Color and Light

Color and Light in Landscape Design

Like an impressionist painter controls their canvas, a landscape’s mood can be heavily impacted by the utilization of color. We have discussed how line, shape, form, and texture can distinguish the different elements, focus, structure, flow and general ambiance of your design. This article focuses on the indispensable factor of color, which can subtly or dramatically contribute to design goals.

Color can be found in much more than just the fleeting blooms of the flowering shrubs we cherish in our landscapes.  Look to foliage, bark, fruit, and natural or man-made elements to achieve a unique and lasting impact. Color within plant material can be used to create contrast and direct focus against a background typically dominant with green hues.

While artist’s color theory can get complicated, developing a color scheme for your landscape design doesn’t need to be overwhelming.  Start by identifying the base mood for the design space.  Is the intent to create a sense of peace and relaxation, as typically associated with the “cool” side of the color wheel? Or, is the goal to instill feelings of excitement and joy, represented on the “warm” side of the wheel?  From this point we may create pops of focus and contrast by using complementary, or opposite, colors from the color wheel.

For practical over emotional elements of scheme choice, consider the impact on spatial perception. Cool colors tend to recede into the landscape, tricking the eye into thinking the area is larger by playing with shade. Warm colors sit closer to the forefront, drawing attention to natural features by capturing and reflecting light.

Sound too complicated?  Too much color variety can be overwhelming and confusing. A fun, easy trick to prevent color chaos is to play with monochromatic scheme, or simply working with shades of a single color. Visualizing how to achieve this desired landscape harmony can be illustrated by the parallels between landscape design and musical orchestration, which we will explore next time.