Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners

Using color in the landscape

Colors evoke certain emotions. Red draws attention because it is the color that the eye sees first and will get a garden noticed.

Yellow draws attention and can signify a warning. Yellow marigolds lining a stairway will make people slow down and pay attention.

Pink lacks the passion of red but is warmer than blue. It can range from a bright rose-pink to a very pale pastel pink, so it can be used either as an exciting, bright color or a charming, warm color.

Blue, a common favorite color, is cool and relaxing. It is easy to combine with other colors, and, when combined with white, it can make a garden appear much cooler, even on a hot day!

White, ivory and gray mediate between colors. You can use colors that clash, such as pink and orange, if you carefully use whites and grays to soften them. White and gray can be used alone in a garden, too. If you work during the day and only get to enjoy your garden at night, you might choose to do an all-white garden. It is a crisp and clean color that shows up well at night, and can also be used to line dark paths.

Green helps the eyes relax and recover from strain. Trees, lawns and shrubs all provide lots of green areas.

By studying the psychology of colors, you can create gardens that enhance moods or feelings, or make a garden appear longer, closer or wider.

Bright bold colors like red, yellow and orange are exciting and stand out. They are called hot colors. Blues, violets and greens are cool colors. They are relaxing and tend to fade. Bright, bold colors should be used to draw attention. Cool colors should be used near places for relaxing, like a hammock.

More bright colors are used in Colorado because the area's intense sunlight fades and washes out colors. The natural surroundings have more earth tones to them, with reddish rocks or sandstone and dry prairie grasses. Even the gray concrete of urban settings is set off with brighter colors. In the east, northwest and European areas, there are many more tree, green grasses and shrubs, providing background for gardens. Those shady, leafy forests are better combined with pastels and light colors that highlight those dark areas.

Our natural landscape gives us hints of types of architecture, color and culture that fit with the area. Bright red, orange and yellow are more visible in the full sun and blend with the local flavor. White, pale yellow and pastel pink fade under Colorado's intense sunlight. In older established neighborhoods, lighter colors work well where trees shade streets and houses, on the north side of buildings, against lots of dark green evergreens or large expanses of lawns.

Adapted from an article


Painting_by Pio Carlone

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