Using color effectively can create a feeling of excitement or a sense of peaceful calm in a garden. Color is a personal matter, and there are no set rules to follow. The following guidelines can be bent to satisfy personal taste.
- When planning a garden, think of it as a three-dimensional painting and the plant colors as colors on an artist's palette. Some colors will dominate and be spread with broad-brush strokes, whereas small dabs of others will give depth and dimension. Try to envision how you want the entire garden to look.
- Have a color plan. Do you like a monochromatic color scheme where all the flowers share the same pigment? An example would be red, pink and burgundy impatiens planted among pink and red Astilbes. Perhaps you prefer a rich tapestry of many colors.
- A color wheel is handy. A complementary scheme uses colors that are directly opposite each other on the wheel. Examples are red and green, orange and blue, yellow and violet. Some very striking combinations can be made with complements.
"To brighten a shady area, use light colors such as white, light pinks or pale blues," Martha Smith, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. "Dark colors tend to get lost in shady areas. You can still use deep colors, but be sure to use lighter colors around or behind them to provide contrast so that they will stand out and be seen."