Introduction to Color in the Landscape

We are surrounded by color in every aspect of our lives. Learn how to use color as a tool to achieve the look and feel you want!?

I first learned the intricacies of color while painting. The Impressionist Painters were especially attuned to how our eyes perceive light. The combinations of color convey a message and mood that before I was completely unaware of.

Outdoors you are bombarded by color, texture, scent and form. Whether natural or man-made, we take in enormous amounts of color every day. Especially digitally color saturates our news feeds and entertainment.

Just as with a painting; as a Landscape Designer I consider the impact of each color on the over all goal. In the video above I mention how cooler colors are more calming and hotter colors energizing. Within each color however are ways to combine it with others that change the feel.

If you want to try something fun as you look at the images below. Stop on each image and write down your first impression before reading the text. At the end look back at what you wrote, see if you’re drawn to a certain combination!

The Color Wheel - Illustrated with Flowers


Monochromatic Color Scheme

This is the easiest to illustrate, it’s all one color but can be all different shades. So think light lavender, purple and a deep dark purple. You can have many different plants with leaves and flowers all ranging in that color.



Analogous Color Scheme

This is three colors next to each other on the color wheel. So sticking to our purple starting point, we can go towards red and then to orange. It keeps things connected, all three have some red in them so there’s a commonality.



Complimentary Color Scheme

I talked a little about this in my video. These are colors that physically our eyes cannot see at the same time. The results when putting them next to each other is often a tension. It can also be used to generate movement and energy in a design. We used this technique in the golden swath, grouping the yellow golds together in a band running through the lavender purples.



Split Complimentary

This is a great way to add complexity and energy with more options. A great example of this would be Purple with Yellow-Orange and Chartreuse or a Yellow-Green.



Triad Color Combination

Triads are a combination of three colors around the wheel. Such as yellow, blue and red or purple, orange and green. In my own garden I had yellow, red and blue while being gorgeous it’s a busy combination.


Okay, if you indulged me and jotted down you impressions of the colors take a moment to go back and read each. Did you gravitate to the analogous colors or the complex split complimentary? 

This is but the briefest introduction, we will be delving deeper into each color and when to use it in the landscape. 

Play with the color wheel yourself:

Adobe Color Wheel

Here are some excellent sources to learn more about color theory and the color wheel:

Color meaning and symbolism: How to use the power of color in your branding

Creating with the Color Wheel

Basic Color Design Principles - Using Color in the Garden