landscape. When I ask about personal preferences of colours to be used, often clients hesitate to answer.

Colour is a fascinating subject and often subject to interpretation with differing connotations. I am often asked to edit garden solely on the basis of colour because the client is not happy with their attempts to create a pleasing palette. I default to several rules pending on the particular project. Drama and impact can in part be managed by the use of colour and can create a specific mood or ambience . Colour is comprised of several components, the first being Hue. Primary colours are Red, Yellow and Blue. Primary colour mixed to become Secondary colours. This is how I use colour.


I often will work with monochromatic palettes. This is the use of shades, tints and tones of a single colour. A single use of colour results in a very unified and simple design. I see this is a strong emerging trend as we move forward. I like to work in monochromatic colour themes when given the opportunity. There is strength, power and serenity created. There is little distraction and focuses attention on other aspects of the design such as elements, textures and configuration. Often seen as a very contemporary and sophisticated design application pertaining to colour use. When using this colour theme I often rely on the value of a colour, or its luminosity, ability to reflect light. These subtle differences within a colour can be very beautiful. The intensity or tone of a colour is important as well. I try to use plant material with varying degrees of intensity or saturation, purity or chroma. This is the colour brightness or greyness. Again these subtle differences along with texture and form are often sufficient for contrast and create a rhythm with in a palette.


Is a harmonious use of two or three colours from a quadrant on the colour wheel. This creates a sense of linkage and unity with greater variation. Such colour themes may include yellow, orange and yellowish greens are used to create a palette . This works best when colours are chosen with a similar parent or primary colour as the linkage. Colour can be chosen from any part of the colour wheel. There is sufficient linkage between colour and a balance of contract.


Often within a garden detail or a specific quadrant, I will work with complementary colours. This is loosely working with contrast and choosing colour at the opposite end of the colour wheel. A prime example of this use is working with the primary colours red and green, a classic complimentary colour pairing. The use of this contrast can be vary bold and dramatic. I also work with complimentary and contrast principles when using secondary or tertiary colour hues. I tend to keep this with in certain colour combinations at least within bedding areas. Complementary colours must be managed well or perhaps may appear too jarring or distracting.


When colour is demanded using basic triadic principles work well. This is the use of three colours chosen equal distance apart on the colour wheel. This tends to be a very vibrant palette and is more difficult to harmonize. It is better to have one dominant colour and two supportive colours when using this colour scheme.

I alway consider light, architecture and colour of structural elements as well as preferences when considering using colour schemes. Colour can evoke emotion and can lead or distract the eye. Alway choose colour carefully when considering your palette.

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