How to create a kaleidoscope of colour in your garden

Want a cool, minimalist courtyard, or a soothing spa-like sanctuary? Or, perhaps you’d prefer a fizzy tropical paradise for your patio, complete with palms?  While these descriptions might sound miles apart, they have one key element in common – colour. 

Used correctly, colour can turn a garden from muddle to Monet, creating different moods, space, lighting and impact. 

And it’s not just achieved by flowers. Painted garden ‘furniture’ (fences, sheds or patio chairs) can all add different shades, and foliage – whether deciduous or evergreen – can bring a kaleidoscope of different tints and hues too.

But just like choosing wallpaper or gloss for our interiors, the exterior scheme needs careful design consideration, and that’s where our Cambridge garden design service can help.

As highly experienced garden designers we know how to incorporate colours together, how to mix palettes successfully and use colour in different parts of the garden to create distinct areas for entertaining or for children—or just to relax. 

Over the years, through our work across Cambridgeshire gardens, we’ve devised hundreds of ways to help clients visualise colour in their gardens.

Here are our top tips for showing your true colours…


Choosing the right colours for your garden

A collection of three tones generally works best in practice, and while a rainbow of flowers might look wonderful in the garden centre: just as a vibrant red lipstick doesn’t suit all complexions—not all colours will suit all gardens.

Dark hues, for example, such as purple and blue, will create a calming atmosphere so are best used for those places you’d like to unwind, and they also tend to make areas look larger. Great if you have a smaller garden.

By contrast, bright colours draw attention, so are best avoided near a compost heap or utility area, but fantastic in socializing areas such as patios or on decking. We also work a lot with neutrals, such as white, black and green, and use these to tone down other colours or buffer plants that might clash. 


Clever palette mixing

Whites are also almost ‘fluorescent’ at night – wonderful if you entertain a lot in the evenings – and they also help ‘cool’ hot areas, such as south facing patios.

While you might already be using monochromes in your landscape i.e. combining shades of a single colour together, we can give twists on the colour wheel by using ‘analogous’ colours too.

These colours, next to each other on the colour wheel (such as red and orange), blend together and create harmonious schemes – whether for planting or for furniture – and this can create warm and cool looks that are rich in texture. This is the kind of colour you might see naturally occurring in the wild: just think of the stunning sight of autumnal leaves on an avenue of beech trees.


The right plants can extend colour year-round

As trained horticulturalists, we can create tones and tints through flowers and foliage—and planting is the key to our clever colour coding. With deep-rooted local knowledge, we’ve helped the owners of some of Cambridgeshire’s most spectacular homes inject colour into their gardens all year round—even in winter.

Our exceptional plant expertise allows us to demonstrate how, simply but effectively, you can bring colour into the early part of the year with spring bulbs. 
Whether tubers (such as anemone), corms (such as crocus), rhizomes (Lily of the Valley) or true bulbs (tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and alliums), they are a powerhouse of colour waiting to pop either naturalised in grass, planted in giant swathes, or in containers of ‘mobile’ colour that can be moved around to brighten up dark spots.

And what of those dark spots? We’re often asked what can be done for shady areas. Here we can design planting schemes that really add zing, such as potted rhododendrons or hellebores, pulmonaria, hostas and bergenias.


Autumn and winter colour works too

Autumn offers a technicolour dreamcoat of shades too with deciduous trees and shrubs such as acers, Cotinus, Amelanchier, prunus and Daphne coming into their own, offering fragrance, flowers and fantastic foliage. And we’re also a big fan of berries—and not just for the wonderful array of wildlife they can support. 

If you’re a fan of Anglesey Abbey and the Cambridge Botanic gardens, you may have come across the coloured stems of winter cornus with shades of olive green, red, orange and the ghostly white stems of betula utilis (Himilayan birch).  

We can help find standout spots for winter stalwarts such as pyracantha, cotoneaster and holly or more unusual shrubs such as callicarpa (or ‘Beauty Bush’), with its profusion of purple pearl-like berries.


Be adventurous with your colour

Of course, as expert Cambridge garden designers we don’t just stick to the obvious either, and we’ve helped many of our clients tune into their adventurous side too! 

We can inject vibrancy and excitement into your garden with a clever palette of contrasting colours – think pink anemones with orange California poppies or a sunset yellow bench against a sky blue fence – that offers a more modern take on garden design. 

We’re always up to speed on the latest on-trend colour schemes – this year it’s orange (thanks to the ‘Totally Tangerine’ geums at RHS Chelsea); dusky pinks and ‘bruised’ blues; brown grasses, and even black paint (for fences and raised beds, rather than your planting schemes!)

Whatever colours you choose, from consultation to the collaborative design, build and maintenance, we’ll discuss how your garden can nail your colours to the mast. We promise: you’ll never feel off colour again.

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