Color theory covers a variety of definitions, concepts and design applications. When it comes to gardening and landscape design color is usually the most prominent factor in the design process and the first one considered. Color is what most people are drawn too, people know what they like when they see it.
When it comes to gardening, color theory can also help to set a specific mood. Orange for example will help create a fun and happy environment, while a garden filled with blue flowers would create a calm and tranquil outdoor space.
The basic color wheel consist of 12 colors. Primary Colors are something everyone learns at a young age, to refresh your memory the primary colors are red, yellow and blue. Secondary colors which are created from combining two primary colors together are orange, green and purple. Finally tertiaries, colors of both a primary and secondary color round out the remaining spaces, these colors are yellow-orange, yellow-green & blue-violet.
There are two different options to take when thinking of gardening color theory, harmonious and contrasting. Harmonious are colors that are next to each other and share a similar value. Contrasting colors are the complete opposite and do not share any similarities.
One harmonious option would be monochromatic, which would consist of using flowers of one color in a variety of hues and shades. A Monochromatic approach is subtle, sophisticated and minimalistic, the greenery also helps to break up the color. A second harmonious option would be analogous, using colors adjacent to one another on the color wheel. An example of this would be using flowers that are red, yellow and orange closely related colors helps to use a variety without going overboard.
For those of you who want more variety there are also some contrasting options for you to consider. The first option is using complimentary colors which are two colors found opposite on the color wheel (red/green, orange/blue, purple/yellow). Since complimentary colors share no similar pigments you will get the maximum contrast, if your looking for contrast but don’t want to be too abrupt you could choose one main color and use the second as a filler color. You could also work with 3 equidistant colors (triads) or one color and the two colors on either side of it’s compliment (for example violet with yellow-green and yellow-orange).
Of course for those who want to stand out from the rest you could always go with a polychromatic pallet by using every color. This option can become quite chaotic if not planned out carefully, or absolutely stunning when done right. Whatever colors you want to experiment with, remember to have fun and choose the types of flowers you like.