CO-Horts Blog

Friday, May 10, 2013

Adding Pizazz to the Landscape

Posted by David Whiting, Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist, Department of Horticulture & LA, Colorado State University.
During the next few weeks, gardeners will be busy adding annuals and new perennials to the landscape.  Let us review a few landscape design techniques to give pizazz to  the garden.

 In landscape design, use of color is not about mixing all the colors.  But rather about selecting colors to create moods and feelings that match the activities of the various outdoor rooms.  For example:
  • Red engenders passion, courage, power, wealth, motivation, and fame.  Some like the energy that red brings.
  • Yellow engenders joy, happiness, communication, inspiration, sunshine and optimism. 
  • Blue engenders imagination, calm, serenity, relaxation, compassion, and reflection.  It is almost magical in creating the feeling of peace and tranquility.
  • Green engenders harmony, beginnings, prosperity, nature, growth, and healing.  Green is amazing in its ability to help heal physical and emotional pain.
  • Orange engenders enthusiasm, joy, exuberance, interaction, fun, captivation, and sex.  Most people have a love or hate relationship with orange.
  • Purple engenders intuition, devotions, respect, peace, spirituality, and awareness.  In all cultures of humankind, it has been the color of deity and royalty.
  • White  In the landscape, white is a dominate color rather than neutral.  Thus, it is not the best team players when mixed with other colors.  For someone who enjoys being in the garden at night, consider a white garden, also known as a night garden.   In the moonlight, whites and silvers, and grays come alive, while other colors go to bed at sundown.
  • Pink engenders love, sweetness, uplifting, happiness, tenderness, and enticement.  This is one color where there is no agreement among people about the feelings and moods that it creates.  For most, pink is either a love or hate relationship.  Even different shade of pink may create different feeling and moods.

This paring of the round flower with the spike flower is popular at Butchart Gardens, BC, Canada.  For dominance and subordination, fill the bed with 1/3 of one flower and 2/3 of the other flower, not half and half of each.

Warm colors (reds, oranges, and yellows) are conspicuous, cheerful, stimulating, come forward and have high energy (scale).  Use warm color in outdoor rooms with action, parties, and entertainment. 

Warm colors work best when used in color sequence.  For example, in an orange / yellowish-orange / orangish-yellow / yellow sequence, the orange would dominant.  Use the orange at the focal point.  In sequencing to the yellowish-orange, add at least 1/3 more of the yellowish-orange plants.  Then, in sequencing to the orangish-yellow, add at least 1/3 more plant.  And, at least 1/3 more plants again as it sequences to the yellow.  This sequencing builds the landscape design principle of emphasis (dominance and subordination).  Note this is not ¼ of each color!

Here at Butchart Gardens, daisy flowers are paired with red leaf cannas.
Cool colors (blues, purples, and greens) are less conspicuous, restful, recede, suggest distance, and low energy (scale).  Use cool colors in outdoor rooms for relaxing, reading, and reflection. 

Cool colors sequence best in color contrasts.  For example 2/3s light blue and 1/3s dark blue, or 1/3s light blue and 2/3s dark blue.  This one-thirds/two-thirds sequencing builds emphasis (dominance and subordination).  Note that is not half of each.


Here the dainty flowers of yarrow are paired with the larger poppy.

Effective plant combination – To create effective plant combinations, always pair opposites.  For effective plant combinations, pair the fine with the coarse, the round with the upright, the short with the tall, the thugs with the dainty.  So as you buy a plant, consider who will be its opposite mate.


This technique is call color echoing.  The minor color in one flower is repeated as the major color in the other flower.  For dominance and subordination, fill the bed with 1/3 of one plant and 2/3 of the other plant,  not half and half of each plant.

For additional information, refer to Chapter 46, Principles of Landscape Design, in The Science of Gardening, or CMGGardenNotes #413.


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