Hardscaping Color Schemes

paint_chipsApril 26, 2010

Last month I made some informal planting beds from the native reddish-brown boulders on the property, but they needed mulch. After looking at all the mulch colors at Home Depot, I picked out my favorite color, a tan brown. When I bought it home an put it next to the boulders, the color worked out well, but it was *sheer luck*. I know mulch isn't hardscape, but the experience shocked me into realizing that I need to have a larger plan in mind instead of just picking each element based on my own preferences.

I usually hang out on the decorating forum so I should have known to consider each element as part of a whole, but somehow that didn't translate in my mind to landscaping. Since then, I have been reading and taking notes on landscaping, especially hardscaping, but I am still coming in to this on the ground floor. I am trying to learn what I should do next time, next house, to have a more successful outdoor area.

How did you decide on your landscaping color scheme? What did you choose first? Does house color dictate one's color scheme direction? Or is it something else?

Are there combinations that you have found to be especially pleasing, or do monochromatic choices work the best? What makes hardscaping color schemes successful?

Does anyone coordinate with interior flooring to help bolster the indoor/outdoor connection? Or is that even a concern?

I hope everyone forgives my elementary questions, but I am really eager to learn from the amazing knowledge and experience here. Thank you for any insight!

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There are many considerations that I take to heart. Some of the things to consider are the natural area. Slopes, acsesses, color of the home, Client likes or dislikes. Of coarse the way the area is used. Light exposure, wind, moisture, and what the homeowner is willing to do to keep the area thriving. Are there children using the area? Do you have pictures of the property that you could post?

One thing that I do as far as house color goes is if say the home is red I don't plant red colors without an evergreen to break up the color. I don't use them because they will get lost in the color of the home. Foliage is important in any instance. Now you have to ask yourself is formal or informal. Fromal with accsents or informal with a whimsical aspect? One pice of advice is to not plant anything thorney along or near pathways that people will access. They can be used but I use them on the lawnside and not along where people will be walking. These are Just a few things to that you can do. Post some pictures if you can.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 3:29AM
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Well it's kinda of obvious or maybe not but your basic landscape color is green and the various tints and tones thereof. After knowing that you need to understand the texture and leaf sizes vary to add more interest to the various greens. True there are variegated and colored foliage, but those are not the mainstays of the landscape more like an accent to the textures and foliages sizes/patters of the various greens.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 7:19AM
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Welcome, Paint-Chips! Glad you wandered in over here. In Jan and Feb I posted some over on HD and read tons. I remember, I think, that you are a generous and helpful advisor, especially re: interior color expressions.

I'm not exactly sure, but I sort of took your question as a general one, not necessarily referring to your current situation. Is that right?

My response will be sort of a bubbling out of ideas from what I've read here over the years.

Color in the landscape begins with two huge references in the particular setting -- nature itself and the house (and any existing hardscape).

By nature, I mean something that may seem so obvious it doesn't need to be said. Unless the entire lot has been paved, graveled or built on, there will be nature exerting itself in some way shape or form. Even if a lawn is crabby and shabby, it's still ... well ... green. And with the green in bushes, trees, and grass, which can vary with texture and hue, there will also be another color that's usually simply "there". Brown. Dirt color, bark, branches, dry leaves.

That's why, almost without exception I think, landscape designers and experienced gardeners will strongly urge that dyed mulches be avoided. Someone will shout out here that one should never say never do something, so I didn't. yet, if you think about it, you don't really want people to notice mulch. Most of the time, you want it to fade into the mental background. Most of the time, that means choosing undyed mulch. Yep, it's brown. Pretty close to dirt color. And, usually that's what let's it drop into the background when we're in nature. It also tends to show off plants in a more "natural" way.

But it's a choice.

Another an often repeated mantra here and on the perennials forum is that the color of perennial blooms is very fleeting. With few exceptions (and there are exceptions) most perennials bloom for about 2 weeks. So color becomes a matter of foliage, which carries most of the color show, and efforts to create pleasing color progressions as plants bloom from season to season.

The second reference is the house itself. Paint, siding, brick, roof material and color, trim, driveway, patio material, etc. And, sometimes the color of something can shift a negative feature into view or help it fade into the background. Downspouts are one that seems to come up in that regard.

And, although this touches color by context rather than specifically, the genius locii, or "spirit of the place", can play out in color. You spoke of finding and using native stones as an edging material. Nature plays a part in this dynamic. We have certain pre-conceptions that we can adopt or play with that come from different regions of the country. What color palates seem to play best in California v Illinois, the Arizona desert v Cape Cod?

There are also ways to use color in the landscape to create moods and emotions. That, I think, may be where your own color experience can really come into effect. My guess is that you know a great deal about how high contrast with vibrant colors can create a feeling of exuberance and energy. A moon garden featuring white blooms and a good bit of silvery foliage will not only shimmer in the moonlight, but also create a sense of mystery and wonder.

Hope this is helpful and that others chime in on this one.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 7:21AM
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Well said welly, not much to add. Remember that houses are often the colour they are so that they stand out from their surroundings so this may be the first decision to make: is this a garden (landscape) with a house in it or a house with a garden around it. In other words do I want the house and garden to be one, in which case colours and materials should harmonize or do I want the house to dominate, in which case the hardscaping should be earth toned or contrast with the house.

As for the mulch question, it, like any other natural material you use outdoors will, unlike your interior,age which means it will change colour or fade so the fresh out of the bag look shouldn't be taken as an indicator.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 8:56AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I agree that the colour green very much is an issue. I bought a couple of big pots a few years back, in sort of an unnatural olive colour, and for the life of me can't find a planting for them that I really enjoy.

There's also blue sky, grey clouds, brown tree trunks, and whatever borrowed landscape you have. My house is orange, and I have a red-flowering tree (Hamamelis Diane) planted by the back steps. It blooms in January, so I see it mostly from indoors, against the neighbour's house, which is grey! Perfect. What they see doesn't bother me at all, though actually it's not that bad. OK, that's not hardscape, but I hope the point stands.

Now mind you, some landscape installations (think very modern) don't actually contain plants. But for the home garden, it matters.

Ink alluded too to the contributing hand of mother nature/father time. We did a two colour patio a few years ago in which my husband and the sales clerk chose the paver colours, and they don't go. But some 5 years later, after bushels of willow leaves have fallen on it and other forces have mitigated the colours, the thing harmonizes just fine (or did it just etch itself onto my eyeballs??) I also have some other different materials beside each other (grey concrete and beige sandstone, for example) that I wouldn't forgive myself for indoors, but outdoors, it all harmonizes much better.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 11:51AM
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Stormz- I am afraid there is no specific site. This is my attempt to figure out what to do better next time! My little journal is FULL of, "Gosh, I should have..."

Since we aren't tied to an area and move frequently, I thought that if I learned the concepts, I would be able to apply them anywhere.

That is a great tip (another for my journal!) about planting colors. I was trying to figure out why yellow plants weren't making me happy in front of my yellow house. How you said it makes perfect sense to my landscape challenged brain. :O)

Isabella, I do get carried away with the fun colors! How did you know? :O) But in the better inspiration photos there is so much lush green as a backdrop. I really need to do more research in that area. I can keep happy flowers alive, but shrubs and bushes scare me a little.

Wellspring, thanks for the compliment. I try to help out there when I can. And thank you for your generous response! I read about colored mulches after my near disaster (that red DH thought was cool would have been a horror or horrors!). No more for me. I had no idea it was a faux pas.

There is so much more to process in garden design than in home design, growth rates, flowering times, plant requirements... All these extra things have my mind boggling so much that I am forgetting the basics. You are right, spirit and mood are very important for me -- letting things be as they want.

Right now, every beautiful inspiration photo has a pull for me. II need to see more to figure out what *I* want to say instead of what i may want to copy. Ahh, the learning process!

Inkognito, I understand exactly what you are saying. Some houses look better a little hidden by nature. Others would look bushy and overgrown. So I need to evaluate, not just the land, but the house to see if I need to hide or reveal. Right? :O)

KarinL, (I've seen you on HD too! HI!) I got a kick out of your tree story. I could just imagine being your neighbor and looking out at your red tree and orange house. :o)
You hit right on my concern! When DH pushes for something it is because it is unusual, different, or a color no one else has. I worry that if I don't have a larger plan, all of these crazy things would come together looking like a cheap HGTV how-to. I forget that nature can mellow life into something enjoyable.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 12:32PM
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I go boulder shopping, or gravel picking, with the color chips from the house and a baggie of the yard's dirt or gravel.

The general process is the same as that of color picking for inside the house ... whatever is permanent or hard to change (like roof, or large rocks) is what everything else has to look good with.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 4:31PM
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