Amelia has been an avid gardener since childhood and enjoys experimenting with natural and sustainable gardening methods.
Choosing a Color Scheme for Edible Plants
As with any kind of landscape, a good edible landscape design needs a coherent color scheme to prevent a chaotic appearance, and it is easier than you may think. All you have to do is choose two or three colors (in addition to green) that look good together and with the surroundings, then stick to those colors. It really is that simple.
However, if you are looking for inspiration or just want to explore options, read on to find out how to match up color combinations and create a coherent, beautiful color scheme.
Using the Color Wheel
The color wheel, such as the one above, is a remarkable tool for choosing a color scheme. By choosing complements, analogs, or triads (explained later), you will find surprising and pleasing combinations.
Also, the color wheel will help you stick to your color scheme. Without precise colors to match, you may find that you miss your mark. When I began my current front yard edible landscape, I chose purple, orange and yellow. However, as I began planting, I discovered that the purple Thai Basil is really much too red to go with lavender or Johnny Jump Up in my composition. And, though I wanted to grow purple coneflower, I couldn’t find a variety that is actually purple rather than pink.
Matching Tints and Shades
Finally, a good color wheel will help you match tints and shades that will go with the colors you have chosen. This is especially helpful in matching other features of your yard, such as your house or fence color, to a place on the color wheel.
Red and Orange: Warning!
A word of caution is in order: orange and red can be visually caustic in a landscape, especially in the hot, blazing sun. Though I was overall pleased with my original plan, I did find the orange to be too caustic and have since limited it to a few low-growing flowers as well as some seasonal foliage. However, these colors do not have to be ruled out altogether if they are colors you really love.
Rosalind Creasy, a talented proponent of edible landscaping, successfully incorporates red into her gardens, often with purple and in shade. I admire how she matches red flowers with red fruit and a red bench or trellis. It is easy to recognize the beauty in these palettes, yet I know that I do not want that in my space. Know thyself.
What to Consider Before You Choose Colors for Your Garden
First, consider what colors you have already in your hardscapes. The color of your house will probably be the most important consideration, along with colors of fences and patios. If you often park in front of your house, your car should be another consideration.
If you have a boisterously colored neighboring house, you have the choice of incorporating that color into your scheme or perhaps planting some tall bushes to block the view.
How to Arrange the Colors
The important thing is to find a combination that pleases you. What follows are several kinds of combinations that may help you find something to suit your taste and your place. See the images above for examples of these combinations.
Perhaps the most intuitive of colors to combine are those that appear next to each other on the color wheel. This includes combos such as blue and purple, or yellow and orange. These are called analogs and tend to be calmer than other combinations.
Choosing colors that appear exactly opposite each other on the color wheel, called complements, produces an exciting, yet still pleasant combination. This includes purple and yellow or blue and orange.
Triads are three colors found equidistant on the color wheel (each separated by three colors). These are, to me, the most novel arrangements. For instance, the three secondary colors, green, orange and violet, form a surprisingly pleasing and exciting combination.
This is the combination I used in my current front yard. To create a split complement:
- Choose a color, in my case blue-violet.
- Find its complement, yellow-orange.
- Take the colors on either side of the complement, yellow and orange.
In this case, the split complement includes blue-violet (lavender), yellow, and orange. This explains why red and violet can work together. They form a split complement with yellow-green.
Experiment and Have Fun
I hope this doesn't sound like math homework. Experimenting with color can be really fun once you get started. These tools can also help you understand combinations that you see that you like, whether they be around your house or in catalogs or stores.
Thai Chili Pepper
Prolific fruits stand out on the ends of stems and hold well.
Red Sorrel (Bloody Dock)
Perennial Green with red veins
Beet, Bulls blood
Can be planted quite early, have a potted plant ready to fill the space when you harvest
Perennial, large leaves add texture to edible garden, stems edible
Small to medium tree. Color depends on variety.
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)
Violet-shaded stems, light violet flowers, shiny violet fruit
Perennial, first to bloom after tulips
Hyssop, Korean Hyssop
Nitrogen fixer, may not be edible
Looks like an enormous purple flower
Blue Balloon Flower
Red foliage in autumn, 'Peach Sorbet' holds on to violet-colored leaves all winter.
Needs two varieties for pollination
Hardy to zone 5, evergreen.
Many sizes, medicinal use, young needles edible, comes in many sizes, evergreen
Annual in colder climates, grassy texture unusual in edible garden
Chartreuse Elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Aurea')
Berries for jam or wine, stands out in the shade
Aralia cordata 'Sun King'
Young leaves and shoots edible
Blossoms used for cough tea
Shungiku Edible Chrysanthemum
Leaves used in stir-fry and Japanese cooking
Peppers: Bell, Sweet, Hot
Support with a stick painted one of the colors in your palette
May repel undesirable insects
Some varieties hardy to zone 6, look for self-fruiting
'Bonfire' has red foliage
Enjoy Your Colorful, Edible Front Yard!
These are but a very few ideas to get you started. I originally tried to use only edible plants but have branched out to include medicinal, nitrogen-fixing, and even purely ornamental plants. So feel free to include your favorite flowers to give a colorful boost to your yard. For more help planning your garden, check out my article on Designing an Edible Front Yard for more planting ideas.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Amelia Walker
Amelia Walker (author) from Idaho on March 20, 2017:
Thank you, Ellen. I hope your gardening goes well.
Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on March 19, 2017:
Your garden is absolutely beautiful. I aspire to get mine to look that way. Your instructions will be very helpful.
Amelia Walker (author) from Idaho on March 03, 2017:
That is a good point, Bella Shaikh. Edible landscapes do have the advantage of being safer for the little ones in our lives as well as showing them where our food comes from. Keep in mind that not not all parts of all edible plants are edible. Tomato plants and rhubarb leaves, for instance, are both toxic. Thanks for posting!
Bella Shaikh from UK on March 03, 2017:
I like this concept and will try it in my own garden. I have a small child at home so its important to keep my garden edible but also pretty and practical.
Amelia Walker (author) from Idaho on February 27, 2017:
Thank you, Au fait. Your color collections are lovely!
C E Clark from North Texas on February 26, 2017:
You have such pretty photos! I've taken the liberty of saving some of your photos to my Pinterest boards and I hope that's OK. I have saved 4 photos to my Green 5, Blue 6, and purple 9 boards. You can view them by accessing my Pinterest account through my profile page if you wish. My color boards are very popular, and hopefully you will receive many visits to this article as a result.