Aug 152010
 

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

With a little planning and preparation it is easy to achieve a garden with colour and interest all year round.

Design Techniques with Colour


There are many techniques to successfully combine colours in the garden, and some of these can be better understood by using a colour wheel. Colours next to each other on the colour wheel are known as complementary colours, whereas those opposite each other on the colour wheel are contrasting colours. If you are unsure of what colour combinations will work, use either complementary (adjacent) or contrasting (opposite) combinations of colour for guaranteed success.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

However, if you are more adventurous you can use just about any combination of colour. Combining ‘clashing’ colours may also work as long as they are the same depth of colour. For example, combine all pastel shades together (Mauve, Lemon, Pale Pink), or all use all bright shades (Deep Blue, Canary Yellow and Hot Pink). Alternatively, white and silver or grey may be used to dilute stronger ‘clashing’ colours.

Different colours will add a sense of depth to the garden by receding into the background or jumping into the foreground. As a general rule, pale hues and shades of blue will recede, whereas bright hues and shades of yellow will appear closer. Shades of red will tend to occupy the middle ground, but will appear closer if of brighter intensity and towards the yellow spectrum, or further away if of pale intensity and towards the blue spectrum.

Hot and cool is another way to describe colour, with red, orange and yellow the hot colours and blue, purple and green the cool colours. White tends to be a cool colour, and is particularly effective when used in shady areas. Black tends to disappear in the garden, therefore if using black foliage or flowers for colour, combine with white, silver or pastel shades as a contrast.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Flower colour

Usually, we think of flowers to provide colour and interest in the garden throughout the year. Most plants flower for a short time during the year, a show that can last for a few weeks to an entire season. Some plants may be pruned to encourage a repeat performance to extend the show. Therefore, when planning planting schemes it is good to know when the main flowering season of a plant is.

Foliage colour

Colour highlights in the garden may also be provided by foliage colours other than green. There are many evergreen and deciduous plants with interesting foliage colours such as lime, gold, yellow, cream, white, silver, grey, blue, pink, burgundy, russet, red and orange.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Many plants have a combination of colours on the foliage known as variegation. The forms of variegation of many plants is huge, with striped, blotched, spotted, margined, and even chequered patterns. Variegation is usually green and gold, cream or white, but some variegation is a combination of other colours. Foliage colour may also be seasonal, particularly in deciduous plants (think of the beautiful Autumn colour of many deciduous trees), but also in evergreen plants (for example the new red growth of Photinia).

Fruit, berries, seed pods and bark may also provide colour at various times during the year.

Using a Combination of Plants

(Annuals / Perennials / Bulbs / Shrubs / Trees / Climbers)
When planning for colour in your garden, it is important to remember that all levels from the ground up may provide colour throughout the year. Therefore using a combination of plants from groundcovers to trees can really pack a colourful punch in a limited space. Using large blocks or rows of plants requires a larger space to have the same impact.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Soil and Maintenance

It is essential to provide a healthy soil environment to ensure the success of your colour display. Use composts and manures to add to the existing soil, mulch thickly, fertilise using organic fertilisers, and water when needed. Regular maintenance of the soil environment is beneficial. Top dress planted areas with compost and manure on a regular basis.

Pruning and re – planting areas will also prolong the display, add to your compost supplies and provide propagation material for future displays. Collecting seed, dividing plants and taking cuttings is a good way to renew the display and will keep the display looking fresh.

Seasons

Separate areas of the garden can be planted for a simultaneous and spectacular display at one particular time of the year. Alternatively garden beds can be planted so that there is always something in colour all throughout the year, using a clever mix of plants.

The following are some lists of plants for the Melbourne area, which add colour to the various seasons, in different positions in the garden. However, there are many more plants you can use to create your own display.

Hot Colours for Shady Areas

Plant

Flowering Season

Nursery Section / Habit

Canna Lilies

Summer

Perennial Rhizome

Clivea

Spring

Perennial Lily

Bromeliads

Summer

Perennial Bromeliad

New Guinea Impatiens

Summer

Annual

Camellia japonica cvs.

Winter

Medium to Tall Shrub

Cordyline

All year

Perennial, Shrub

Coleus

Summer

Annual

Rhododendron

Autumn, Spring

Small to Large Shrub

Mollis Azalea

Spring

Medium Shrub

Fucshia

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Small Shrub

Cyclamen

Autumn, Winter

Bulb, Corm

Primula acaulis

Winter

Annual

Begonia Tuberous and Cane

Summer

Annual, Perennial

Aucuba japonica

All year

Medium Shrub

Abutilon X hybrida

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Medium Shrub

Correa N

Autumn, Spring

Small Shrub

Cool Colours for Shady Areas

Plant

Flowering Season

Nursery Section / Habit

Hydrangea

Summer

Small to Medium Shrub

Azalea

Spring

Small Shrub

Cineraria

Winter

Annual

Daphne

Winter

Small Shrub

Viola and Pansy

Autumn, Winter, Spring

Annual, Perennial Groundcover

Impatiens

Summer

Annual

Liriope muscari

Autumn

Perennial Grass

Pieris

Spring

Medium Shrub

Plectranthus ecklonii

Autumn

Perennial

Anemone X hybrida

Autumn

Perennial

Ajuga

Autumn

Perennial Groundcover

Camellia sasanqua cvs.

Autumn, Winter

Medium to Tall Shrub

Helleborus orientalis

Winter

Perennial

Philotheca myoporoides N

Spring

Small to Medium Shrub

Aquilegia

Spring, Summer

Annual

Brachyscome multifida N

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Perennial Groundcover

Lilies Oriental

Summer

Bulb

Hot Colours for Sunny Areas

Plant

Flowering Season

Nursery Section / Habit

Hibiscus

Summer

Medium Shrub

Bougainvillea

Summer

Climber

Roses

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Shrub, Climber

Portulaca

Summer

Annual

Anigozanthos cvs. N

Summer

Perennial Strap Leaf

Phormium

All Year

Perennial Strap Leaf

Daffodils

Spring

Bulb

Grevillea spp. N

All Year

Small to Tall Shrubs

Ranunculus

Spring

Bulb

Euryops pectinatus

Winter

Medium Shrub

Geraniums

Summer

Perennial

Callistemon spp.

Autumn, Spring

Small Shrubs to Small Trees

Acacia spp. N

Winter, Spring

Medium Shrubs to Small Trees

Citrus

All Year

Evergreen Tree

Sedum spectabile

Autumn

Perennial Succulent

Chanomeles japonica

Winter

Medium Shrub

Lagerstroemia (Crepe Myrtle)

Autumn

Deciduous Tree

Chrysocephalum sp. N

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Perennial Groundcover

Robinia Sunburst

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Deciduous Tree

Verbena

Summer, Autumn

Annual, Perennial Groundcover

Cool Colours for Sunny Areas

Plant

Flowering Season

Nursery Section / Habit

Plumbago auriculata

Summer, Autumn

Medium Shrub

Magnolia Deciduous

Spring

Tall Shrub, Small Deciduous Tree

Hardenbergia violacea N

Winter

Climber

Prunus spp.

Spring

Deciduous Tree

Petunias

Summer

Annual

Tulips

Spring

Bulb

Chamelaucium uncinatum N

Winter, Spring

Medium Shrub

Bearded Iris

Spring, Early Summer

Perennial Rhizome

Federation Daisies

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Small Shrub

Cosmos

Summer

Annual

Alogyne heuglii N

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Medium Shrub

Alyssum

Summer

Annual

Primula malacoides

Winter

Annual

Salvias

Summer, Autumn

Perennial

Lavendar cvs.

Summer, Autumn

Small Shrub

Eremophila nivea N

Winter, Spring

Medium Shrub

Choisya ternata

Summer

Medium Shrub

Limonium perezii

Summer

Perennial

Erysimum Winter Joy

Winter, Spring

Perennial, Small Shrub