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One of the best aspects of growing flowers in your own yard is enjoying the bursts of color flowers can provide from spring through fall. And just as artists carefully plan their paintings with the judicious use of different tones to evoke moods and reactions, as a gardener, you can achieve the same effects with a little careful attention to the way you use colors in your yard. Fortunately, daylilies come in a complete rainbow of shades, which means they can be really helpful in expanding and enhancing your garden’s palette. But first, you need to know a little bit more about the color wheel.

The color wheel “begins” with the three primary colors – red, blue, and yellow, the three colors from which all other tones and gradients are “born.” Some colors – specifically those that combine shades of yellow and red (including shades of orange) – are considered “hot” colors, while colors that combine red and blue (including purples) and most greens are “cool.” (although green is typically considered a “neutral” in the garden, mixing well with hot and cool colors.) Beyond colors, there are variations in shades, including pastels, neons and other bright or pure shades. Using the color wheel, there are several ways to combine all these combinations to achieve just the “look” you’re going for:

  • Monochromatic color scheme: A monochromatic scheme uses a single shade or, more commonly, variations of a shade, like many shades of purple or red tones for a very consistent and dramatic look.
  • Complementary color scheme: Shades right across from each other on the color wheel are called “complementary” colors. They include yellow and purple, green and red, blue and orange, and variations of those shades. Incorporating complementary colors is a good way to use both warm and cool shades in the same space while increasing the energy and “visual movement” in the area.
  • Analogous color scheme: An analogous color scheme uses colors (typically three) near each other on the wheel, like yellow, red and rust or red, violet and lavender. These combinations also create interesting contrasts, but of a lesser degree than complementary colors. You can also restrict yourself to cool shades for calmer, more relaxing spaces or warm shades for “high-energy” spaces.
  • Triadic color scheme: “Triad” means three, and a  triadic color scheme uses three shades that are spaced evenly apart on the color wheel for increased visual interest and texture. Using all three primary colors or all three secondary colors (purple, green and orange) are examples, and there are countless others.
  • Tetradic color scheme (sometimes called a “double complement”): A tetrad uses four colors – specifically, two complementary pairs. Start with two shades you like, then look across the color wheel to find their complements.

One of the great things about daylilies and using plants in general is that nothing is permanent; if you don’t like the results of your color plan, you can dig up your daylilies and place them in another area. It’s kind of like having a giant color-enhanced Etch-a-Sketch® right in your own yard. And when a plant is suitable for more than one location, you can divide mature clumps and stretch your gardening budget that much farther. And another great thing: There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to mix colors; it’s all up to you. And with a little consideration and planning, combining daylily colors is just one more way you can create a unique space that’s truly all your own.

Of course, to make the process easier, it helps to have a color wheel to use for reference.  You can find one here, along with a quick overview of all these concepts and how they “line up” on the wheel.

By combining colors in specific ways, you can use those combinations to enhance specific areas of your yard to create different moods in each of those areas – for instance, cooler. calmer shades near a hammock, warmer, more “invigorating” shades near a child’s play area and balanced shades near an outdoor kitchen or patio.

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