Phyllis Webster earned a degree in journalism before embarking on a long career in public relations and marketing. A Granbury resident since 1998, she has been deeply involved in the community. She is an award-winning writer and photographer, as well as a Master Gardener. She has authored Garden Patch since 2001.


As a garden design element, color is used to achieve continuity, establish mood and create links between structures and their surroundings. Understanding color combinations makes it easier to successfully create eye-pleasing landscapes. For example, harvest shades of yellow, orange, red and purple combine beautifully to characterize fall gardens.

A color wheel, which is used by artists and designers, can be a handy tool for plant selection. For example, when gardeners buy plants they love, without regard to color, they often find it hard to place those plants attractively. Using a color wheel to find suggested color harmonies makes it easier to select plants that “fit” into landscapes.

To envision a color wheel, imagine a rainbow with all of its graduated color shades painted in a circle. The twelve basic colors of a color wheel are divided into three primary, three secondary and six tertiary (intermediate) colors. The three primary colors are red, blue and yellow and every other color on the wheel is created from mixing these colors together.

Landscape designers use appealing color combinations in creative ways. Analogous colors are those that are located adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Such a color combination might include two or three colors such as red, orange and yellow. Complementary colors are positioned directly opposite from each other on the color wheel such as yellow with purple, orange with blue and red with green. Analogous schemes are calming, Complementary schemes convey energy and excitement.

A monochromatic color scheme, also considered calming, features lighter and darker hues of the same color. Examples are red with pink and navy with sky blue. Repeating the same colors, even in different shades, gives a unified look to a garden. A split complementary scheme combines complementary with analogous colors to support one another. For example, orange canna gives an energetic color punch to a planting bed of purple verbena.

Color is also thought as “warm” or “cool.” Intense, fully saturated colors such as red are considered warm. They draw the eye to the garden from afar. Cool pastel colors, such as purple and blue are best enjoyed up close. White is considered transitional; it helps to blend colors.

The colors you are naturally drawn to will please you in your garden. Tip: Look at your closet or home décor. Also, to select colors, consider the amount of sun or shade in your landscape. Shaded areas look brighter with light-colored plants. Dark plants “disappear” in shade. Bright-colored flowers work best in full sun; pastel colors will appear faded.

For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 or go online to visit


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