Flowers add excitement, variety, accent and color to the landscape. They are often the first element noticed in a landscape design. Sometimes flowers can be a distracting or dissonant part of a landscape if they are over used or if color combinations are not harmonious.
Warm colors such as red, orange and yellow add life and excitement. They are often used to highlight or accent. A large splash of red or yellow is effective in drawing attention from a distance.
Cool colors include blue, green, violet and the pastel pinks and lavenders. Even a light creamy yellow can be a cool color. Cool colors create an atmosphere of relaxation. They tend to blend with rather than stand out from surrounding greenery.
White and other light colors which reflect light are good choices in flower beds which receive night lighting.
Color choice can have a strong effect upon the mood which is created in a landscape. For example, on a visit to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, I enjoyed the extensive use of flowers in a setting which is intended for religious contemplation. I asked the head gardener why there were no bright red and orange colors. He replied that they were trying to create an unhurried atmosphere of peace and solitude. The colors had been carefully chosen to reinforce that mood.
Choosing Color Combinations
There are many different color choices and combinations which can be used to beautify a landscape. The possibilities are almost limitless. One reason for the popularity of annual flowers is that they make year to year changes easier. Different people have different tastes in color combinations, so there is really no right or wrong combination. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, there are some principles and combinations which have more general or universal appeal.
One of the most pleasing color choices is monochromatic. Monochromatic could mean a bed of red petunias. It could also mean several shades of the same color. For example, a border with three different flowers in ascending heights might be three different shades of pink or blue. Another almost monochromatic color scheme includes shades of two colors right next to each other on the color wheel. For example shades of blue and lavender or lavender and pink. Sometimes neutral colors such as white, silvery gray or light yellow are added to a monochromatic planting to give definition or contrast.
Complimentary colors, that is, those on opposite sides of the color wheel, are very pleasing contrasts to most viewers. Some of our traditional holiday colors are complimentary. The red and green of Christmas are complimentary. Also the purple and yellow of the Easter season. Orange and blue is a less widely used complimentary combination. Near complimentary combinations are also pleasing. For example, blue and yellow or pink and violet blue. One of Mother Nature’s favorite wildflower combinations is yellow and gold shades mixed with blue and purple shades.
Certain color combinations are often jarring to most viewers. Oranges and bright yellows usually do not combine well with bright reds and pinks. These colors tend to fight for attention when planted right next to each other. On the other hand, simply placing a neutral white or silvery gray between two strong colors may remove the sting.
Complete mixtures of color can also be effective. The full range of flower colors in a single species are usually quite compatible. Incompatibilities sometimes arise when mixtures from two or more species are combined. For example, a mixture of marigolds or a mixture of petunias are each quite attractive. But when you combine a mixture of marigolds with a mixture of petunias, the effect can be quite jarring. On the other hand, a mixture of snapdragons has good color compatibility with a mixture of petunias.