Working with a color wheel can take the guesswork out of blending colors in the garden. You also can adopt painterly techniques to mix and match plants. For an easy way to start creating quick-color plantings, focus on a favorite shade and build combinations around it.
Maybe you have a container with a unique finish or cast. Select annuals and tender perennials that complement the colors of the pot to elevate it from casual container to work of art. In a furnished garden space or patio, let outdoor fabric guide your plant choices. Gather and arrange flowers and foliage that harmonize with the fabrics so your outdoor room shines with a polished look. For planting areas near your home or other structures, coordinate plant colors with surrounding surface hues. You always serve a visual feast when you design with a nod to the entire view.
Whether you're staging quick color in a landscape bed or in containers, repetition always wins. With a planting bed, daubing the same hue at intervals throughout the bed accomplishes several things. It serves as a rhythmic pulse that moves the eye through the bed as well as a special accent that encourages a casual glance to become a lingering gaze. That resonating tone also acts as a unifying note, orchestrating diverse plants into a cohesive symphony of color.
In containers, using identical plants in different pots has the same effect as in a planting bed, drawing the eye through an outdoor space or tying together separate areas. Repeating every detail of a container garden combination, especially in a pair of matching pots, fosters a formal feel.
Color-echo designing promotes your gardening efforts to a new level of artistry. A color echo occurs when you match leaf or petal hues of different plants. For instance, pairing a white-flower New Guinea impatiens with the white spots on green leaves of 'Splash Select White' polka-dot plant creates a striking combination. Add pink or purple sweet alyssum, and you have a pot dressed in its Sunday best. This technique offers a simple way to design with variegated leaves. Fireworks fountaingrass sports leaves striped in white, green, burgundy, and hot pink. Pair this upright grower with a mounding zinnia in shades of pink for a gorgeous duet. The leaves of variegated Tropicanna canna paint a burgundy backdrop with stripes of pink, red, gold, and green. Echo any of those hues in a nearby plant -- such as a gold black-eyed Susan or pink petunia -- to ignite real summer sizzle. The benefit of following a monochromatic theme with quick-color plants is that you can design an area that's blue one season and red the next. Change is easy when the plants are single-season showstoppers.
When shopping at a garden center, do a trial run of color pairings. Place plants next to one another in your cart and see what you think. Move your cart to check out the color blending in light conditions similar to those in your garden.
For head-turning results, select a group of plants that unfurl leaves or flowers in different shades, tints, and tones of the same color. If your passion is purple, outfit an area with plants in various shades of lavender, lilac, blue-violet, eggplant, and mauve. Gardeners who love red can combine plants in tones of pink, burgundy, wine, cerise, scarlet, and other red-base hues. You also should pay attention to a color's saturation. A saturated hue is pure and strong. In essence, it's the truest version of a color. Saturated colors carry a bold presence and even a sense of liveliness, appearing to dance as you view them. Saturated hues are clear, not muddied with tones of other colors. For instance, a pure blue is bright and bold, whereas a steel blue has more gray tones in it. As colors become less saturated, they shift toward gray.