30 Jun Painting with Plants

Much like an artist uses oils and watercolors, the gardener uses plants to paint strokes of color across the landscape. Painting with plants lies in the ability to use nature’s hues in a way that delights the eye. Using colors that blend together or are complimentary engage the viewer. Some instinctively know which colors work well together and the exact shade that will brighten up a drab area. For others, the process is more hit or miss. Plants are moved around to find the right combinations. Whether your taste are cooler shades of lavenders and blues or bright yellows and reds, the secret to creating the look and feel you want in your garden is often simply understanding the effects of different color combinations.


Analogous Colors

Analogous colors that are closely related on the color wheel.  For example, yellows, oranges and red-oranges. Or blues and violets. Combining analogous colors is perhaps the most common color scheme employed by gardeners.


Complimentary ColorsComplementary Colors

Complementary colors are colors that are opposite on the color wheel, such as blue and orange, green and red, yellow and violet. Be careful not to mix small amounts of complementary colors together. When you plant small area of complementary colors together they tend to blend and look gray from a distance. You can create an exciting contrast by planting a large area of one color positioned against it’s complement.

Triadic Colors

Do you want to add a third color? Consider using triadic colors. These are groups of three colors that are equi-distant apart on the color wheel. For example, red, yellow and blue. Using an area of red, yellow and blue together can create a dramatic effect.  As with complementary colors, too many small patches of color will create a gray or neutral tone from a distance.


Monochromatic Colors

A single color used throughout the garden can create a wonderful feeling of unity. To keep an area from becoming too monotonous , use plants of varying heights, shades and textures. Cool colors, such as blues, violets and lavenders can create a calming effect. If you’d like a more bold and dramatic landscape use bright, warm reds, oranges and yellows. An all white garden, featuring silvery-green along with a variety of white flowers can be stunning. You can add hints of pale blue for a cool, quiet mood or a touch of yellow to warm things up a bit. Placing plants with cool colors, which recede from the eye, behind those with warm colors, which advance, creates the illusion of depth in a small space.


Perhaps the best rule to follow when creating a color statement in your garden is to experiment. Try different color combinations to see for yourself what works for you in your space. Move plants around. If a color isn’t working in one space, it may look great in another area.