ripe persimmons in basket after a successful harvest

Color is an incredibly powerful element in any form of design. When we plan a landscape of any style, it is one of the first things on our minds! Of course color preferences are not the same for everyone, as liking or disliking different colors varies from person to person. We often ask our clients if there are any colors they really love or really can’t stand, and of course we have our personal favorites too! When it comes to designing with color though, we look deeper- into the properties of color and illusions of depth in order to create an effect and experience unique to each landscape.



When working with color over a large area, there are many ways to go about creating a cohesive and beautiful effect.  One of these is a strict color scheme that narrows the palette down to just a few colors.  The landscape above relies on varied shades of purple and grey-green for a dreamlike atmosphere.  Cool colors such as purple, blue, and grey have a calming effect on the psyche, and the soft textures and light-catching properties of silvery grasses give this garden a tranquil charm.


For a more energetic effect, reds and yellows in the landscape wake up our senses and bring a feeling of warmth.  The Japanese maple above catches the sunlight, blazing a brilliant red that matches the potted geraniums, while the variegated lavender glows pale yellow.  This garden view also creates the illusion of deep space with the cooler colors farther back and the warmer colors in the foreground, actually making the landscape look bigger than it is – a classic painting technique that works just as well in the garden!


Come over to the dark side!  Bringing dark-leaved plants into the landscape as focal points offers perfectly gorgeous intensity.  In mass, or in close proximity to matching hardscape elements (such as these black iron lanterns) the color creates a very striking modern look. When used as a backdrop for brighter colors in the garden, dark-leaved shrubs can also create a wonderful sense of depth.  Keep in mind that there are many different colors within the darks… dark foliage with a cool purple tone may fall back visually, while dark foliage with a red tone may come forward, especially in sunlight.


The many shades of green we work with in the landscape also have a profound effect as color elements in the garden.  Blue-greens fall into the cool color scheme, while yellow-greens fall into the warm, allowing stunning landscapes to be comprised only of greens!  In the landscape above, blue-green rushes flank the red stone fountain in imitation of the falling water.  Bright green behind the wall offers a lovely contrast, while the true California Oak green and the lush lawn complement.


Anyone familiar with this 1980’s classic might have noticed the similarity to the title of this blog.  No one writes about color theory and plants more in-depth than Penelope Hobhouse, and we would be lying to say that this blog isn’t at least partly inspired by her work.  Please take a look at this inspiring book if you’re excited about working with color in your own garden!

Fall has arrived!  Here at J. Montgomery Designs, we are finishing up the many exciting projects of the 2019 season.  Interested in talking to us about a 2020 landscape design?  Now is the time to reach out!  We look forward to hearing from you.


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