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Plant Colour Palettes

Published on October 18th 2021
A close up of a flower
Colours... They can calm you or invigorate you in so many ways. A colour palette might sound like something an interior designer might use but is, in actual fact, as important as compost to a landscaper. What often sets landscape designers apart from your average gardener is the meticulous thought and planning that goes into selecting plants based on colours, textures and movement.
You do not need to be artistic to create a masterpiece of a garden. What you might find helpful though, is having a colour palette up your sleeve and here is why.
A wooden bench in a garden
Take some time to consider color schemes and the results are breathtaking. Image by Mariya from Pixabay.

Where to start

It can be quite enticing to walk into a nursery and fill up the cart with flower after gorgeous flower. The problem arises when you come back home and that flower that looked so fabulous in isolation no longer fits in the garden. I think we have, in all honesty, all done this at one point or another and come to realise one golden truth:
“Pin it don’t buy it”.
Collecting photos of all your favourites is a great way to enjoy a nursery trip while saving your pennies for the things that will bring you joy in the long run. You have an entire year to play with. You can have a white garden in winter, a rainbow in Spring and a jewel garden come Summer. It all just takes a bit of planning.
Find an image that inspires you:
Jewel tone flowers ruby garden

Jewel Gardens


A close up of a flower

Designing a Moon Garden



Garden Design: Morocco


Courtyard garden

Garden Design: Courtyards


Your first step is collecting photos of all your favourites. Be it from books, catalogues, on Candide or Pinterest, the photos will allow you to see which plants may look odd next to one another or might not fit. Once you have a better idea of what you like, the fun begins.
A close up of a flower garden in front of a house
Paint your backdrop with grasses, shrubs, trees and creepers to make it extraordinary. Image by Bronisław Dróżka from Pixabay.

A backdrop tells a thousand tales

If there is one thing the digital age has helped us understand, it is that the backdrop makes a big difference. The backdrop can make a beautiful flower extraordinary. It is well worth the effort to put some thought into the foliage that surrounds your blooms.
Tip | Light colours stand out more when surrounded by darker foliage.
Tip | Play with texture (soft vs hard edges) as well as colour.
This is often the hardest step for most gardeners and requires you to ignore the bright blooms and think of what is behind them. Is it a soft grass, a dark shrub or a creeping succulent? To practice how to select a background filler one can look at a show garden and pick out the plants that do not flower.
Try it with the following gardens:
Do you see how the background melds together when the plants share similar shades of green? Or perhaps how a light grass makes the darker colours stand out? Great! Then try and pick some of the ones that caught your eye from the lists below:
Soft/light shades: Silver, Grey
Dark Shades: Deep Green/Red
Bright Shades: Greens
For additional suggestions on using grasses, see our article Create a moving garden.
A close up of a flower garden
Image by congerdesign from Pixabay.

Paint by Colour

Finally, we get to the colourful part. By now you have done all the work of getting to know your likes and dislikes. Remember, colours can lighten your mood, calm you or make you feel overwhelmed. We tend to be attracted to a colour when it is unusual, bright or has a way of invoking bright emotions. Make sure to consider all the seasons and how you want your colour scheme to change with the seasons.
Tip | You can use colour in creative ways to improve your mood.
Some inspiration to get you going:
With your colour scheme on hand, go through the lists of flowers by season and save the ones that catch your eye. Then go back and see if they can grow in your climate. With Candide, this is easy as all the information you need is in the plant profiles.
Here are some great collections to help you on your way:
Enjoy the journey as much as the end product. If you are looking for some additional eye candy, I would suggest taking a look at the glorious book by Marijke Honig, Indigenous Plant Palettes.

What an exciting time! Found any favourite colours in a garden?

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