Colour plays such a key role in our gardens. Whether it’s the lush greens of foliage our lawns, a dazzling display of blue, red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, or white flowers. Colour in the garden lifts our mood. In fact, studies have shown that colours can improve our mood, and attention, as well as reduce stress and anxiety.

So, in the dull or shady parts of our garden, the use of colour can make a real difference.

Light the way in shady or dull spots

Using the correct plants, furniture or pathways can lift a dull section of the garden. In terms of plants, you first want to find those plants that thrive in the shade. First think about foliage, a plant that has silver foliage or is pale in tone, will stand out more in the shade. Then choose flowering plants that offer white, pink, or yellow blooms.

Secondly, think about your background. What colour is the fence if you have one, dark colours will add more shade, whereas pale or white colours will boost the light. Should you be planning to sit out in this section of the garden, then choose furniture that is white or paint the framework in white.

Thirdly, light-coloured gravel, pale red brick, or light-coloured paving will again lift the area.

Plant options that you might want to think about:

Brunnera macrophylla distinctive foliage for colour

For Foliage

  • Hosta
  • Brunnera macrophylla
  • Pilea cadieri
  • Pulmonaria
  • Athyrium niponicum
Saxifraga pink flowers for colour

For Flower colour

  • Camellia
  • Saxifraga
  • Chamomilla recutita
  • Mahonia
  • Digitalis grandiflora
  • Primula
  • Aster
  • Ficaria verna
  • Iris
  • Kniphofia ‘Early Buttercup’

Trick the eye with clever plant placement

Gardens come in shapes and sizes, and if space is at a premium, then simple planting techniques can help make a space look bigger. Place the softer colour at a point that is furthest away from best place to view you display.

And then place your brighter coloured blooms at the front. You can also add width by placing pale colours in foreground and brighter colours in the back.


Energise or Soothe

Through the correct combination of colours in your planting display, you can create moods in your garden.

Bright colours will lift darker areas giving the area more energy. Yellow, orange, and red plant combinations are a real treat.

For a more relaxing feel, pastel shaded blooms of pink, blue, yellow, or mauve, can be matched with cream colours.

reds, oranges, and yellow flower displays

Avoid a clash

I would always advise that you try to avoid planting pastel colour flowers alongside brighter coloured blooms. The simple reason that I have for this approach is that pastel colours can look dull in comparison. Soften bright reds with green, and lift blues with orange.

Lift a patio in Autumn with containers

With containers, you can boost the colour of your patio during autumn. Start the work in late summer, by planting by choosing colourful blooms. A mix of trailing ivy with Agastache, and Rudbeckia will give you a complimentary mix of colours. If you choose to use a dahlia or hardy chrysanthemum, once they have died back you can dig up the tubers and bulbs. And plant them again next year in a pot or the garden.

Dahlias in an autumn container

Variegation is what you need

Foliage isn’t often the first thing we look for in plants. We want the wow that a stunning flowerhead can bring. But there is an array of plants with gorgeous, variegated foliage, can stand up to the big blooms and offer flecks of colour across lush green leaves.


During the cold, shorter daylight hours of winter, when all the perennial plants and deciduous trees and shrubs have gone dormant, you want to see some green. Thankful nature provides with richly coloured evergreens.

Plus, choose the right plants and you’ll see displays of red, yellow, and orange berries, that our feathered friends really appreciate in winter.

Remember what you have and where

As the seasons change and plants dieback and enter dormancy, it is very easy to forget what is planted where. You also want to avoid unnecessary repetition of plant hues that will negate your carefully planned out colour scheme. Here are couple of ideas that should help with that.

Create a spreadsheet

You can use a spreadsheet to keep a track of the plants you have in your borders, and colours of those flowers. Here’s an example:

West Border East Border North Border South Border
Front Sedum – pink Pulmonarias – pink Hakonechloa – green Coreopsis – yellow
Middle Euphorbias – yellow Clematis – purple Monarda – purple Echinaceas – pink
Back Elaeagnus – white Cotinus – white Fennel – yellow Delphiniums – lilac

Just keep repeating the Front, Middle, and Back rows until you have a complete record.

Plant tags

There is a dazzling array of labels to buy these days. From wooden sticks that are like lollypop sticks, to copper ones, and stainless steel. You can pick up 100 plastic plant labels for £3.99 that have enough space on them to record the plant name and colour.

When you are planting out your new borders, write up the label and place in the ground.

Wooden stick plant labels

Take a photo or shoot a video

Smartphones do make things a little easier to record things on. So, take a photo of the plant label and the place that you planted it in the border. You can also film a video of the border display too.

Garden diary

For something that is a little more traditional, you can draw up your borders in a garden diary. You can use a standard notebook, graph paper book (if you want to record to scale), or a daily diary to do this.

For those with artistic flair draw out your border and write the plant name and variety in the corresponding position. For diary entries, you can also state the date you planted it and even track when it comes into flower.

Brightening up your garden space no matter the size doesn’t have to be difficult. Stick to these handy techniques, and your garden will look wonderful in no time.

Make sure your garden is bright in the upcoming autumn season:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas: