Garden color schemes: 12 stunning ways to combine shades for plants and outdoor furniture
Get creative with our garden color schemes – from jewel-like hues to crisp monochrome styles
Well-considered garden color schemes can give a plot tons of character and cohesion. In fact, sticking to your tones of choice is the simplest way to curate a pulled-together look.
But color schemes aren't just for aesthetics. Different combinations and hues can evoke a certain mood and atmosphere. They can also contribute to the feeling of space in a garden (or lack of). And, of course, they're a way to channel your individual taste and style into your plot.
Picking your palette isn't too tricky to implement. But, to help you get inspired for your own outdoor space, we've pulled together our top tips and ideas for garden color schemes. From soothing white themes to retro-colored outdoor living areas plus lots more, you won't want to miss these.
1. Warm up a space
If you've been perusing our guide to garden borders, then you'll already have some tips up your sleeve for planting stunning displays. But if you're looking to give your beds an extra lift of energy and drama, then fiery hues might be the color scheme for you.
Garden designer Lara Raffaelli of Enchanted Gardens Design says, 'Warm colors (reds, oranges, yellows) are considered exciting and stimulating.' Think of poppies, tulips, sunflowers, daffodils, red roses, nasturtiums, red hibiscus, and marigolds, she suggests.
The scarlet and orange tulips shown above create a show-stopping display as they burst from textural grasses flecked with bronze tips.
2. Create a carnival feel with exotic brights
If you love all things vibrant then how's this for an idea? Combine sumptuous plum tones, fiery oranges, and deep-raspberry pinks for an explosion of exotic hues. Dahlias are a reliable choice as there are so many vibrant varieties available, and, as seen here, their foliage can offer an extra tonal accent to the mix.
Pair with bold furniture and quirky accessories (we're loving this upcycled container) for a fun, carnival vibe. Festoon lights would make a fabulous finishing touch.
3. Add a splash of tranquil blue to your garden color schemes
'Cool colors are considered to be calming,' says Garden Designer Lara Raffaelli of Enchanted Gardens Design. And by looking at this serene scene full of muscari and pale hyacinths, we wholeheartedly agree. So, to achieve a garden that will provide tons of tranquility, choose shades of lilac, blue, and lavender.
'The list is endless,' Lara says. Think Verbena bonariensis, statice, eryngium, or glaucous blue hostas, for starters. 'Blue Moon' and 'Rhapsody in Blue' roses offer a blue-tinted purple, as does wisteria which looks stunning draped from a pergola or climbing a wall.
If you love ornamental grasses, Festuca glauca has a beautiful green-blue shade, says Lara, whilst Chamaecyparis lawsoniana is a wonderful glaucous conifer. Other examples include Agastache 'Blue Fortune', delphiniums (perfect if you love cottage garden ideas), and even hydrangeas, but keep them in acidic soil to stop them turning pink, Lara adds.
4. Place a vivid tone against cool navy
Of course, garden color schemes aren't just about the plants. You can also extend the theme to fences, walls and other large garden structures, as well as your outdoor furniture, to make a bold impression.
This chic navy wall provides a contemporary backdrop to spiky succulents – it's amazing how a lick of exterior paint can transform a space. The contrasting pop of yellow lifts the tone and draws the eye, whilst a complementary outdoor rug finishes the scene beautifully.
5. Add a retro vibe with mustard, blue and pink
This funky set-up looks effortlessly cool. Mustard and pink combine beautifully in a retro scheme of dreams, whilst inky blue walls and decking grounds the scene for a grown-up feel.
Pair with a matching rug in an eye-catching, geometric pattern to up the cosy factor further. Tons of greenery in pots soften the harder lines, and why not add in a lantern or two for good measure? It's a great look for any patio or terrace, or could even be downsized for a balcony.
6. Pair sage with warm neutrals
Worn terracotta, bare plaster, natural wood and gentle sage come together to create a calming feel that evokes a sense of nature.
Garden color schemes inspired by this look work well with pared-back furniture. Take this minimalist yet sculptural bench which is influenced by Japanese art for a stunning example. A pouffe or two will add to the laid-back feel. And, of course, using water feature ideas nearby will only contribute to the soothing ambience.
A subtle pop of unexpected color can be most welcome, too. Here, deep pink blooms soften the look and draw the eye as they extend from stylish, oversized planters.
7. Try an all-white look
Fancy creating your own slice of heaven in your backyard? Try an ethereal all-white theme. It's a popular choice for many gardeners and it's easy to see why – snowy blooms against verdant leaves will always refresh and soothe the senses.
Go for quintessential cottage garden plants such as Digitalis purpurea 'Alba', Cosmos bipinnatus 'Purity' or Ammi majus for a softer, billowing look. For a more contemporary vibe, opt for more structural details. Think white tulips, agapanthus or hydrangeas, all of which work well combined with neatly clipped evergreens and oversized, white-toned planters. Narcissus 'Thalia', as seen above, works in all styles of garden – it's a lovely, white daffodil that will lift any spring border.
Don't forget to incorporate your garden color schemes into the hard landscaping, too – try using white tones for your paving, walls, and gravel, for instance.
8. Go for sophisticated greys
Ironically, garden color schemes don't have to scream color. And that's good news if you've been considering a grey-themed plot, after checking out our garden trends for this year.
Perhaps once dubbed as dull, grey is in fact a powerful shade that can offer a contemporary yet welcoming look when styled correctly. Here, the walls and floor in their pale tones offer subtle texture yet clean lines – perfect for providing a canvas for leafy shadows.
Soft grey cushions add a luxurious feel, especially when combined with rattan which keeps the look from feeling overly urban. Modern planting arranged in pots will offset the style well, as will the odd accent of color – an ochre cushion and pop of terracotta adds warmth.
Don't forget the on-trend 'Amazing Grey' poppy too – a gorgeously delicate variety with ruffled petals.
9. Choose complementary shades
If you love color and are looking to create impact, then there's no reason you can't mix and match brighter shades. But, before you get started, keep complementary tones in mind – that way you can keep the look considered rather than chaotic.
As Garden Designer Lara Raffaelli says, combining complementary tones (those opposite each other on the color wheel) heightens the impact of each, and provides a pop of vibrancy that will assuredly liven up a color scheme. 'Examples of these are purple and yellow, blue and orange, red and green, and so on', she says. Take a look at a color wheel and see how they pair up.
Here, electrifying tones of dahlias, gladiolus and echinacea bounce off of one another providing a well-balanced mix of brights. Apply the look to your furniture, too – this vivid orange chair creates a bold impact against the blue fence and cushion. Try our colorful garden furniture ideas for more inspiration.
10. Invigorate a space with white and green
For fresh-feeling garden color schemes, minty green and crisp white make a stunning duo. This look combines white-washed walls with plenty of foliage, whilst modern furniture continues the theme.
This is a reliable way to create a clean and uncluttered outdoor retreat that still feels characterful. Perfect for adding a luxe holiday-vibe to a sunny terrace or courtyard.
11. Use similar tones
'When colors are adjacent to each other, the effect they inspire is of harmony: they harmonise, like a melody, and are pleasing to the eye rather than jarring,' says Garden Designer Lara Raffaelli. To get the look, try using a similar range of a particular shade, she says, by opting for hues that are next to each other on the color wheel.
Here, a palette of purples, violets and blues come together in a rustic stone trough, for a pretty display.
Lara demonstrates the impact that similar tones can have on a plot further: 'My front garden is a natural perennial garden with mostly shades of blue, pink, purple and burgundy. Last year a surprise snapdragon grew, in a shade of orangey-red so violent it offended my senses.' Lara dug it up, planted it in her back garden near some other red roses and a Photinia 'Red Robin', and forgot about it.
'A few months later I was out in the back garden and something deep and beautifully red caught my eye,' Lara continues. 'I went to go inspect, and found it was the transplanted snapdragon! What had appeared so garish alongside the pinks and lilacs in the front garden, had been softened by the much brighter, deeper red of Rose 'Stromboli', so that it now appeared merely gorgeous and harmonious.'
12. Add an air of opulence with burgundy
To add a sultry sense of opulence to your garden color schemes, try going for darker tones.
'Burgundy is a fabulous color in a garden,' says garden designer Lara Raffaelli. Her suggestions include certain acers, Cotinus coggygria, 'Munstead Wood' and 'Black Baccara' roses, 'Mapira' lily, 'Black Barlow' aquilegia, the deep, tones of the 'Almost Black' sweet pea, and many heucheras.
Pair with black planters, as seen here with these snake's head fritillaries, tulips, and rosemary for a bewitching effect. Lara adds that the look also goes wonderfully with glaucous blue.
After more ways to create show-stopping displays? Head over to our container gardening ideas.
What colors will make my garden look bigger?
You may not have considered it, but different garden color schemes can affect how big your plot feels.
'Darker colors tend to recede and make a space look further away, and hence longer or deeper,' says Garden Designer Lara Raffaelli. 'The opposite is experienced with paler colors: they stand out and appear closer.' So, to make a small space appear longer or larger, use darker colors like deep blue or purple, Lara suggests, which will trick the eye into believing that they are further away.
'White or pale colors will jump forward in a space, and can make a small garden appear even smaller! So if you have pale furniture in a small garden, you might want to paint it a darker color to tone it down and help it visually recede into the background.'
How should I choose my garden color scheme?
It's easy to assume there are wrongs or rights when it comes to garden color schemes, but that isn't necessarily true. At the end of the day, 'go for the effect that makes you happy, because that's what gardens are for,' says Garden Designer Lara Raffaelli.
'If orange and mustard make you happy, plant them! Likewise with purple, red and yellow. I wouldn't have them together in my garden, but that's just me.'
Either way, hopefully you now have plenty of ideas for creating your own show-stopping displays. And if you're after more gorgeous designs for your plot, why not head over to our flowerbed ideas feature?
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.
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