Garden Design: Hot Versus Cool Gardens

The first step in understanding how to use color in your garden design is to divide the color wheel in half.

  • The colors on the right are hot
  • The colors on the left are cool

Without going into a great deal of theory, understand if you are trying to create a garden that’s relaxing – you want “cool” colors. If you want one that’s exciting, you’d use “hot” colors.  This emotional component of color happens without us being aware of it.

The practical implications are that if the garden is for you to relax in, you want to design with cool, relaxing colors.  If you’re trying to impress the neighbors or sell your house, you want excitement in that front garden and you’d use the hot side of the color spectrum.

  • The colors on the right will excite the viewer
  • The colors on the left will relax the viewer



The “but” is because color is a “relative” thing.  In other words, if you use only one color in a room, there is no “contrast” and contrast is what gives a color an impact on our eye.
Understanding contrast is what we’re going to focus on in the next few sessions.

Your Task

  • Is to decide what you want your garden to be.
  • Do you want excitement or relaxation?
  • Where do you want these emotional states to occur? Front yard? Back yard?


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