Color in the Garden Helps Set the Mood
posted on February 22, 2005 11:38am
Contact: Leslie Johnson or Mary McLellan
517-432-1555 or 355-5191
EAST LANSING, Mich.—Want to create a warm, welcoming entrance to your home property or turn your patio into a cool, relaxing retreat from the stresses of the work day? You can do it with color.
“Colors engage our emotions,” observes Mary McLellan, Extension Master Gardener program coordinator at Michigan State University. “The colors we choose for our gardens can be vibrant and exciting or relaxing and soothing.”
Bright or light colors—such as the white, yellow, bright pink and coral of impatiens or tuberous begonias—can also brighten up a shaded spot.
Warm colors—those in the yellow, orange and red range—catch the eye and enliven the garden, McLellan says. Planted around the entrance to your home, red geraniums or salvia and yellow and orange marigolds or zinnias create a warm, welcoming aspect.
“These colors are lively and energizing,” she notes. “To create a more restful mood on the patio where you wind down after work, you might want to choose cool colors—blue, green and purple. Blue or purple salvia or petunias, ornamental grasses, evergreen shrubs, and maybe a pool or other water feature may be just what you need to make the transition from work stress to relaxation.”
The key to making color work for you is planning, she notes. Without it, plantings may lack focus or a unifying theme and merely look jumbled.
One approach to garden planning is to repeat or contrast the color scheme of your house, she suggests. If the house is mostly blue, for instance, you could use blue, purple, burgundy and pink flowers for a harmonious display, or go for contrast with yellow and orange blooms.
Using the same palette of colors throughout the landscape can tie together various areas. Using a variety of plants in the same color maintains the theme but varies the look by varying plant height, size, shape and texture, and the size and shape of flowers.
A splash of contrast—a largely cool-color planting with a bright spot of yellow-orange, for instance—can serve as a focal point or lure the eye away from a feature that you can’t eliminate or hide, such as the storage spot for garbage cans or the compost pile, and lead it to a more attractive garden feature, such as a pool.
“Gardeners often focus on annual or perennial flowers as the color source,” McLellan observes, “but colorful vegetables and foliage and interesting bark can also contribute to the overall look. Plants such as asparagus and rhubarb offer their distinctive and contrasting textures, while peppers, eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes, purple- and yellow-podded snap beans, and scarlet runner beans add color and make the garden delicious as well as decorative.”