When you get right down to it gardens are really about colour. That colour can come from flowers, foliage, bark, pottery, furniture, fences, and even artwork, but in the end, it is all about color. Colour can be soothing or exciting, it can be a riot or a river, it can be front and center or something much more subtle, but whatever our choices, colour is the goal. Any colour scheme can work, it's your garden so if you're happy who cares what anyone else thinks. However, understanding the basic principles of using colour in design can help make that picture in your head a reality. Be it a soothing sanctuary or a patio ready for a party.
The first thing to learn is which colours are considered neutral in gardening. Neutral colours are those colours that can be used with any other colour without changing the effect that you are trying to achieve. White, black, grey, silver, and shades of brown are considered neutral in any arena. In gardening, green also functions as a neutral. Neutral colours will have a tendency to tone down the other colours in a bed and can be used as a buffer between two plants that might otherwise clash.
While white functions as a neutral in the garden, it also serves another purpose. White glows when you view the garden early in the morning, during the evening, and at night. With busy lives, many of us view our gardens less during the day and more often during twilight hours. If you will be using your garden often after dark be sure to include a healthy dose of white flowers and silver foliage. These plants will show well in the evening.
The easiest colour plan to pull off is probably the monochromatic colour scheme. This is simply combining shades of a single colour together to create a garden bed. These beds are simple to put together because choosing plants from a single colour family is pretty easy to do. I know monochromatic can sound boring, but these beds don't have to be blah. They can include great depth and interest as illustrated in the photos below.
Monochromatic colour schemes include shades of red, pink, shades of orange, and shades of yellow:
The first key to understanding mixing colours is to look at the basic relationships between the colours. Using the colour wheel is the easiest way to illustrate these concepts. One easy way to combine colours is to use analogous colours. Analogous colours are those that are next to each other on the colour wheel. These colours tend to blend together well. The diagram below shows the 6 major colours on the colour wheel. Analogous colours include red and orange, orange and yellow, yellow and green, Analogous colours can go beyond two colours, groups of red, orange, and yellow or blue, and violet and red can also be considered analogous colours.
If you are a bit more adventurous and like some contrast in your colours, try using complementary colours, which can add a lot of pop to your bed. The 3 complementary colour pairs shown here are violet and yellow, red and green, and orange and blue. Colours also fall into two different categories, dark and bright colours. Dark colours, like blue, purple, and pink, tend to create a calming and serene atmosphere and will appear cool in even the worst heat. Dark tones are perfect for creating a sanctuary, where you can go to unwind and de-stress from the chaos of life.
These colours are great for setting the mood for gatherings filled with soft music and quiet conversation. Bright colours draw attention and make spaces seem smaller. If you have a large space and you would like to make it seem smaller use bright reds, oranges, and yellows in the distance. This will make the planting seem closer to you. Bright colours are also great for drawing attention to areas you would like to highlight, for instance: a front entrance, featured flower beds, seating areas, or artwork. Bright colours add a festive feeling and put you in a party mood. They are good next to the patio or a deck where people tend to gather for entertainment.
Aloe Colour Combinations
Colour is a very personal thing, but I suppose there are some accepted combinations that do better than others. I find that the bi-colours are difficult to match, seeing that they have their own ready-made colour combination. I did discover, by chance, that ‘Rias’ and ‘Capricorn’ make a very handsome combination. Both plants flower early and grow tall. Something that also works is to repeat one of the colours of the larger bi-coloured plant in the accompanying plants, for example, to repeat the orange of a large ‘Hyperion’ by combining it with ‘Early Orange’.
The best colour effect is always achieved by combining differently sized plants of the desired colour combination. The larger plant should always be planted on the southern side of the combination, and the plants of smaller stature on the northern side (in South Africa obviously). If there is one large plant, there should ideally be 3 of the smaller ones. If the large plants number three, then five smaller plants, etc.
Orange and yellow
Pink and pale yellow
Pink and white
Red and pink
Red and orange
Red and yellow