Popping with Color

By Michelle Domocol

Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog

Budding designers and fellow gardeners often ask me, ‘How do you choose the color scheme or motif of the garden?’. Seasoned designers and avid gardeners have the joyful and sometimes daunting task of infusing their gardens with a cascade of color. A color combination in the garden is powerful. It can make a garden more attractive, uplift your mood or brighten a party’s atmosphere.

The initial phases of my design process prioritize urgent site challenges. For instance, if the client wants me to find solutions for flooding, pests, weeds, challenging soil or disruptive neighbors, I prioritize that first. Once I’ve found potential solutions for those challenges, I move onto questions of architectural form and color. And depending on the client’s style, I then formulate a pleasing and elegant color motif for the plants, outdoor furniture, landscape paths and other associated constructional materials.

But how does this translate to you and your interest in garden color combos? Whether you’re a budding designer or hesitant gardener, here are a few strategies to inspire your color design:

1) Family of Hues. For your own garden, you might have a certain color you prefer. Is it gold, sky blue, chocolate brown, or pink blush? Whatever the color, start a mood board so you can explore. Cut and paste that color from magazines, get color swatches from the home improvement store or go online. Then find plants that match that color. And if you’re open to it, choose plants with tones or shades of related to the color you chose. Then investigate if those plants in your mood board grow in your area. Don’t be distressed if none of those plants in your moodboard are in season. Call your local nursery and ask them for plants with leaves or blooms that match your color preference.

In the end of your design process, the color on your moodboard may not populate the entire garden but it may dictate the feature plants, outdoor furniture, outdoor garden fabrics, or other outdoor elements. Photo 1 shows a moodboard of Reds that I made. This moodboard of red, burgundies, pinks, and maroons gave me direction. It helped me draft a garden room sketch for a restaurant (Photo 1). The client liked bold reds because it evoked romance, celebration and vibrant mood for outdoor parties.

Photo 1. (Top) A moodboard highlighting Red and its related hues, shades and tones. (Bottom) Initial draft of restaurant’s garden room with reds in furniture and plant design.

Photo 2 shows other moodboards from past projects. If you’re interested in my e-book of custom color schemes and moodboards, email ask.inflourish@gmail.com

Photo 2. Mood board samples I created highlighting blues, silvers, and sage tones.

2) Smooth transitions. Another way to approach color design is exploring the connection between your indoor space and the outdoors. If your outdoor entertaining room or garden is right outside your living room, then maybe you want coordinate the colors, fabric patterns and textures. I’m not suggesting you use the same pillows, couches and lamps outdoors. I’m suggesting the outdoor path, pillows, outdoor chairs, plant color or outdoor construction materials can be subtlety influenced by the living room motif. The circles or swatches in Photo 3 include textile patterns that are not the same as the living room. They are inspired or derived from the textiles in the living room.

Photo 3. Living room in Healing Present center influenced fabric and textile choices for outdoor garden furniture.

Maybe you have indoor ceramics or blue-and-white porcelain you’d like to echo outdoors (Photo 4). Pairing indoor and outdoor pottery is a seamless and effective way to create a smooth transition. This mood board can offer direction when selecting outdoor furniture. Remember sometimes selecting elements for an outdoor room can be overwhelming so direction a mood board can really help you commit and narrow your choices.

Photo 4. Indoor porcelain and pottery can inspire your selection of outdoor plant containers.

3) Painterly Gardens. Do you have a favorite painting, photograph or postcard hanging in your house or apartment? Maybe your next color scheme or garden can celebrate this artwork. Focus on some of colors, textures, patterns or even plants (if any) from the painting, photograph or postcard. This may make a great color combo in you future outdoor room.

Photo 5. An old photo of a memorable vacation can initiate a great color scheme in the garden.

4) Naturally Prismatic. Are you captivated by the markings of specific fauna or flora? In Southeast Asia and particularly the Philippines, we are extremely blessed with brilliant multi-colored fauna and flora. Philippine Birds and orchids are world renowned showstoppers with unforgettable color combinations. Below are two samples of Philippines’ natural wonders that could inspire your next flower garden or outdoor furniture motif. Explore our endemic butterflies, marine life, or other species in the Animal and Plant kingdoms. These design activities can be easily incorporated to school garden lessons. The bright or prismatic colors can evoke a dynamic whimsy and playful environment. Plus vibrant flowers from a nature-based motif can attract beneficial insects, butterflies and other pollinators that help your garden flourish.

Photo 6. The amazing parade of colors on a Philippine kingfisher bird.
Photo 7. Another moodboard I created; inspired by the glowing colors of Philippine orchids.