You don’t have to use it to make a pattern, but color can both boost a design and create depth. Take, for example, a simple design of checkered black and white squares. Change every other black square to red, and the colors gain a new pattern, layered over the first. In gardens, color is a key ingredient. It can make a space feel lively or relaxed, draw the eye with a bold, clashing flourish or hide unwanted features by using harmonious shades that blend into the background.
To understand colors, it’s best to start by differentiating between those that complement each other and those that simply relate to each other. Complementing colors sit at opposite ends of the color spectrum. Yellow and purple (above) are good examples, which, when used together in a garden, combine well, creating a sharp, exciting contrast. Use too many complementing colors, though, and your multicolored dream garden will induce a migraine; while no contrast at all makes a garden appear flat. Relating colors, such as red and purple, sit together on the color spectrum and blend well in a garden. Other examples of colors that relate to each other in this way include blue and purple, yellow and green, and red and orange.
Colors also come in different shades, tones, and tints, such as the range from soft pastel pink to bold hot pink. Lighter tints—the pastels—are calming and lighten a space, while darker shades feel luxurious and more intimate. Furthermore, colors can create different perceptions, from “cool and calming” blues and greens to “hot and energetic” reds and yellows.
Above all, don’t be bound by the rules, but choose colors you like. Feel free to play around with color to find what works best for you.
It’s said that a garden should work even when viewed with no color, and doing so brings out the importance of texture. Imagine your garden in black and white (or better still, take a photo and change it to black and white)—how many different patterns and textures can you see?
Texture—such as smooth, fluffy, or rough—is created in a garden by the surface or overall appearance of a plant or material. These textures not only feel different but also look different when subjected to the play of light and shadow.
When you introduce pattern to a garden, texture is important where color is used but even more so where it isn’t. Simply using two materials of the same color in different textures, such as smooth slabs next to rougher bricks, can transform a patio. The same is true of planting—for example, a fluffy grass next to a large-leaved shrub in a similar shade produces textural contrast, as does a selection of plants growing next to hard materials.
Textural contrast allows you to create pattern and interest without constantly adding color, which could become overwhelming. Different textures can be used in a similar way to color, to make something stand out, or to give a scene more interest. A tiled wall pattern could be made using tiles in two different colors; alternatively, tiles of the same color but with different textures can create the same pattern. In a garden full of pattern, toned-down textural patterns create breathing space. Imagine a powerpoint training session where the presenter doesn't use whitespace. The tactile nature of textures also plays an essential part in sensory gardens, where people with poor sight, or no sight at all, can still enjoy the plants and surfaces.
The absence of texture can also be effective. The smooth surfaces of rendered walls, for example, create a visual break in more complex areas of a garden. Rendered columns, such as on a house or a loggia, provide a minimalist pause, while creating their own simple pattern through repetition.