Do you have a colour scheme for your garden? In general, I have not bothered with this in the past. For example, I've stuck to warm colours in the Butterfly Potager, to give it a close, more intimate feel, and cool colours in the Adventure Garden, to make it look bigger, but that's about the extent of my colour adventures. I just find it way too hard to control myself when it comes to sticking to specific colours in my own garden, and instead I tend to focus on textures, using plants that suit the spot in terms of light and moisture requirements only.
But, I admit, a colour scheme can really tie things together and take your garden up a notch. So, after taking a 'Colour Theory for Gardeners' class last spring with Sue Gaviller, who I also had over to consult on my garden, I was convinced to give it a shot in the front garden. She used my garden as an example in her class, and put together the figure above to show the colour scheme she devised. What do you think? But wait, let me back up and give you the background:
Her first reaction, after coming over and seeing my blue house, and the towering blue-green Colorado spruce trees in the front yard, was "You need more green!" Green is considered a neutral in gardening colour schemes because your eye expects to see it. And it is a wonderful, restful colour. But what with the house and trees, and no lawn, I had shockingly little green in my front garden. Sue suggested sweeps of 'Calgary Carpet' junipers and lots of dogwoods to provide the restful green colour.
As for colour combinations, finding one for my front garden was rather difficult owing to the existing blue and red of the house, and the existing blue-green of the spruce trees. These colours do not fit into a traditional colour scheme (eg. complementary colours, triad, tetrad, split-complementary, etc.) So, Sue got creative and used the Munsell colour circle (with 10 hues, rather than the more commonly used artist's colour wheel which has 12 hues) to come up with a double complementary colour scheme of blue, blue-green, red, and orange (shown above.)
To demonstrate, she included the following plants in the figure above (left to right, top to bottom): my own Colorado spruce, dogwood 'Arctic Fire', ninebark 'Coppertina', heavy metal switchgrass, globe blue spruce, heuchera 'Peach Melba' or 'Southern Comfort', blue chip juniper, hosta 'Halcyon', blue oat grass, heuchera 'Mahogany', echinacea 'Tomato Soup', daylily 'Strawberry Candy', corydalis 'Blue Panda', heucherella 'Sweet Tea', and Kinnikinnick in the background of the bottom corner. Of course, there are many other perennials that would work as well.
I think it looks great. I'd add some white as well, to make sure things don't look too heavy, but otherwise I love it! But the question remains, can I discipline myself enough to stick to it? Well, first of all, I'm not going to just take out all of my existing plants and start from scratch - too expensive, and, well, I'm just too attached to some of them. So I'm going to start slowly by moving some of the big clashers to other areas of the garden and by making sure any new plants I add fit into the new colour scheme. Another reason I'm going to take it slowly is that I'm not totally convinced that I want every single plant to fit the colour scheme perfectly - I prefer a more natural look that says "this plant wanted to be here" rather than a highly designed look that says "the designer wanted this plant to be here". Maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough in my tastes yet. So it will be interesting to see how my tastes change (if they change) as I start to modify the existing garden.
For example, in this picture above from last summer, you can see I'd already added a small ninebark 'Coppertina' out front, which relates really well with the reddish-brown on the house. But the purplish-blue of the catmint... not so much. When you compare this garden photo with the colour scheme figure, top, it is obvious the catmint clashes. Dang! That's one of my favourite plants!!
This is going to be hard.