The Autumn Colour Wheel
By Anno Torr
Jan/Feb articles: Previous Next
Many animals respond to colour, like sunbirds and many from our vast insect world, including bees; on the evolutionary timeline, flower form and colour were a late development, an adaptation by plants to improve the chances of reproduction. Some can see a fairly good range of colour and this helps them tell the difference between an unripe green fruit and a ripe red fruit. Others use colour to identify predators, while bees and butterflies have a range of colour vision that extends into the ultraviolet where they're able to see nectar guides on certain flowers.
On the other hand, our human response to colour is emotional and often unconscious. For us, colour can be soothing or exciting, subtle or bold and influences mood and perception; so warm colours, like orange, red and yellow, excite and energise, while the cool colours of blue, purple and pink, relax and calm.
Neutral colours – white, cream, grey, black, shades of brown, even green in a garden setting. These can be used with any other colour without changing the effect that you are trying to achieve with your chosen colours. Neutrals tone down and soften the strong hues and act as a buffer between two plants that might otherwise clash, or even as a transition between warm and cool groupings.
Complementary colours, those opposite each other on the colour wheel, like yellow and purple or orange and blue, create contrasting displays that pop - but in a relaxed way.
If you’re looking for a less adventurous option, use harmonious colours, those alongside each other on the colour wheel, as they blend together beautifully.
To brighten your garden use soft, light colours, especially white and cream. Variegated leaves – cream and green, or gold and cream, also do the trick.
Dark colours, like blue, purple and pink, create a calm, relaxed atmosphere, and tend to cool down your space. Use them in quite, meditation gardens, for example. They also push out boundaries, making areas look more spacious than they are, so are good colours to add in small gardens.
Bright colours draw attention to themselves shrinking an area. Plant bright reds, oranges, and yellows in the distance to bring the outer boundaries closer. Bright colours can put you in a party mood and are a good choice next to the entertainment patio.
Browse our autumn colour wheel to get an idea of the hues available through this season; you'll find you have the same difficulty we had - what to leave out!!! We've included the full range of plant categories, so make note of where you'd like to add colour, and whether you need a shrub, perennial or groundcover. Click to open the galleries to read more about each plant.
Cream and White - Subtle Elegance
Pink & Purple - Packing a Punch
Yellow - Spicing it Up
Red & Orange - Vibrant Energy
Shades of Blue - Calm & Cool