Garden Design: Using Contrasting Colors

My favorite type of garden is one that uses both cool and warm-colored plants.  When you use both color groups together, the plants contrast with each other.  If you have heard the term ‘contrast’ in regards to gardening, you might wonder what it means?

In previous posts, we talked about what warm and cool colors are and how to use them in the garden.

Cool and Warm-Colored Wildflower Garden

When you use warm colors such as red, orange and yellow next to cool colors like blue, purple and pink – you are contrasting both of these color groups.

Look at the example below of two different colored plants that contrast with each other.

Bachelor's Button

California Poppies

As you can see from the pictures above, contrasting colors emphasize the differences between each other and as a result, show each of the plants off to greater effect.

So, what if you like the idea of using contrasting colors in your garden.  How do you know which colors contrast with each other?

I will show you a special tool that will help you to figure out what colors will contrast with each other.

Here it is…..

Color Wheel

Look closely at the color wheel above.  Remember the contrasting photos above of the blue Bachelor’s Button next to the orange California Poppies?  On the color wheel, you can see that the colors blue and orange are almost opposite to each other.

That is how you can tell if colors will contrast nicely with each other.  Select plants that have colors that are opposite or almost opposite to each other on the color wheel, which is a fool-proof way to coordinate your garden using warm & cool-colored contrasting plants.

Bouquet using 'cool' Texas Sage' and 'warm' Orange Jubilee

Cool-colored plants, when planted toward the back, will create depth and make your garden appear larger.  Plant warm-colored plants toward the front, to bring your focus close up.

I like to use warm-colored plants toward the front of the entry, since that attracts your attention.  Another area where I use warm-colored plants is on either side of the driveway, which also highlights another entry to the house.  Of course, living in a warm climate, means that I also use lots of cool-colored plants that help to visually ‘cool’ off my garden.

Contrasting plants also make a striking color statement when used in containers as well.

The cool purple color of Texas Sage contrasts with the warm colors of Yellow Bells and Bougainvillea.

We have just gone over some of the basics that you need to know to design using contrasting colors.  So, make sure that you print out the color wheel and take it with you when you shop for plants.

Birds and Blooms had a great article that covers contrasting colors and other ways you can use the color wheel to help you select plants for your garden.  Check it out here.

  1. Deborah says

    Here in the Northeast, wouldn’t have my flower gardens any other way than with colorful, contrasting plants. Always checking
    out new varieties each year. The MORE different colors, the better!!:)

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