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Color Psychology

Have you ever noticed how certain colors can affect the way you feel? I certainly have. Just think of when you’re waiting at the doctor’s office surrounded by that awful toothpaste shade of green that’s often used in waiting rooms — yuck! Or, how about that invigorating feeling you get from entering a beautiful greenhouse filled with rich green foliage — yes, please!

Well, this got me thinking about how we decide what we want our gardens to look like since we often put a lot of our own personality into our green spaces, through color selection and design. When I’m planning out my garden or helping a friend with theirs, the questions that always come to mind are things like, what is the goal of this space, what is it going to be used for, and how do we want it to make us feel? Just like selecting colors for the interior of your home, the colors and varieties we choose for our garden will inevitably foster certain vibes as well.

This led me to do some digging around color, and how it plays a role in our emotions. Not surprisingly, I found that there’s a whole psychology surrounding color and its varied effects on the mind.

Let’s start with chromotherapy, which is an ancient practice involving the use of color as a holistic therapy, where exposing people to certain colors is believed to improve well-being. Having been practiced across numerous civilizations for over 2000 years, from Egypt, and Greece, to India, and China, this alternative treatment is still in use today.

And it goes further, in fact. In advertising whole research panels are often used to determine what color combinations evoke certain desired emotional responses, as an example, did you know that yellow increases your appetite? Or that red creates a sense of urgency and passion?

It comes as no surprise then, that artists and designers also look to color theory and psychology as a way to capture certain emotions. After all, the use of color plays a huge part in our psyche.

So, if color schemes affect us so greatly, why wouldn’t we take this idea and relate it to gardening? After all, gardening can be as expressive and creative as any art form — just look at some of the most celebrated gardens from around the world, and you’ll find that color placement plays an equally important role alongside design.

Personally, I see gardening not only as a way to find peace and well-being in an otherwise hectic world, but I also see it as a creative outlet. Armed with the spade as our paintbrush and plants as our paint, we have the tools to create captivating works of expression! We, as gardeners, are artists, determining how we want our green spaces to look. So let’s dive into what colors can do for us.

Think about what vibe you want your garden to give. Depending on what colors you choose, you can create a space that evokes the right mood for you. So, with artist inspiration in mind, let’s explore these possibilities by taking a look at some creative masterpieces and how we can compare them to our garden vision:

Soft Creams, Blushes, and Whites

Creating an oasis using crisp white blooms alongside softer tones of blush and cream, is the perfect way to have a garden that will practically glow into the evening hours. Selecting a fragrant mix of flowers such as white sweet peas and honeysuckle, or dreamy blooms of blush peonies, or cream-colored roses can create an airy, ethereal space where you can relax your mind and find clarity while unwinding at the end of the day. Can I also mention how romantic this garden would feel?!

Just like John Singer Sargent’s enchanting twilit garden scene, you too can incorporate a few lanterns and soft string lighting to create a magical space you’ll never want to leave.

Cool Blues, and Purples

Retreating to the garden is a perfect way to find calm when feeling stressed. Selecting cool blues and subtle purples will present a garden space that’s both easy on the eyes and soothing to the soul. Plant aromatic Lavender, or purple Lilacs, as well as shades of blue Clematis, or Salvia to draw upon your inner quiet. Just like a long drink of cold water on a hot day, you’ll quench your mind with tranquility when you unwind amidst your serene scenery. The perfect pairing for this garden? a comfy lawn chair and a good book.

Need some inspiration? Check out Monet’s famous paintings of the irises in the Gardens at Giverny for a heavenly landscape dominated by cool tones.

Vibrant Reds, Oranges, Pinks, and Yellows

Envisioning colorful masterpieces created by artists such as Gustav Klimt makes it easy to see how a symphony of jewel tones can bring personality to your garden.

Rich, vibrant colors such as luscious reds and fiery oranges when paired with sunny yellows and youthful pinks create a garden that’s playful, creative, and full of life. If you have a sunny patch of garden and want a fun pop of color, explore pairing Nasturtiums with Million Bells, or combine Moss Roses with Zinnias. For a nostalgic feel, scatter Black-eyed Susans alongside Daylilies, and Bee Balm. Whatever vibrant combos you come up with will result in an eclectic and charming environment perfect for those looking to feel energized and upbeat.

Delicate Pastels

Renoir’s soft, flowing landscapes infused with his use of pastel tones evoke an almost daydreamy, sentimental state. This effect can also be recreated within your garden — all by selecting the right color combinations and plant textures.

Sentimental, demure, easy-going, and child-like are all words associated with the soft shades known as pastel. Choosing a variety of subtle hues in baby pink, powder blue, or pale yellow for your garden will convey warm, gentle feelings, which can be a nice in-between for someone who isn’t looking for the loudness of jewel-toned blooms, or the composed simplicity of blue and purple-hued gardens. Try going for a muted mix of Meadowsweet, Cosmos, Morning Glories, yarrow, or even Hydrangeas. Just like a breath of fresh air, surrounding yourself with a pleasant blend of pale colors will have you feeling optimistic and at ease.

We garden for many reasons, but what all gardeners can agree upon is that although gardening is hard work, the results are worth it, and the process brings us closer to ourselves. How we choose to fill these spaces — whether indoors, or outdoors, in pots, or the ground, allows us to express our personality while gaining a little piece of paradise from what we sow.

So, next time I’m planning out my garden, not only will I consider the practical side of what plant will do best where, but I’ll also use the psychology and theory of color to create a space that feeds my soul in a way that suits my sensitivities.

But how about you? What colors will you be using, and why? With so many varieties and options, I’m certain that you’ll create a colorful garden space as unique as you are.

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