Long a companion for artists, the color wheel can also be a handy tool for gardeners.
Gardening author Sydney Eddison created a wheel that has 252 colors instead of the usual 12. That’s because nature doesn’t work with a limited palette, she says.
“In nature you have already been dealt this hand. You only have to learn how to play it,” she says.
Even all of the tints, shades and tones in Eddison’s “The Gardener’s Color Wheel” don’t capture the diversity of what’s really growing out there. But she says it’s a good way to start seeing colors in the garden and how they relate to each other.
“The color wheel trains your eye to look, to really look,” says Eddison, author of six books including “The Gardener’s Palette” (Contemporary Books, 2003). “You begin to understand why certain things work, or why you like a Christmas wreath that’s red and green and why you’re happy to see purple and yellow crocuses together.”
In both examples, the two colors are complementary — opposite each other on the color wheel — and in color theory, opposites attract.
In garden planning, colors are used to create either contrast or harmony, says Eddison, who has tended 2½ acres in Newtown, Conn., for half a century.
“Contrast calls attention to itself. It gives a jolt,” says Eddison, 81. “Whereas harmony is a sigh of relief.”
Colors adjacent on the color wheel, such as the warm shades of red and orange or the cool tones of blue and green, create harmony together.
Take a color wheel into the yard to parse out particular colors. Take it to the garden center to help pick out plants for the summer.
Then play in the soil.
Eddison recommends experimenting with color in pots on the terrace.