Color and Mood
Design the Garden You Really Want

Color and mood entwine like two lovers at rest.  One without the other is lacking its full meaning. 

The whole is more than it’s parts.  So it is with the garden, as in any design medium.

Yet how many of us actually pay attention to the nuances of color when planning our gardens? 

Mostly we find a plant we love…we simply must have, and we find a place to stick it in.  

OK…there is nothing wrong with that…!  IF you want the average garden! 

But you are HERE because you want the above average garden, right? 

Color and Form Dreams Pd Cameo

So what is the secret to an above average garden?  Well, there are many…but one of the greatest is the understanding of how color and mood are associated.  

Claude Monet, creator of one of the most beloved gardens in the world, is quoted as having said this:

No one is an artist unless he carries his picture

in his head before painting it, and is sure

of his method and composition.

What does that mean to me when I am planting a garden?  How can we “be sure of the method and composition“?  

As Monet intimates in his statement above, we must plan its’ composition.  We must know what mood we want to create, and what tools to use to create it.

Color and mood are rarely part of the discussion when a homeowner is designing a garden!  But design is design, is it not?  Will my residential garden design not benefit from a clear picture of the mood I want to create?  

The answer is YES!  Undoubtedly yes. 

So what are the secrets to color and mood?

There is really only ONE!

Understand the effect of color and form

upon our perceptions of mood.

Color and Mood Dreams Pd Japanese Garden

Cool colors create calm, inviting spaces.  They help create a quieter effect.

To create a quiet effect, use pastel hues and cool colors.  Deep greens, frosty blues and dusky purples are your foliage palette. Flower colors, for the most part, are pastels or small pops of color in the entire composition.  Can you use vibrant colors?  Absolutely…they are a must!  But they do not rule the roost!

Color and Mood Dreams Pd Poppies

Warm colors create vibrant spaces.  They jazz up the garden and provide an adrenaline boost!

Use bright, sunny colors, such as yellows, oranges, and reds for    the bulk of your flowering plants.  Foliage palettes of primary green, yellow and lime green lend to the sunny feeling.  Bold, brassy, and bright are your watchwords. Do dusty, pastel colors have a place?  Of course.  But…they are used less frequently!

Color and Mood Dreams Pd Cactus

Neutral colors provide the backdrop.

Large expanses of neutrals can enliven or quiet the garden, depending upon their color.  Large expanses of white will create high contrast, thus creating more dramatic spaces, while large expanses of brown or green will tend to have a cooling, quieting effect.

Color and Mood Dreams Pd Maples

Adjusting the intensity, quantity and color tones of the foliage and flowers in your garden, along with the careful use of plant form and textures, creates a mood.   Here we see a quiet, natural feeling mood, a place to go for a walk or to sit under a tree and contemplate. 

I do want you to notice something however.  In the photo above, the rust and oranges [warm colors!] are prevalent, yet the effect is quiet.  Why is that?

It is because the predominant effect is cooling.  The yellow-gold leaved tree is muted.  The rust-orange leaves are a brilliant but faded tone.  The purple leaves are dominant, and the green neutrals provide a cool base.   In addition, the textures and forms of the leaves of all elements of this garden are finer in texture, and smaller in form.  Together the effect creates a sense of quiet.  

Planning for color and mood allows you to select the plantings that will most benefit your desired effect in the garden.  You can create that achingly beautiful Monet effect in your own garden, or you can set up your own quiet retreat.  Adjust the color schemes, plant forms, and textures to highlight a warmer set of colors and you can create the effect of a seaside resort or a tropical getaway. 

Let’s see this in action, shall we?

Take a look at these examples for some

color and mood inspiration.

Romantic and Inviting

Watchwords:  Muted, Delicate

Color and Mood Dreams Pd Romantic

Setting the Mood:

  • Wide range of pastel color palettes
  • Deep green foliage
  • Liberal use of similar colored and shaped flowers
  • Small, focused spots of bright color to draw the eye through the composition
  • Plantings arranged in large drifts of color

Deep and Mysterious

Watchwords:  Dark, Dramatic

Setting the Mood:

  • Deep Green, Deep Purple, or Chocolate Brown foliage selections
  • Deep earth tones, dark rusty colors, and large stonework elements create a solid color base
  • Limited and basic color palette adds quiet serenity
  • Monochromatic Color Scheme
  • Rounded forms add a restful quality
  • Coarser textures and plant forms
Color and Mood Dreams Pd Temple Garden

Warm and Sunny

Watchwords:  Bright, Colorful

Color and Mood Dreams Pd Sunny Garden

Setting the Mood:

  • Liberal use of bright, bold color
  • Plant in large drifts
  • Warm color palettes
  • Liberal use of flowers as opposed to foliage
  •  Varied, broad color palette
  • Strong mix of dainty and bold textured plants

Calm and Restful

Watchwords:  Unified, Encompassing

Color and Mood Dreams Pd Calm and Restful

Setting the Mood:

  • Deeper color use throughout the garden…deep purples and dusty blues as the primary color tones
  • Tighter color palette creates unity
  • Rounded forms and lines add to restful ambiance
  • Finer leaf textures and plant forms
  • Limited use of bold accent material
  • Use of centrally located spaces (pools, large expanses of ground or grass)

Joyful and Invigorating

Watchwords:  Contrast, Stimulation

Setting the Mood:

  • Plantings in either pastel or vivid colors with outstanding characteristics.
  • Feathery textures may add to lightness of the composition
  • Plantings that suggest movement
  • Spiky and/or bold forms add stimulation
  • High contrast plantings (color, texture, or height)
  • Potentially wide color range
Color and Mood Dreams Pd Grasses

Dramatic and Eye Catching

Watchwords:  Contrast, Impressive

Color and Mood Dreams Pd Gunnera

Setting the Mood:

  • Deeper purple and green tones contrasted against brighter yellows and greens
  • Complementary Color schemes
  • Large plant forms and foliage create an impressive and eye riveting effect
  • Wooly and deeply grained foliage contrasted against finer textured plantings.
  • Varied scale for planting and hardscape materials

Restful and Contemplative

Watchwords:  Uniform, Delicate

Color and Mood Dreams Pd Wisteria

Setting the Mood:

Highly unified or monochromatic color schemes

Interesting forms with delicate composition

Unified foliage characteristics

Often pastel or neutral color hues

Highly repetitive forms and textures

Liberal use of neutral colors

These are just some examples of how planning for color and form will amp up your garden design and make it special!  Design is artistry, and artistry is communication through color and mood, texture and form.  Be an artist, and design the garden you really want!