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I've been gardening and writing about gardening for more than 20 years, yet I find I'm always learning new things about the plants, insects and other critters that call my backyard home. That's the great thing about gardening — it's never boring! I've worked as a landscaper, on an organic farm, as a research technician in a plant pathology lab and ran a small cut-flower business, all of which inform my garden writing. Someone once asked me when I'll be finished with my gardens, to which I replied, "Never!" For me, gardening is a process, not a goal.
Color is usually the first thing people notice when they see a flower garden, and choosing plants in pleasing color combinations can be daunting to a new gardener. The color wheel is a helpful tool. It's based on three primary colors — red, yellow, and blue — and also depicts the colors in between.
The concentric bands show the colors in different degrees of saturation. Fully saturated colors are the most intense; as you move toward the center of the wheel, the colors become softer, more pastel.
Warm colors. Yellow, orange, red, magenta — these "warm" colors bring energy and excitement to a planting. When planted at a distance, they draw the eye in.
Cool colors. Purple, violet, and blue tend to be soothing and quieting. They can get lost at a distance and so are best for close-up viewing.
There are no hard-and-fast rules in choosing colors. A bold chartreuse green might fall into the "warm" category, while a softer, pastel shade of that same green might fit right in with a cool-color palette.
The most important design tip? Choose plants and colors that you love!
Designers use specific terms to describe color combinations. To help you get started, here are a few examples:
In complementary color schemes, two colors on opposite sides of the color wheel are combined.
To create an analogous color scheme:
Another option for a monochromatic color scheme is a "moon garden." Gardens featuring all white flowers are especially beautiful when viewed by moonlight. Good choices include moonflower (Ipomoea alba), night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum), and evening stock (Matthiola incana).
Last updated: 9/9/19
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