A World of Color

How to design using an analogous color scheme

Color - A powerful design tool, it can draw attention, set the mood or add greater dimension to a planting. One of the easiest combinations to master in garden design is the analogous color scheme, which utilizes colors that are immediately adjacent on the color wheel. This scheme takes the guesswork out of color pairing, yet yields a sophisticated design – perfect for beginners and experts alike.

Getting Started

The blue and violet hues of the twilight sky are a stunning example of analogous colors. Nature abounds with these combinations, such as the red and orange tones of autumn or the iridescent blues and greens of a peacock feather. To create an analogous color scheme for the garden, start by selecting one dominant color. Then, looking at the color wheel, identify two or three colors adjacent to the dominant color to serve as accent colors. For example, if you select blue-violet as the dominant hue, accents might include violet, red-violet and blue.

An analogous color scheme can highlight any section of the color wheel. Many gardeners are inspired by accent colors on the home’s exterior. You may choose to coordinate with the brickwork or a brightly painted doorway. Drawing color from the house helps establish unity between the home and landscape.

It is also common practice to select colors based on the emotions they elicit, such as using blue and violet to create a serene, relaxing atmosphere. Naturally, one cannot discount color selection based on personal preferences, either, whether a favorite flower or color.

Choosing Plants

Once a color scheme has been identified, it is easy to select suitable plants. Look for plants that include shades (darker versions) and tints (lighter versions) of your dominant and accent hues to add greater interest. For the color scheme selected above, we may choose Little Blue Fountain™ Agapanthus and Dark Blue Moody Blues™ Veronica to represent our dominant hue blue-violet. As violet accents we may use Azure Skies™ Heliotrope and ‘Black Ripple’ Colocasia. The deep blue blossoms of ‘Black and Bloom’ Salvia and the red-violet ‘Love and Wishes’ Salvia complete the color scheme.

While remaining within the chosen analogous color scheme, these plant selections attract interest with contrasting texture, flower shape and bloom size. The purple-foliaged ‘Black Ripple’ Colocasia supplies color when the rest of the plants are not blooming. Other sources of color may include fruit and bark.

Plant Placement

There is no wrong way to place plants with analogous colors, as the color combination itself is pleasing to the eye. However, there are subtle ways to enhance a planting design and emphasize focal points through careful placement of selected hues. For example, planting masses of color will create more impact than scattering colors throughout the planting.

As a general rule, brighter colors attract attention, while darker colors tend to recede. As such, place the brightest hues from your color palette in a location where emphasis is desired, such as by the front door or a structural focal point. Add masses of darker shades or hues adjacent and behind the visual accent to create depth.

An analogous color scheme is exceptionally versatile, working equally well in a Mediterranean courtyard or naturalized meadow. The restrained color palette provides continuity to whimsical cottage-style gardens and softens formal designs. The gentle transitions in color create a sense of harmony in any planting.