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The past can colour the future in surprising ways | September 2018

The past can colour the future in surprising ways

Bringing colours together harmoniously and creatively whilst designing gardens can be an interesting challenge. It often requires working around a client’s perceived preferences and challenging them with new approaches.

Combining colours can create inspiring contrasts whilst blending and repeating them can unify a garden. The use of colour in garden design considers many elements, including landscaping materials such as paving, gravel or stone. Likewise, your choice of paints and stains for structures like fences and summerhouses can make a significant difference to the look of an outdoor space. This is before you even get to the important matter of planting…

Unlike interior design schemes, colours outdoors vary considerably and change. This is down to the long-term effects of weathering as much as significant variations in lighting and wet conditions; then there’s the dappling effect of sunlight passing through foliage and flowers.

I am a little bit sensitive about such matters – perhaps overly so on occasion. However, there’s a reason for my twitchy observations about colour in the garden. It probably has something to do with my former working life “BC” (before children), prior to my decision to change direction and embark on a career designing gardens and planting.

My early career couldn’t have been further from the work I do today! Whilst studying for my PhD part time, I was given the task of managing and running the teaching laboratories. I taught practical skills to Colour Science students at the University of Leeds.

Towards the end of my 13-year stint at the Department of Colour Chemistry, I moved house and used the opportunity to sign up for an evening class in garden design, at RHS Harlow Carr. Helen Taylor was my tutor – a very talented garden designer who lived (and still does) near my new home, in the neighbouring village of Burley in Wharfedale. It was during this time that I became inspired by the creative process: the technical and problem solving elements as much as the aesthetic aspects of landscape design. I was hooked.

I continued to work at the university, appreciating more and more colour perception in the outdoor, natural world and how it works in well-designed gardens. I took the decision to study horticulture (Shipley College) and it felt like coming home. I found that I loved the soil science and plant physiology – both subjects that I suspect would have bored me in my younger years.

My early career provided me with a unique – and possibly unusual – transition to garden design. Yet it never ceases to amaze me the ways in which it continues to shape my work today. Perhaps the most significant of these is how I harness a little of the ‘nerdiness’ of my early career when I work on planting designs and advise clients during consultations.

This blog is my way of providing you with a bit of a background in advance of the handful (I hope) of future blogs I’d like to share. With my blogs, I hope to provide you with a little insight in to how colour in garden design will help you see your outdoor spaces in a different way – and appreciate them all the more.

To add a bit of sparkle, there will also be some joint posts and guest blogs from other contributors (well at least one!). Fingers crossed I’ll manage this. To date my blog posting has been somewhat minimal and sporadic!

Thank you for reading. Until next time…

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