Influence How Your Yard Looks and Feels by Implementing Color Theory


Color, along with form, line, texture and scale, is one of the basic elements of landscape design, while proportion, transition and unity are some of the principles that rely on those elements. Your choice of colors to be used in the yard should not be considered in isolation. Rather, always keep in mind how color interplays with the other basic elements, with the principles of landscape design, and with the overall objectives of your plan.



Examples of the Application of Color Theory
The spectrum of colors is often divided into 4 categories:

Primary: reds, yellows and blues.

Secondary: greens, violets (purples) and oranges.

Tertiary: Blends of the primary and secondary categories.

Neutral: White, grays and silvers. Gray is an unusual color for blooms or berries, but an example is to be found on bayberry shrubs.

The secondary colors can be thought of as an even blending of two primary colors.

Thus red and yellow produce orange, yellow and blue produce green, and red and blue yield purple.

The blends known as “tertiary colors” add a further element of complexity to the color wheel. 



Using color theory as a guide, we can match the colors used in your landscaping so that they “go together.” The tertiary colors can serve as transitional colors to this end. For instance, let’s say you want a color scheme using reds and violets. Using a plant that has a red-violet color, it will help bridge the gulf between your red plants and your violet (purple) plants. The addition of the third plant in such a case makes the difference between a slightly jarring effect (i.e., with just reds and violets) versus a smoother, more harmonious ensemble.

Color can also alter mood and perception, allowing you to:

Create a relaxing corner in your yard where you can meditate.

Make small spaces seem larger.

Attract attention to a particular area.

Tie different areas of the yard together.




Proper use of color can influence mood and perception. For instance, red, yellow and orange are considered “warm colors” and may excite the viewer. Blue, purple and green are considered “cool colors” and are more likely to relax you. Thus for a meditation garden, blue and/or purple flowers would be a logical choice.

If your backyard comprises of just a small area, we can alter the viewer’s perception by using a combination of warm and cool colors.

An example could be: Placing flowers shrubs and hardscaping materials with warm colors in the foreground. Behind them,  flowers with cool colors, starting with darker shades (e.g., purple), followed by shades that are successively lighter. This creates an illusion of depth. This can also be created by placing larger plant material in the foreground, then tapering off the size of your plants as we work our way in deeper (the perception that the latter are receding into the distance will be magnified).

With warm colors like red, you may perceive large spaces to be more intimate. The warm colors appear to come forward in the landscape, and seem closer than they are in reality — thereby scaling down the whole landscape in the process.

The warm colors are born attention-grabbers, since they bring a mood that does not relax, but rather rouses the viewer. We can draw visitors into a space you creating a focal point using red and/or yellow and/or orange.


– Purple Fountain Grass



Another application of color theory can be seen in the use of color to create either unity or contrast. Landscapers may stay within the warm-colors group or the cool-colors group in order to provide unity, be it within one planting bed or throughout the yard. In the latter case, different parts of the yard are thereby tied together to form a harmonious unit.

Alternatively, using warm colors and cool colors within Your space produces contrast. An example of a maximum in contrast is yellow and purple. The other pairs that are directly across from each other on the color wheel also afford maximal contrast. Perhaps you’ve heard such pairs referred to as “complementary colors,”. You may well wonder, “If they’re complementary, how can they contrast with each other?” But don’t be fooled by the terminology: for the purposes of landscape design, what you need to know is that using these pairs provides striking contrast.

Neutrals allow for transition between stronger hues. Neutrals can also be used to soften the effect of loud color schemes or stand on their own in a monochromatic scheme (e.g., all-white gardens).


What is Color Harmony?

Color harmony is when the colors are arranged in a pleasing way to the viewer. It creates a sense of equilibrium within the landscape;

It creates balance

It creates a sense of order

It creates a sense of excitement i.e. is not visually boring to the viewer

The main idea is to create a sense of balance. Too much visual stimulation is chaotic and will “turn off” the observer. Not enough stimulation will also turn off the viewer, but not because of it being too busy, but because it is visually boring and bland.





Colors are grouped by temperature. Hot colors are red, yellow, orange, which in the landscape can be vibrant and alive. Vita Sackville West, the late great gardener of England created a whole garden of these sunset hues to provide a sense of warmth to the cool damp climate. These are powerfully present hues where a little bit goes a long way. Modern designers know how powerful a wall or a door or another accent can be when painted in a hot color to make it stand out from the rest of the landscape.

Bipolar Grey

Grey is an important color for modern design. It is created when white is mixed with a darker color. The darker color dictates whether a grey is part of a cool palette or a warm palette. Cool grey is created with white and blue. Warm gray is created with white and red.

Cool colors

Blue, green, white, soft pinks and pale yellows are all considered cool colors. They are very subdued and constitute some of the most valued hues for hot climates. Cool colors are stately and sophisticated, heavy on the pastel hues that create a very feminine feel overall. These colors are the most commonly used in the past because they are safe. Among older or more traditional enclaves, the use of hot colors is considered poor taste.

Color value

Value is a term used to describe the intensity of a color. The best example of this is a black and white photograph that shows the image in shades of grey. The varying degree of light and dark is what creates the image. The same applies to color intensity. When choosing bold colors to use in the hardscape, value is very important. Too much value may spoil a subtle design accent, while the same color in a lighter value can fail to assert itself.

A painter’s palette contains all the colors she will use in a painting. Creating a palette for your landscape helps to determine the color theory of your project in advance, so that the selection of plants, materials, accents and trim is coordinated. Use paint chips from the home improvement store to gather colors that appeal to you . Mix and match them to create a selection of hues to Guide our hand in selecting plants and finish materials.



Contemporary landscape design is a celebration of color. Its hues may be integrated into the hardscape, contributed by accessories and decor, and above all, it is represented in the planting plan. Your landscape is much like an Impressionist painting, where color sets the mood in a very subtle way. The palette created becomes an overriding theme throughout the project. It guides the decisions and furthers design goals, manipulating color applications to create an ideal character for your house exterior, its outdoor living spaces and the garden.

Its important to understand a few basics about how she sees colors relative to one another.

Analogous colors

Colors on the wheel that are located next to one another are considered analogous. These are colors that easily blend into one another. They were utilized by Impressionist Claude Monet in many of his paintings of gardens. An entire canvas may be painted largely in red and pink, which are analogous colors. He also did the same with blues and purples in his lily pond paintings. A landscape composed with an analogous palette will appear peaceful and fluid, projecting an overall sense of harmony.

Complimentary colors

Colors opposite one another on the color wheel are complimentary. These are bold, powerful pairings that lend a vibrant dynamic. When complimentary colors are used together the human eye picks up a visual vibration where they meet. The Christmas colors, red and green, are a good example. We love them to liven up the dark winter days, but we rarely utilize them in clothing due to this same vibration. Impressionists Vincent Van Gough and Paul Gaugan were masters at utilizing complimentary colors. This vibration is what makes their paintings so visually exciting. When complimentary colors are used creatively in a landscape, it becomes festive and stimulating as decor, walls and plants literally pop with intensity.



Color has a basic appeal to humans and is used by landscapers to evoke powerful emotional responses. Colors can evoke a sense of peace and calm or excitement and energy. They can be used to show coolness or warmth, lightness or darkness. Hard and soft scaling material colors will appear differently to the human eye depending on surrounding colors such as those displayed by other plants, buildings, walls and other nearby structures. Color may serve as the highlight of a design, providing a focal point. Color builds on the structure and framework of the landscape and may also highlight an area by adding repetition in color that creates unity, visual balance and harmony. Color may not be the most important consideration in an overall landscape, but it has a powerful visual effect and should be considered carefully for best results.

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