A skilful use of appropriate colour can elevate the energy and mood of the garden, says Maya Ganesan

Gardens vary so widely in scale, style and purpose. However whether lush tropical gardens, or serene Japanese courtyards, drier xeriscapes, or minimalistic and contemporary gardens of steel and stone, whether formal or otherwise, many gardens are simply monochromatic- varying shades of green, with a mandatory patch of neutral earth tones in the way of paving and hardscaping.

A skilful use of appropriate colour can elevate the energy and mood of the garden or bring in some much needed calm. Blending of complementary colours can help make the garden appear larger than it is while strong contrasts can help shrink the space visually as the eye focuses on things closer at hand. The size and purpose of a garden, available light level, surrounding environs are all critical to the choice of successful colour schemes. Colour is an oft-ignored component in the garden and this article is intended to pull people out of their colour ruts, bring new life into existing gardens and encourage a more – well, colourful approach to the way gardeners perceive, choose and use colour in their gardens.

Colour is a cheap and relatively easy route to a garden makeover. Here’s how:

Plant selection. This might appear the most obvious but it certainly isn’t the easiest way to add colour to the garden. The placement of plants depends on the microclomate of the garden, issues of sun and shade, proximity to trees and buildings, availability of water and so forth.

An informed selection of plants can bring colour through foliage, flowers and even through bark or stems. Cannas, dracaenas, crotons, crinums, grasses could be used for colourful foliage, impatiens, ixoras, hibiscus, russelia, lantana for flowers and eucalyptus, red palms, banana for bark features.

Hardscaping is easier to apply to the garden but is less reversible than the plant selection, and has to be done carefully. An unending variety of tiles, stone slabs, borders are available in almost any colour one might wish for. Neutrals such as greys or browns typically offset the lushness of green foliage.

However a hint of primary colour can highlight steps, edges, gathering spaces. Fiery yellows, reds, oranges, cool blues, dramatic blacks can all be found in tiles and mosaics. Even polished terracotta or laterite will add subtle yet distinctive colour to a patio or walkway.

Planters, urns, sculpture, chimes, mirrors frames and garden furniture could be painted the correct shade to evoke a particular mood and look to the garden , Summer shades in bright yellows, oranges and reds will lift the energy of the garden while cooler blues, greens and earth tones will offer a calm respite.

Cushions, tables, garden umbrellas, lounges and hammocks can be used to add a splash of colour to your outdoor space.

Architectural features - A stretch of wall, a trellis, columns, a door or doorway or a niche can be highlighted in a dramatic colour. Think Luis Barragan landscapes. The majorelle blues, the adobe oranges of the desserts, yellows of the Spanish countrysides – any of these can be used to alter the look and feel of the garden, patio or balcony.