How to Use Color Echo in Planting Designs

By Kimberly Toscano

Simple repetition of color creates harmony within a planting.

Repetition is a powerful tool. Garden designers repeat color, form, or texture through a landscape to provide rhythm and unity. Employing color echo is an easy way for gardeners to embrace the power of repetition. This simple but effective practice weaves a planting together by drawing upon a variety of sources of color in the garden from flowers and foliage to hardscape and ornamentation.

Color Echo through Foliage

Foliage is a constant source of color in the landscape and an ideal starting point for applying color echo. Unlike flowers, foliage holds color all season long, sometimes year-round. And with the diversity of foliage color available, one can draw upon foliage to affect color echo in almost any hue.

Foliage is a constant source of color in the landscape and an ideal starting point for applying color echo. Unlike flowers, foliage holds color all season long, sometimes year-round. And with the diversity of foliage color available, one can draw upon foliage to affect color echo in almost any hue.

With foliage, restraint is key to effective application of color echo. Plants with solid-colored foliage, especially those with warm colors like ‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum, command attention. Balance these with variegated plants such as Miss Lemon™ Abelia, which provide stability as well as an echo of color. A subtler application uses the fine lime-colored margin of Evercolor® ‘Everlime’ Carex to accent the more vibrant foliage of ‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum.

Floral Accents

Flowers offer seasonal highlights and drifts of color. Color echo through blossoms can be heavy handed or more subdued. Strong hues add vibrant color and can be used to create focal points or accents. This is where colorful ornamentation such as a brightly painted obelisk can be very effective. Showy, long-blooming plants like Lydia™ Tecoma also provide powerful accents.

Flowers offer seasonal highlights and drifts of color. Color echo through blossoms can be heavy handed or more subdued.

Softer hues often play a supporting role, providing continuity rather than dominance. The creamy blooms of ‘Real Charmer’ Leucanthemum, for example, offer a soft brush of yellow that can be laced though the garden.

Selecting bi-color blooms that employ a garden’s dominant hue as a secondary highlight is another means of carrying color through the garden. The yellow eye of ‘Flame’ Drakensberg Daisy™ Hardy Garden Gerbera can be used to echo golden hues across a planting without creating a monochrome color scheme.

Colorful Hardscape

Some of the easiest sources of color in a garden are those we can paint to match any mood: gates and fences, chairs, arbors and trellises. Ceramics also come in a variety of hues that can correspond with surroundings – imagine a bright blue vase fountain flowing against a backdrop of Ever Sapphire™ Agapanthus. Hardscape materials allow for easy application of soft complements, analogous hues, and bold accents.

Some of the easiest sources of color in a garden are those we can paint to match any mood: gates and fences, chairs, arbors and trellises.

Subtle Highlights

Foliage and flowers are not the only sources of color among plants. Stems, berries, bark, and seed heads offer seasonal accents and subtle sources of color echo. The crimson stems of ‘Radiance’ Abelia can be used to echo rosy blooms, while the deep purple fruits of ‘Little Miss Figgy’ Dwarf Fig complement burgundy foliage. In the winter months, the brilliant berries of ‘Scarlet’s Peak’ Holly carry color across the seasons.

Foliage and flowers are not the only sources of color among plants. Stems, berries, bark, and seed heads offer seasonal accents and subtle sources of color echo.

When selecting plants to echo, pay attention to form and texture as well as color. Mingle grassy blades and broad leaves with flowing structure and rounded forms to increase the diversity of a planting. Texture adds contrast that can be lacking if all attention is focused on color. As the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life.”

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