Color Wheel

Does Color Really Matter?

"The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts" - Marcus Aurelius

Time to diversify and design a red and orange garden?


 To me, a garden is an artist's palette. It changes over time and the scene jumps out as the artist lightly  brushes on color and texture. Gardens are a reflection of the "artist" and no two are ever alike. Gardens are meant to be free flowing and unique. Gardening isn't just about color. It's also about texture, bark, pottery, garden art, or even fences. Gardening welcomes all colors, sizes, textures, and plant temperaments. For me? The more diverse that a garden is, the better. I love diversity and it's amazing what each plant brings to the mix.

I tend to be more of a carefree and adventurous gardener with color and texture. I don't take a whole lot of time to plan out colors or even placement in my gardens. In the end, I'm rewarded with a plethora of colors that compliment each other. What's important to me is that I enjoy the beauty that I've created and if others love it? It's an added bonus. I have stepped out of the norm and have designed some monochrome gardens. I have a black garden and an all white garden that face each other as if in battle. I also have a bright cheery yellow garden that pops in the sunlight. It's fun and finding the right colored plants sent me on a greenhouse scavenger hunt.

If you want some semblance of order with color in your garden then a color wheel is your #1 tool. As you can see below, a color wheel shows how colors are related (or not) and can be a useful guide in helping you to mix up your colors. For more insight check out Proven Winners.


Photo courtesy of Sean Hillmeyer via Compfight

Here's some tips for using a color wheel:

  • Analogous colors are next to each other and look good together (red & orange, orange & yellow, yellow & green ).
  • Complementary colors are those opposite of each other on the wheel (red & green, violet & yellow).
  • A triad of colors is formed by drawing an equilateral triangle connecting 3 colors on the wheel (red, yellow, & blue).
  • Monochromatic is using 1 color in several shades. A shady hosta garden or my yellow garden are great examples.
  • Dark/deep colors such as blue, purple, dark pink can create calm when used together. They also make spaces appear larger.
  • Bright colors bring attention to areas, but may make a garden seem smaller. Bright colors are great near doors, decks, and windows. Think red, orange, fuchsia.
  • Neutral colors such as white, gray, black, silver, brown, and green tone down other colors or can be a divider between sweeps of color. 

Most garden designers swear by using a color wheel to pair plants and build new gardens. It doesn't end there. They also make use of textures and other hardscaping (rocks, arbors) features. Gardens need to well rounded with a lot of diverse color and features. Diversity builds character and it's fun to see all the elements play together.

"All the diversity, all the charm, and all the beauty of life are made up of light and shade" - Leo Tolstoy


How are you  doing with building diversity outside your garden? We can all make a difference in the world by building diversity in all areas of our lives.

Life is like a garden. My garden has more shapes, colors, sizes, smells, and textures than I can even count. They all compliment one another and they form a cohesive portrait. A single flower can't make a garden, but a group becomes a  spectacular show. Wouldn't it be great if our world were like this? Our differences are what make us unique and we should embrace all the "smells, colors, shapes" in people like we do in a garden. We all bring something to the whole.

 When I was young, I wanted to change the world. It took growing up and life experience to learn that one person can only be a catalyst, not change everything. We can  make an impact by our actions and hope that we too can be the one flower that unites a garden.

How you can help grow diversity
  • Examine your real feelings regarding diversity. Be honest and ask yourself "why" if you have reservations.
  • Speak out against racism and inequality. Don't let it slide. You can be subtle in your efforts, but if you ignore it you are accepting it. Don't be that person. 
  • If you feel that you can't speak out against some issues regarding diversity, confide in someone else. Let them be a catalyst.
  • Be open and learn about the cultures of those that you work with. Ignorance can breed an indifference to diversity.
  • Reach beyond your circle of friends and work group. Get to know those that are "different" and make some new connections. Accept differences.
  • Avoid hanging with cliques or one group.
  • Watch your words and jokes. So many of us forget the power of words - positive and negative.
  • If you are in a leadership role, encourage diversity and hire diversity. 
  • Request to work with diverse teams.
  • Encourage and attend diversity training. Some communities have some great resources if your company does not have a program.
  • Encourage speakers on diversity or attend a community talk.
  • Volunteer within a variety of communities.
  • Allow or join groups within your company. Many employers encourage groups on site where like members (and you!) can meet monthly, weekly etc.
  • Encourage people to post events from their community to encourage anyone to visit their event or group.
  • DO SOMETHING. Don't wait for someone else to start change. Be a leader.

I love gardening because I gain so much satisfaction from watching my plants grow and blend in with their neighbors to form a magical world. How are YOU going to add diversity to the garden of life???