In a monochromatic scheme the various tints and shades of a single hue are used. The effect can be dramatic, but the effect can be distinctly monotonous if a large part of a small garden is devoted to such a concept. Monochromatic schemes still have a role to play in every garden. In an extensive property whole bed or borders can be treated in this way and all sorts of arrangements can be used. A typical example is an edging of pink Petunias or Impatiens with a groundwork of blood red Geraniums. White and yellow are popular choices for monochromatic schemes, but blue is difficult as the range of available plants is limited.
In the small garden this type of arrangement comes into its own as a way of planting troughs, hangings baskets and window boxes. The visual effect of a container can be heightened by the simplicity of such plantings. One final point, a truly monochromatic scheme in red, yellow, white, etc is not really possible as there is the green of the foliage to take into account.
In an analogous scheme the two, three or four colours used are all neighbours on the wheel. Such an arrangement has much of the subdued charm of a monochromatic scheme but there is of course a much larger range of plants from which to make a choice. The blues and violets of Canterbury Bells, Scabious and Stocks, the yellows, oranges and reds of Marigolds, Coreopsis and Helichrysum, pick your colour scheme first and then go to the garden center to make your selection.
Of course there is no need to keep to the hues. Tints and shades are very important here and will add to the interest of the display. Analogous schemes based on cool colours (blues and violets) can look dull when seen from afar and often benefit from adding white-flowering plants to the scheme. Analogous arrangements really can be used anywhere, from a tiny container to a large border. They can be muted and restrained, working with just the greens, blues and mauves, or bright in the extreme with vivid reds and purples.
The Role of Whites and Greys
Whites and greys have a special part to play in colour schemes in the garden. White on its own has a calming effect and it stands out on cloudy days or at dusk when purples and reds fade into dullness. The main purpose of whites and greys, however, is not to provide colour in their own right but to bring out the best in other colours. White flowers or grey leaved plants will add interest to a monochromatic scheme or to a pastel analogous one. The whites and greys can either be scattered within the scheme or used as an edging. In this situation the colours of the scheme will look brighter whereas the whites and greys appear purer and more eye-catching
When used in garish contrasting schemes whites and greys have a different role. They tend to remove the jarring effect of the contrast without in any way dimming the colours. In the same way grey-leaved foliage plants are an excellent way of dividing brightly coloured mixtures from each other.
In a contrasting (or complementary) scheme the chosen colours are directly across from each other on the colour wheel, orange and blue, yellow and violet, red and green. For maximum impact you should use the hues, yellow Marigolds and violet Verbenas, blue Lobelia surrounding orange Antirrhinums and so on. The effect is either dramatic or garish depending on your point of view, but in general such schemes are better in a park than in a home garden. The colours may be too brash in a small space; each contrasting colour heightens the visual effect of the other.
This does not mean that all contrasting schemes must be over-bright. The secret is to use tints of the colours involved to produce a pastel arrangement, pinks with powder blues, buffs alongside lilac-coloured blooms, etc. Orange-pink Clarkias surrounded by sky blue Violas illustrate that contrasting schemes can be as subdued as analogous ones. Another approach is to use a tint of the warm colour and a shade of the cool contrasting one. Cream and deep purple or pale green and maroon are examples.
In a polychromatic (or rainbow) scheme colours from all parts of the wheel are used, a patchwork quilt of reds, violets, yellows, blues and oranges. Of course it can work, as any well-arranged cottage garden will reveal, but there are dangers.
First of all the effect can be just too bright ad it is usually wise to use tints of the various hues to ensure that a pastel effect is obtained. Next, a planting of a mixed variety of a bedding plant should not be right next to a mixture of another type of bedding plant. The rule is to divide mixtures with either a single-coloured bedding plant or with a plain foliage variety.
There is a distinct movement away from polychromatic schemes these days and the appeal of simplicity is taking hold. The idea is to use single colours of bedding plants in analogous or contrasting arrangements with the incorporation of whites and greys rather than relying on an indiscriminate use of mixtures.
The Role Of Non-Living Objects
The appeal of your colour scheme is not controlled solely by the plants you choose to use. It is also influenced by the surroundings. The green of the lawn surrounding the bed or border is wonderfully accommodating, but a pink or yellow concrete patio can play havoc with the colour scheme used for the bedding arrangement in a container. The colour of the container itself is also important. A brightly coloured window box bearing blooms in delicate shades of pink and lilac may really be an eyesore.
So the colour of both the paving and the container should be taken into consideration, you can save yourself a lot of trouble if you buy furniture, containers and paving in neutral shades. Of course personal preference is all-important but to make colour harmonization easier you should consider plain wood or white furniture with cushions and covers in simple colours. Containers in white, stone, terracotta, black or natural wood should not clash with your colour scheme and a patio in dull grey or stone will not detract from the flower colours in pots and troughs.
There is usually little you can do to change the colour of the outside walls in order to improve the appearance of bedding plants, so you must adapt the planting scheme to the existing situation. This calls for using bright colours against white or pale-coloured walls and pastel or white flowers against dark-coloured stone, brick or wood.
Choose colours you find appealing and combine the plants in pleasing partnerships. The guidelines mentioned above are for your knowledge but bear in mind that mother nature does not have gardens with only three colours, or areas with four varieties of plants. The idea of devoting a garden bed to specific plants selected for colour and harmonization with perhaps two other species is personal choice. I thoroughly enjoy plants and could not discriminate against one variety because the bloom is crimson instead of white. This is just my opinion as I enjoy a wide range of species and the entire colour spectrum.