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Aspects of Design : Flower Colour

Flowers provide a huge range of colour; different shades, tones and tints of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – all the colours of the rainbow. Tints are made by adding white to the primary hue; tones by adding grey; and shades by adding black.

The colour of flowers also varies in intensity, depending on how much pigment is present. This can change during the life of the flower, usually increasing after opening from the bud before fading again.

Flower colour must always be considered with the surrounding foliage and flowers in mind. These can influence how a colour is perceived. White flowers of magnolia will be lost against a pale grey sky in spring, but look dramatic against a dark backdrop.

There is enormous challenge, and satisfaction, in placing flowers to best colour effect with the right foliage and flowers. The result is much greater than the sum of parts. Sometimes, these happy combinations, or associations, occur accidentally, but usually they need to be thought out carefully, worked out by trial and error, or simply copied from photographs or other gardens.

For a colour combination to work, the plants must flower together, and they must be planted so that the lower types can be seen. Flowering times vary slightly each year and sometimes upset well-laid plans. Foliage plants are more predictable than flowers and last longer. Used together with flowers in these associations, they add subtle effects of their own.

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