Colour in the garden

thegardener's picture
red and violet colours
red and green colours
red and white flowers
red and orange flowers

Taste in fashion combines our experience (and genetics / instincts, probably) with historical trends to determine what is attractive. In designing gardens, factors to be considered include the growing and dormant season colour, and the demands of Calgary’s growing conditions. We can choose colours that contrast greatly with one another, or colours that are similar - or we can contrast plant colour with adjacent house, fence, hedge or path colour, and the surrounding relaxing green of foliage. We see different colours at different times of the day: we can brighten up dark corners with bright colours - it’s our choice!

The concept of colour wheels has been around for centuries, and scientists, for instance Isaac Newton in 1706, and artists use them in communication. Garden designers when discussing colour wheels often refer to opposing, aka complementary, colours, and analogous aka adjacent colours. Using the former colour combinations can create a dramatic scene, and the latter, more harmonious. For example various shades of red (a “hot” colour or hue) and orange would be harmonious, whereas a red plant next to a green plant could demand one’s attention. Foliage, berries, stems, lawn grass, paths etc., contribute to the “painting” of the garden, Texture too alters our appreciation of colour. From the artistic point of view (as opposed to the scientific perspective), white and black are colours and their contribution impacts the amount of light reflected:
Cornell University colour wheel for gardening this is an excellent website for more information.

Incidentally, bees can differentiate most of the colours as we see, but while humans see the red to violet spectrum of visible light, bees react to different, higher frequencies, seeing orange-yellow to even ultraviolet – in other word, red attracts bees, but they would not recognize it as “red” … perhaps it would look black to them?

April issue newsletter 298 words, March 25, 2017