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GARDENS BY THE BAY

pink Phlox subulata, yellow Narcissus 'Hawera' & burgundy Intermediate Bearded  Iris

G A R D E N   C O L O R

Color is everything to a gardener. We make choices when buying plants based on our own color preferences. When choosing plants to put together in our gardens we consider not only the colors of flower petals, but also of leaves, stems, central cones and seed pods. Our 'Gardens By The Bay' site has numerous pages providing professional gardeners' ideas for perfect plant pairings, many based on color. They can be found under Plant Partnerships at the bottom of this and all our other pages. If you prefer to find your own companion plants however you will need to know a bit about color theory.

Color Wheel Pro:  See Color Theory In Action can provide interesting and sometimes unexpected details about basic colors, their definitions, uses and connotations. Follow their links for the Pros and Cons of using a particular color scheme and to obtain helpful tips about those you choose to use. Their site is interesting and informative with many explanatory links for you to explore. This will take you away from our site so be sure to bookmark us before you leave so you can find your way back here again.

While you read about various color theories, remember:  THE GARDEN YOU CREATE IS YOUR OWN.
Trust your instincts when making choices, even when they may not quite "fit" with any of the traditional definitions of good color design.


C O L O R   T E R M S

Gardeners commonly use a number of words which relate to color. Definitions of each of these words can be found below. Photographers as well require color knowledge, but their definitions of particular terms may not be identical to those used by gardeners. Follow the link under Temperature below for information related to color in photography.

HUE
another word for color

TINT
any color plus white

TONE
any color plus gray

SHADE
any color plus black

VALUE
the amount of white, gray or black added to a color to create a new color

TEMPERATURE
the overall impression or emotional impact created by a color
"the photographic color temperature is measured only on the relative intensity of blue to red" - Allan Engelhardt

DEGREES OF TEMPERATURE

Warm
reds, oranges, yellows
exciting, stimulating - advance forward

Cool
greens, blues, violets
refreshing, calming - recede backward


WARM COLORS       COOL COLORS
pure yellow      violet
orange-yellow      blue-violet
yellow-orange      violet-blue
orange      blue
red-orange      green-blue
orange-red      blue-green
red      green
violet-red      yellow-green
red-violet      green-yellow


C O L O R   C L A R I F I C A T I O N


TINT - ADD WHITE

Adding white to pure red will produce pink;  "the pink you get depends on the red you start with" - Patrick Lima

pure red pure red with white at 75% opacity pure red with white at 50 opacity pure red with white at 25% opacity


TONE - ADD GRAY

Adding gray to pure red produces quite different tones from the original;  the gray hue you add will determine the final outcome - lighter grays producing lighter tones, darker grays producing darker tones. All of the images below were produced by adding gray to pure red at the same 75% opacity level, but the lighter gray hue produced quite a different result from the darker gray hue.

pure red with light gray at 75% opacity pure red with medium gray at 75% opacity pure red with dark gray at 75% opacity


SHADE - ADD BLACK

Adding black to a color changes its shade substantially as you can see in the images below. This time we started with a swatch of pure blue and added varying strengths of black.

pure blue with black at 10% opacity pure blue with black at 50% opacity pure blue with black at 90% opacity



P R I M A R Y   C O L O R S


pure red pure yellow pure blue

The 3 Primary Colors are red, yellow and blue. Different combinations of these colors, along with white, black and grey, produce all other colors.

RED

Red is one of three primary colors. A color swatch of pure red can be seen above. The images below show a range within the group of colors we refer to as red.

Monarda didyma - red Bee Balm Papaver somniferum - red single-flowered Opium Poppy Clematis - a red form Paeonia - a double red form Hemerocallis 'Carolina Octopus'

Color schemes using pure red are:  

  • complementary = green
  • split complementary = blue-green & yellow-green
  • triad = pure blue & pure yellow

For partnership ideas for red perennials, visit:  

YELLOW

Yellow is another of the three primary colors. A color swatch of pure yellow can be seen above. All of the flowers below can be described as yellow but each is quite different and distinct.

Coreopsis 'Sunray' Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam' - Threadleaf Coreopsis Gaillardia grandiflora 'Monarch Strain' - Blanketflower Hemerocallis 'Double Charm' - Daylily Oenothera macrocarpa - Ozark Sundrops

Color schemes using pure yellow are:  

  • complementary = violet
  • split complementary = red-violet & blue-violet
  • triad = pure blue & pure red

For partnership ideas for yellow perennials, visit:  

BLUE

Blue is the last of the three primary colors. A color swatch of pure blue can be seen above. Like the other primaries, blue can also appear in many guises as can be seen in the images below.

Sisyrinchium - Blue-Eyed Grass Mertensia virginiana - Virginia Bluebells Delphinium - a true blue form Aster frikartii 'Monch' - Frikart's Aster Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii' - Azure Monkshood

Color schemes using pure blue are:  

  • complementary = orange
  • split complementary = yellow-orange & red-orange
  • triad = pure yellow & pure red

For partnership ideas for blue perennials, visit:  


S E C O N D A R Y   C O L O R S

Secondary colors are those made from a combination of two of the three Primary Colors.

orange pure green violet

A word of explanation is needed here. The color swatch for green above is pure green. There is no specific code for either pure orange or pure violet so I have created swatches of my own.

ORANGE

Orange is produced by combining Red with Yellow.

Geum borisii - Avens Helenium autumnale - orange Helen's Flower Hemerocallis - an unnamed orange cultivar Iris x germanica - an unnamed orange form Hemerocallis 'Kwanso' - Daylily

Color schemes using orange are:  

  • complementary = pure blue
  • split complementary = violet-blue & green-blue
  • triad = violet & pure green

For partnership ideas for orange perennials, visit:  

GREEN

Green is produced by combining Blue with Yellow.

Matteuccia - Fern Paeonia tenuifolia - Fernleaf Peony foliage Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum' - Japanese Painted Fern Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum' - Feverfew Alchemilla mollis - Lady's Mantle

Color schemes using pure green are:  

  • complementary = pure red
  • split complementary = orange-red & violet-red
  • triad = pure orange & violet

For partnership ideas for green foliage perennials, visit:  

VIOLET

Violet is produced by combining Red with Blue. What we commonly call purple is referred to as violet on a color wheel.

Campanula glomerata - Clustered Bellflower Catananche caerulea - Cupid's Dart Iris x germanica 'Wabash' - Bearded Iris Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue' - Speedwell Campanula persicifolia - purple Peachleaf Bellflower

Color schemes using violet (purple) are:  

  • complementary = pure yellow
  • split complementary = green-yellow & orange-yellow
  • triad = pure green & pure orange

For partnership ideas for purple perennials, visit:  


T E R T I A R Y   C O L O R S

A Tertiary Color is created by mixing one primary color with one secondary color. Examples include:  

  • red & magenta = rose
  • yellow & green = chartreuse
  • blue & cyan = azure
  • blue & magenta = violet


T H E   G A R D E N E R ' S   C O L O R   W H E E L

Color Theory Simplified

As you can see, the use of color theory to produce attractive plant combinations can become quite complicated. Keep reading below however and you will be introduced to a simple solution to this dilemma.

Well-known gardening writer and lecturer Sydney Eddison has created this invaluable new take on the Color Wheel for all of us, whether we're designing a garden, a bouquet of flowers or a room in our home. Just over 9" in diameter, it is perfect to take to the garden to help identify the color of any flower petal, leaf or stem. The text on both sides of this wheel defines:  

  • Color Theory for Gardeners
  • Warm and Cool Colors
  • Hue, Tint, Tone and Shade
  • Complementary Colors
  • Split Complementary Colors
  • Triad Colors
  • Monochromatic Colors
  • Analogous Colors
  • Analogous-Complementary Colors

Using this waterproof wheel is a cinch. One side of the wheel shows color tints, the other color tones and shades. Simply point the arrow to one of 18 pure colors on the outer rim of the wheel. A template in the centre of the wheel instantly identifies that color's complementary color, its split-complementary colors as well as triad colors. Each of these 18 colors around the wheel is separated into 3 tones, 3 shades and 6 tints. Swatches on both sides of this wheel total an amazing 234 hues.

What could be simpler. You don't need to be on-line to make use of this wonderful gardener's tool. Throw away your old paper color wheels and invest in this new one that will serve you well for years. Its creator states "there are only two ways to use color in the garden, Contrast and Harmony. Use it to identify the colors of your own plants and determine what colors will complement them, echo them or otherwise give your garden the WOW-FACTOR it may need. This wheel makes it a snap.

If you need a program that will enable you to find appropriate color combinations on the computer, there are sites for that as well. One of the first I came across was DESIGN COLOR WHEEL. In addition to the usual combination possibilities, this program also includes Alternate Complementary and Tetrad color schemes, based on four rather than three colors.


C O L O R   C O M B I N A T I O N S

We have shown above images of plants of the three Primary Colors (red, yellow and blue) as well as plants of the three Secondary Colors (orange, green and purple/violet). You have also been introduced to the concept of the Color Wheel. We can now move on to explain some methods of combining colors. Much of the wording below is from the Eddison Color Wheel.


COMPLEMENTARY COLORS
Create Contrast
2 colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel

RED & GREEN

pure red pure green

YELLOW & VIOLET

pure yellow violet

BLUE & ORANGE

pure blue orange


SPLIT-COMPLEMENTARY COLORS
Create Contrast
a "key" color plus the colors on either side of its opposite

KEY COLOR         SPLIT-COMPLEMENTARY COLORS
yellow         blue-violet & red-violet
green-yellow         violet & violet-red
yellow-green         red-violet & red
green         violet-red & orange-red
blue-green         red & red-orange
green-blue         orange-red & orange
blue         red-orange & yellow-orange
violet-blue         orange & orange-yellow
blue-violet         yellow-orange & yellow
violet         orange-yellow & green-yellow
red-violet         yellow & yellow-green
violet-red         green-yellow & green
red         yellow-green & blue-green
orange-red         green & green-blue
red-orange         blue-green & blue
orange         green-blue & violet-blue
yellow-orange         blue & blue-violet
orange-yellow         violet-blue & violet

Must you use all three split-complementary colors to create an attractive garden picture? Of course not. A key color plus just one of its two split-complementary colors can be a wonderful combination.

Does the above seem complicated to you? All these combinations are visible at a glance on Sydney Eddison's Gardener's Color Wheel. Buy one!


TRIAD COMPLEMENTARY
Create Contrast
3 colors, equally spaced from each other on the wheel

#1 COLOR         #2 COLOR         #3 COLOR
red         yellow         blue
orange-red         green-yellow         violet-blue
red-orange         yellow-green         blue-violet
orange         green         violet
yellow-orange         blue-green         red-violet
orange-yellow        geen-blue         violet-red


TETRADIC COLORS
Create Harmony
4 colors touched by the four corners of a square or rectangle placed in the center of a color wheel


MONOCHROMATIC COLORS
Create Harmony
a single color combined with its tints, tones and shades


ANALOGOUS COLORS
Create Harmony
3-5 adjacent colors on the color wheel that share a common color


ANALOGOUS-COMPLEMENTARY COLORS
Create both Harmony & Contrast
3 adjacent colors on the color wheel plus the complement of one of them


C O L O R   S I T E S

Many of the sites below were created to assist web page designers in choosing coding that will allow them to produce pages, borders, text, etc. of quite specific colors. However, they can also be of assistance to the gardener to assist in finding the appropriate plant partners of a tint, tone or shade that will be perfectly suitable with each plant in your garden.

LIST OF COLORS
Here you will find links to definitions of numerous colors by specific names, with color swatches and hex values for each, charts indicating the variations within a color group for quick comparisons, and much more.

COLOR SPECIFIER
This site will give you access to colors, tints, hues and tones by name. Using the color identifier numbers you can then go on to find colors that will specifically suit them on other sites. Click on a color name to see what a full page with that color as a background would look like.

COLOR TOOLS
This site provides lots of fun trying out their various links that enable you to play with your color choices. Useful to web designers and gardeners alike.

COLOR BLENDER
This site gives you the ability to find a color and automatically know five other colors in the same range that will look good with it.

COLR PICKR
For just plain fun, have a look at this site. Click on the silver needle to activate it. Then click on a bubble in the color bubbles and see all the images that pop up around the center. All are in the color you specified and in the category you can choose from several options. Gardeners will want to try the Flower category for starters. Have fun. For gardeners who are also addicted to Sudoku, Kakuro, Jigoku or Kidoku you'll want to click on the puzzles link on this site to take you to a whole new puzzle world.

DIZZINZ
This site will give you all the Web-Safe colors and their identifiers, plus a link to this lady's own web site.


All of our own Gardens By The Bay pages can be accessed by clicking on the links below.


HOME

GARDEN POETRY  |  GARDEN POETRY MUSE

GEORGIAN BAY VIEW

BOTANICAL LATIN - BASICS

COLOR THEORY

THE GARDENS

CORNER GARDEN CONSTRUCTION  |  CORNER GARDEN PLANTING  |  LONG GARDEN

EAST GARDEN  |  HOSTA GARDEN  |  NORTH GARDEN  |  WINTER GARDENS

PLANT PARTNERSHIPS

BLUE PERENNIALS    Aconitum - Geranium  |  Iris - Vinca

BULBS    Allium - Hyacinthus  |  Narcissus only  |  Tulipa only  |  Minor Bulbs

BUTTERFLY MAGNETS    Anaphalis - Hemerocallis  |  Liatris - Veronicastrum
DAYLILIES      Spider & Unusual Form

EDGERS    Arabis - Iris  |  Nepeta - Veronica

FOLIAGE PERENNIALS     Alchemilla - Tanacetum

HOSTA    Hosta - all

HUMMINGBIRD-FRIENDLY PERENNIALS    Alcea - Salvia

ORANGE PERENNIALS    Achillea - Tulipa

ORNAMENTAL GRASSES    Acorus - Imperata |  Miscanthus - Spodiopogon

PINK PERENNIALS    Achillea - Lilium  |  Lychnis - Veronica

PURPLE PERENNIALS    Aconitum - Liatris  |  Polemonium - Veronica

RED PERENNIALS    Achillea - Veronica

SHADE PERENNIALS    Aegopodium - Erythronium  |  Ferns - Polemonium  |  Polygonatum - Vinca

SILVER FOLIAGE PERENNIALS    Achillea - Cerastium    |    Cornus - Limonium    |    Lunaria - Veronica

SIMPLY SPECIAL PERENNIALS    Acanthus - Saxifraga

WHITE PERENNIALS    Achillea - Iris  |  Kalimeris - Yucca

YELLOW PERENNIALS    Achillea - Hypericum  |  Inula - Verbascum

VARIEGATED-FOLIAGE PERENNIALS    Acorus - Erythronium  |  Hakonechloa - Lysimachia  |  Miscanthus - Yucca

PLANT PROFILES

Dianthus 'Tiny Rubies'  |  Geranium  |  Geum coccineum  |  Kerria japonica  |  Knautia macedonica

Paeonia tenuifolia  |  Papaver somniferum  |  Rudbeckia  |  Salvia 'East Friesland'

Trollius  |  Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue'

PROPAGATION

DIVISION - SPRING ONLY  |   DIVISION - FALL ONLY  |   DIVISION - SPRING OR FALL  |   DO NOT DIVIDE

FERTILIZATION

BULBS  |   ORNAMENTAL GRASSES  |   PERENNIALS  |   SHRUBS  |   VINES

LINKS

GARDENS  |   LOCAL GARDENS  |   BOTANICAL TERMINOLOGY

GARDENING BOOKS  |   NON-GARDENING


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