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Spring Awakening: Color Your Garden

Updated on April 02, 2016
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Part-time farmer, part-time traveler, Viet Doan lives in Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii with his partner and a lazy old cat.

A busy bee on Surinam Cherry blossoms.
A busy bee on Surinam Cherry blossoms. | Source

The day is getting longer. The temperature is getting warmer. The sun is shining brighter. Bees are happily buzzing around new blooms.

Spring is the perfect time to give your garden a fresh makeover: clean up winter debris, remove dead plants, add compost and mulch to the soil, and plant new flowers.

Here’s the challenge: when it comes to flowers, choosing the perfect color can be a daunting task. The flowers for sale at your local nursery come in a multitude of shades and hues, making it quite difficult to decide what colors look best in your garden.

Landscape designers often work with the color wheel when they plant trees and flowers. The color wheel shows the relationship between colors and how colors work with one another. You may use the color wheel as a guide to plant your own garden. It’s simple and easy to use.

Source

COLOR WHEEL BASICS

There are 6 major colors on the color wheel.

RED, YELLOW, BLUE are primary colors.

ORANGE, GREEN, VIOLET are secondary colors.

In the gaps between the 3 primary and 3 secondary colors there’s a full spectrum of countless tertiary colors in every shades and hues you could ever imagine. For example: yellowish green, greenish blue, bluish purple, orangey red, etc.

HOW TO USE THE COLOR WHEEL

1. WARM COLORS

RED, ORANGE, and YELLOW on the left side of the color wheel represent warm colors. Warm colored flowers draw your attention to themselves and make your garden feel lively and exciting. They magically lighten up a shaded area or a dull corner. Warm colored flowers are most effective when planting in large numbers and look best in formal flower beds; around the edges of a big lawn; or to highlight a focal point (i.e. statue or gazebo) in the garden.

Red is a primary color and the most conspicuous warm color. Red flowers stand out in the garden like this Torch Ginger.
Red is a primary color and the most conspicuous warm color. Red flowers stand out in the garden like this Torch Ginger. | Source
Bromeliad 'Flaming Sword' lights up a shady spot.
Bromeliad 'Flaming Sword' lights up a shady spot. | Source
Red color flowers like this dwarf Poinciana are prolific in tropical gardens.
Red color flowers like this dwarf Poinciana are prolific in tropical gardens. | Source
Yellow is one of the primary colors and a warm color.  Clockwise from top left: Allamanda; Tree Marigold; Buttercups; Spider Orchid; Shrimp Plant.
Yellow is one of the primary colors and a warm color. Clockwise from top left: Allamanda; Tree Marigold; Buttercups; Spider Orchid; Shrimp Plant. | Source
Hibiscus 'Bonaire Wind' with petals in light shade of yellow and white center.
Hibiscus 'Bonaire Wind' with petals in light shade of yellow and white center. | Source
Orange is one of secondary colors and also a warm color.  Clockwise from top left: Tulip tree; Bougainvillea; Vanda orchid; Hibicus 'Orange Sherbet'; Canna lily.
Orange is one of secondary colors and also a warm color. Clockwise from top left: Tulip tree; Bougainvillea; Vanda orchid; Hibicus 'Orange Sherbet'; Canna lily. | Source
Tropical Vireya Rhododendron flowers in glowing orange color.
Tropical Vireya Rhododendron flowers in glowing orange color. | Source
Orange Angel's Trumpet tree in full bloom.
Orange Angel's Trumpet tree in full bloom. | Source

2. COOL COLORS

GREEN, BLUE, and VIOLET on the right side of the wheel represent cool colors. Cool colored flowers have a calming effect. They blend in well with the surrounding foliage, therefore can make your garden look bigger. They also make sunny area become “cooler”. Cool colored flowers are best used along narrow pathway; in small backyard or patio garden; around water features (i.e. pond or fountain); or to mix in with warm colored flowers to soften their intensity.

Blue is a primary color and a cool colors.  Clockwise from top left: Plumbago; Thunbergia 'Blue Boy'; Bromeliad flower; Blue Butterfly bush.
Blue is a primary color and a cool colors. Clockwise from top left: Plumbago; Thunbergia 'Blue Boy'; Bromeliad flower; Blue Butterfly bush. | Source
Hibiscus 'Blue Jean Baby' with blue-gray petals and reddish maroon center.
Hibiscus 'Blue Jean Baby' with blue-gray petals and reddish maroon center. | Source
Green is a secondary color but also considered as a neutral color because it's the common color of foliage.  Not many flowers come in green. Here's a Dendrobium orchid with bright green blooms.
Green is a secondary color but also considered as a neutral color because it's the common color of foliage. Not many flowers come in green. Here's a Dendrobium orchid with bright green blooms. | Source
Ylang Ylang flowers are green when young.  As the flowers mature, they turn lemony yellow and become extremely fragrant.
Ylang Ylang flowers are green when young. As the flowers mature, they turn lemony yellow and become extremely fragrant. | Source
Violet is a soothing cool color and a secondary color.  Clockwise from top left: Sandpaper vine; Mexican petunia; Zygopetalum orchid; Tibouchina Glory flower; Water Hyacinth.
Violet is a soothing cool color and a secondary color. Clockwise from top left: Sandpaper vine; Mexican petunia; Zygopetalum orchid; Tibouchina Glory flower; Water Hyacinth. | Source
Yesterday-Today-and Tomorrow flowers change from purple to light lavender to white as they mature.
Yesterday-Today-and Tomorrow flowers change from purple to light lavender to white as they mature. | Source
Princess Flower has brilliant royal purple flowers.
Princess Flower has brilliant royal purple flowers. | Source

4. ANALOGOUS COLORS

Colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel are called analogous colors. Flowers in analogous colors are most compatible because they complement one another, especially when planting next to each other in the garden. They create an intimate, harmonious “Zen” effect.

Analogous colors include: YELLOW and GREEN; GREEN and BLUE; BLUE and VIOLET; VIOLET and RED; RED and ORANGE; ORANGE and YELLOW.

5. COMPLIMENTARY COLORS

Colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel are known as complimentary colors. They intensify each other, i.e. make the colors look brighter than they are. Flowers in complimentary colors make your garden “pop” because they create such a vivid, pleasant contrast.

Complimentary colors include: YELLOW and VIOLET; GREEN and RED; BLUE and ORANGE.

Example of analogous colors: blue (Plumbago) and violet (Chinese Violet).
Example of analogous colors: blue (Plumbago) and violet (Chinese Violet). | Source
Example of complimentary colors: violet (Purple Passion Flower) and yellow (Tree Marigold).
Example of complimentary colors: violet (Purple Passion Flower) and yellow (Tree Marigold). | Source

5. TRIAD COLOR SCHEME

Another fun way to plant your garden is to use the triad color scheme: select any 3 adjacent colors from the color wheel, make one of them the dominant color and let the other two play “supporting roles”. This method also works with the 3 primary or 3 secondary colors. For example: a flower bed looks exceptionally attractive with BLUE, VIOLET, and RED colored flowers but it will be less intense with more BLUE flowers and just a few accent RED and VIOLET blossoms here and there.

6. MONOCHROMATIC THEME

Using one color (or its variations) for all the flowers in your garden is referred to as the monochromatic theme. Select a favorite color on the color wheel, imagine if you’re an artist, mixing that color with the 2 neutral colors WHITE or BLACK, then you will get a variety of colors in lighter or darker shades of the original color. For example: a garden planted exclusively with flowers in PINK, ROSE, MAGENTA, FUCHSIA, and CRIMSON (all variations of RED) can be quite eye-catching.

Bougainvillea is perhaps the most common garden flower in Hawaii.  This one is in hot magenta color.
Bougainvillea is perhaps the most common garden flower in Hawaii. This one is in hot magenta color. | Source
Pink Begonia is another popular garden flower in Hawaii.
Pink Begonia is another popular garden flower in Hawaii. | Source
Fuchsia Lipstick plant is aptly named for the shape and color of its flower buds.
Fuchsia Lipstick plant is aptly named for the shape and color of its flower buds. | Source
Starburst (also called Shooting Star) is spectacular when in full bloom with its cluster of pale rose flowers.
Starburst (also called Shooting Star) is spectacular when in full bloom with its cluster of pale rose flowers. | Source
Hibiscus 'High Heaven' with creamy white petals and bleeding crimson center.
Hibiscus 'High Heaven' with creamy white petals and bleeding crimson center. | Source

There is no right or wrong when it comes to color in the garden. It is simply a matter of personal taste. Some gardeners love brightly colored flowers. Others prefer delicate pastel blooms. Some like a wild mix of colors. Others enjoy a monochromatic theme garden.

Whatever color choices you choose for this season, it’s YOUR garden and may it give you a great sense of pride and enjoyment.

ABOUT THIS HUB

The photos in this hub are taken from the author’s garden on the Big Island, Hawaii. He’s still trying to grow the notoriously difficult but gorgeous Blue Jade vine.

All photos were taken by the author with an Olympus Stylus TG-630 iHS digital camera and iPhone6.

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2016 Viet Doan (punacoast)

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    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 11 months ago from Los Angeles

      Stunning garden plants and photographs of them! Thank you for the helpful tips of punching color w/ reds and oranges, cooling them with blues and purples, and making statements either way with monochromatic schemes. Interesting hub!

    • m abdullah javed profile image

      muhammad abdullah javed 11 months ago

      Excellent Veit, thank you so much for the colorful share. Very interesting and useful.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 11 months ago from New York

      Gorgeous photographs! You are very talented. They make me miss home so much. Today in New York I watched it snow all day.

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