Consider Color Schemes When Planning Your Landscape Consider Color Schemes When Planning Your Landscape

There are several factors that determine the kind of emotional response we’ll have toward our backyard environments. These factors also influence someone else’s experience when they’re looking at our landscapes for the first time. The form and texture of trees, shrubs and plants (individually, and in respective clusters), the proportions of our flora in relation to the yard as a whole, the placement of features like fountains, ponds, stonework and paths - all these things work together to paint a picture that may or may not be pleasing to the eye.

Of all these various aesthetic concerns, however, the element that probably speaks most directly to the heart is color. Colors also tend to announce themselves to us before we even begin to perceive other qualities of a landscape like its balance and proportion. Color, in other words, is a tool that we can use to create both a first and also a lasting impression.

Having established this priority when planning our landscaping renovations, the next question is this: What kind of impression do we want to make? While we’re bound to have colors that are personal favorites, we need to consider the impact of the actual kinds we will use. Different hues affect our attention in different ways. Warm colors tend to feel present and close, for example, while cool colors like blues and grays tend to recede and create an impression of distance.

Colors will also differ in their affect upon our eyes depending on what surrounds them. We can create an impression of vibrancy and excitement by putting contrasting colors (like orange and blue, or red and green) side by side. A more soothing scene will be created by a wash of identical or similar colors. Oftentimes we do best with a combination of these two approaches, which will paint a visual image that is neither over-stimulating nor dull in its sameness.

Another matter for our consideration is seasonal changes. Foliage may or may not show consistent coloration throughout the year. Again, we will have to consider whether we prefer stability or variety; but in this case, we’re thinking about a span of time. Leaf-shedding trees will, of course, create more work for us when those leaves fall. But for those of us who love the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of fall foliage, this extra labor may be a small price to pay.

It might be helpful to collect pictures of various trees and plants in different arrangements, from magazines and other sources, and experiment with collage combinations to help visualize the end results we desire. How pleasing are the color combinations in themselves? How well do they transition from one to the other? Having pictures in front of us can make our dream projects much more tangible.

Though form, proportion and scale are all equally important considerations in our landscape planning, our backyard environments will most likely make their first impressions with their color schemes. Creating an appealing outlay may require us to think like artists, with the landscape our canvas and flora our medium. It will then be our task to choose elements that complement each other visually, because they will help turn our landscape into a haven of beauty.

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