Examples of the Application of Colour Theory

The spectrum of colours is often divided into 4 categories:

Primary: reds, yellows and blues.

Secondary: greens, violets (purples) and oranges.

Tertiary: Blends of the primary and secondary categories.

Neutral: White, grays and silvers.

The secondary colours can be thought of as an even blending of two primary colours. Thus red and yellow produce orange, yellow and blue produce green, and red and blue yield purple.

The blends known as "tertiary colours" add a further element of complexity to the colour wheel. They are as follows: yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange and orange-yellow.

Using colour theory as your guide, you can match the colours you use in your landscaping so that they "go together." The tertiary colours can serve as transitional colours to this end. For instance, let's say you want a colour scheme using reds and violets. If you can find a plant that has a red-violet colour, it will help bridge the gulf between your red plants and your violet (purple) plants. The addition of the third plant in such a case makes the difference between a slightly jarring effect (i.e., with just reds and violets) versus a smoother, more harmonious ensemble.

Colour can also alter mood and perception, allowing you to:

Create a relaxing corner in your yard where you can meditate.

Make small spaces seem larger.

Attract attention to a particular area.

Tie different areas of the yard together.

You may wonder what seemingly abstract terms like "form" have to do with backyard landscape design. You may object that you're not painting a landscape, after all; you're just putting plants in the ground. Yet it is not coincidental that backyard landscape design shares some terminology with the world of art. The backyard is your canvas; your landscape design skills will determine the beauty of the resulting picture.

The element of form is defined as the shape of a plant and the structure of its branching pattern. Trees come in many shapes (especially if pruned), including columnar and globular shapes. Likewise, tree forms range structurally from having the stiffly upright branches of Lombardy poplar trees to the droopy quality of a weeping willow. The form of individual components of a plant also needs to be considered. For example, the leaf form of one type of tree can be very different from that of another type of tree. Relative leaf size, meanwhile, helps determine plant texture (see picture).

Since texture is primarily a visual matter in landscape design, we often rely on the relative size of a plant's leaves to draw conclusions about its perceived texture. Yes, plant texture is highly relative: it refers to how the surface of the object is perceived, relative to the objects around it. Thus the plant texture of one bedding plant, for example, might be considered more or less coarse than that of an adjacent plant, due to differences in leaf size.

The element of line refers to the fact that the viewer's eye movement or flow can be governed by the arrangement of plants and their borders. Eye movement is unconsciously influenced by the way plant groupings fit or flow together, both on the horizontal and vertical planes.

With the basic elements defined, it is time to put them to practical use. In planning a landscape design it is necessary to work with the "principles" that stem directly from the basic elements. How effectively you implement these principles will determine the impact of your landscaping upon the viewer be it yourself or a prospective buyer.

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Understanding the Language of Landscape Design | The main principles of garden design

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