Some More About Color

A week ago I talked about color and how my sense of color has evolved as I have grown and changed as a gardener. I wonder if those of you that have been gardening awhile have found that to be true?

For those of you that are beginning gardeners, this may or may not happen to you. Gardening is a life-long adventure. That’s what makes it so interesting. There’s always something new to learn and always something new to explore.

Sydney Eddison, one of the great gardeners and garden writers, who has written many books on lots of different aspects of gardening, was also an artist. She was especially sensitive to the use of color in the garden. In her “middle years” of gardening, she would change up the color of her patio furniture and even her structures like pergolas to match what she was planting in a given year. She talks about it in her book on container gardening called Gardens to Go.

While I haven’t yet gone to that extreme–and I don’t know that I ever will–I definitely have years when I prefer “hot” colors and years when I prefer “cool” colors. Luckily, because I do garden in containers, I can change it out every year without redoing my entire garden!

What do I mean by “hot” or “cool” colors?

Without making this overly complicated, in color theory there are 3 groups of colors: complimentary, harmonizing and contrasting. You can see this by looking at a Color Wheel (artists are familiar with this tool–gardeners less so.)


Both “hot” colors like reds, oranges and yellows, and “cool” colors like blues, lilacs, pinks and the purple family are in the “complimentary” category. What does that mean? It means they are next to one another on the color wheel. Look at the wheel and you can see that.

What does this look like in a “plant palette?”


Here’s a “hot” colored container using orange and yellow flowers–and leaves.

For a very different look–and a different part of the spectrum but still plants in the “comlimentary” range, try this:

rose & hydrangea

This is a shrub rose and a hydrangea. Pink and red together–it’s not something I would have planted together had I been thinking about it, but it’s worked out incredibly well.

On Monday we’ll talk about–and show–some other examples of color theory. Sometimes pictures speak louder than words!

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