A Guide to Landscape Colour Scheme Ideas

vibrant flower garden

Swallowtail Garden Seed/Flickr/Public Domain

Landscape Colour Schemes: Ideas to Use for Your Own Garden

complimentary color garden

Jocelyn Erskine-Kellie/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Colour, along with form, line, texture, and scale, is one of the basic elements of landscape design. In the pictures below, you will find examples of how to put color theory into practice in your landscaping. An effective landscape colour scheme can compensate for many a landscape design flaw. Treat the following information as a source of ideas for combining colours effectively in your own landscaping.

Red, orange, and yellow are considered “warm” colours.

The effect of reds, oranges, and yellows on our senses is to excite. If you need a little “pick-me-up” in the morning to ready yourself for the day ahead, maybe a window box such as the one in the picture above is just what you need to see when you gaze outside your bedroom window.

Example of a Cool Colour: a Dark Iris

Purple is an example of a cool color

David Beaulieu

While red, yellow and orange are warm colours (see prior photo), blue and purple are “cool” colours.

As such, they are perfectly suited for meditation gardens, for instance. After gazing into the rich colour of this purple iris for a while, who would not begin to relax a bit? Flowers this dark are also sometimes classified as “black flowers.” Consult this detailed resource on iris flowers to learn more about this type of plant.

Red Canna Flowers Are Natural Attention-Grabbers

red canna flower

Alejandro Bayer Tamayo/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0​

Flowers with warm colours, such as red flowers, can be used to draw the eye to a particular spot in the garden that you wish to call attention to.

Red cannas, for instance, will draw the eye to a house-number marker or a driveway entrance.

Disguising an Eyesore

The bright colors of the plants take the focus

David Beaulieu

The cement-block wall of this house is not especially attractive.

But the homeowners have done such a good job of front-planting it with colourful plants that you are hardly aware of the wall. All of your attention is focused on the warm colours of the flowers.

Landscape Colour Picks up Colour on House

Photo showing plants picking up house colors.

David Beaulieu

Unlike in the prior photo, in the photo here, the function of the plant colours is not to draw attention away from a house feature.

On the contrary, the flower colours of two of the prominent plants in this landscape pick up the colour of the shutters.

Colour Scheme in a Rock Garden

Example of rock garden plant selection.

David Beaulieu

The rocks in this rock garden bear a reddish colour. Accordingly, the builder selected rock garden plant material that he felt would work well with red.

Green and Red Shrubs

Photo of burning bush hedge.

David Beaulieu

Red and green lie across from each other on the colour wheel. Colour theory tells us that juxtaposing such colours provides contrast. But you do not have to rely on colour theory for this conclusion. Just look at the example above. The fall-foliage red of the burning bush hedge stands out nicely from the green of the creeping juniper ground cover in the foreground.

Yellow and Purple Flowers

Yellow and purple flowers juxtaposed make for a nice contrast.

Yellow and purple flowers juxtaposed make for a nice contrast.  David Beaulieu

As in the prior photo, the photo here shows an example where a colour-contrast was employed. In this case, it is yellow (with yellow alyssum ground cover) and purple (with grape hyacinth spring bulb plants).

Flowers for Window Boxes

Picture of window box with purple and orange flowers.

Picture of window box with purple and orange flowers.  David Beaulieu

Like red-green and yellow-purple, orange-blue is a combination that provides a direct colour contrast.

But in the photo above, the contrast is toned down some. Instead of blue, an annual flower (petunia) with a light purple colour was chosen to stand next to the orange flowers (lantana).

Factor in the Colour of Your Mulch

Red mulch sets off 'Golden Sunshine' spirea nicely.

David Beaulieu

When selecting mulch, consider, among other things, how the mulch’s colour will work with the accompanying plants. For ‘Golden Sunshine’ Spirea, many would feel that the reddish mulches are a good match (as is black mulch). An option with similar leaf colour is ‘Gold Mound’ spirea.

Note, though, that some gardeners harbour a strong aversion to red-coloured mulch. Instead of factoring mulch into their landscape colour schemes, they prefer a natural-looking mulch colour that will recede into the background.

Mixing Mulches

Photo showing the use of contrasting mulch colors.

David Beaulieu

Mulches of different colours can be used to play off each other. With the red bark mulch and the grey stone mulch used in conjunction, this area is more attractive than it would be if covered with just one or the other mulch.

Gold Plants, Blue Hardscape

Picture of a golden creeping Jenny, spilling over a blue ceramic container.

David Beaulieu

You are not limited to plants and mulch when implementing a landscape colour scheme.

In this area of the garden, the homeowner was aiming for a gold-blue landscape colour scheme. The ceramic planter shown in the photo helped with the blue component. The gold plant installed in the planter is creeping jenny.

Decorative Mailboxes

Picture of mailbox with harvest scene.

David Beaulieu

A mailbox tends to stick out like a sore thumb. So, if your mailbox is going to usurp the role of a focal point, you might as well treat it as one. With its colourful harvest scene, this mailbox is an attractive element at the head of the driveway.

Focal Points, Other Landscaping Visual Cues: Line

Picture of row of red tulips.

David Beaulieu

We move on now to the landscape design concept known as “line.”

Think of straight lines as “no-nonsense” elements in your landscaping. Compared to curved lines, straight lines direct eye movement more quickly and more forcefully to a point in the landscape to which you wish to draw attention. Curved lines are more relaxed and relaxing, and they are especially appropriate where a more naturalistic feel is desired (nature abhors a straight line).

In addition to “getting to the point” and being more forceful, straight lines can also accentuate the length of an area. This could be a useful trick to know—for retail businesses, for instance. An example is provided in the photo above. To the viewer’s eye, the straight line of the tulip bulb plant border between the road and this business stretches off quite impressively into the distance, suggesting a large, thriving establishment to passers-by. The fact that the tulips are red (a “warm” colour) makes this border even more effective as an attention grabber.

By David Beaulieu