The Power of Colour

Colour is one of the most potent weapons in a gardener’s armoury.  It can make an enormous impact.  It can stop you in your tracks or it can beckon you onwards.  It can suggest coolness and warmth and it can evoke different moods.  You can use colour to manipulate the sense of space.  Understanding the power of colour will help you not only to put a personal mark on your garden but also to orchestrate the profound ways that colour can act upon the emotions, so that some parts of your garden will become areas of repose while others will be exhilarating or, if you wish, even shocking.

Memory and symbolic associations, without a doubt, play a very strong part in our experience of colour.  Certain colours can give meanings and create atmosphere in a garden.  The idea that we ‘see red’ when we are angry, ‘feel blue’ when we are sad, and ‘are green’ when we care for the environment, are metaphors but they derive from fundamental distinctions between these colours.  You may find that red has an agitating effect wherever it appears in the garden, and that blue is calming and dreamy.  Green perhaps because it makes us think of the countryside, tends to make us feel comfortable.  Yellow can cheer us up because it reminds us of the sun.

We also often associate colours with familiar things.  For instance, reds, oranges and yellows remind us subconsciously of fire and heat.  For this reason we think of them as ‘hot’ colours.  On the other hand, we associate blues and violet-blues with the colours of the sky, the sea and distant hills.  They remind us of water and space and we think of them as ‘cool’ colours.  In our gardens cool colours tend to have a calming effect.

You can deceive the eye and make a garden appear longer than it really is by planting hot colours at the near end and cool colours at the far end.

Complimentary colours are also useful in the garden.  Two colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel can be very pleasing to the eye.  For instance, red and green, yellow and purple and blue and orange.