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Backyard Colour Themes

A contemporary effect can be achieved by using high-contrast neutral shades of light grey and charcoal alongside soft wood tones.

A colour triad theme is created by drawing a symmetrical triangle connecting three colours, such as red, yellow and blue, or violet, orange and green. This look offers the maximum of colour possibilities, which is great for gardeners who struggle with wanting one of everything. This motif is retrained enough to avoid the crazy hodge-podge look; however, similar to the complementary theme, when placing unlike colours next to each other, be sure to select those with a comparable depth of pigment.

Neutrals, darks, and lights
Just as in other areas of design, neutral colours are necessary for balance. In the landscape, neutrals such as soft greens, silver, grey, brown, and white can serve as a buffer between clashing colours and provide the required framework to showcase livelier hues. Alternately, a contemporary effect can also be achieved by using high-contrast neutral shades of light grey and charcoal alongside soft wood tones.

Colour nuances are equally important. Similar to the effect of cool and warm tones, dark colours recess into the distance and light colours come to the forefront, appearing closer than they actually are. They also provide the contrast and dimension needed to bring focus to finer foliage textures. Further, similar to white in the landscape, pale pastel shades have the added benefit of luminosity in lowlight situations.

The colour red can be particularly confusing with regard to shades, as when white is added to red, the outcome is pink. Pink is in fact, light red. Contrary to some opinions, red and pink actually look great together. An example of this is shown in this image of pink blossoms with red sofa cushions and furnishings in this backyard below.

Pool interior colour considerations
Pools are a central component of many landscapes, and thus the interior hues must be contemplated carefully. As mentioned earlier, light colours have the appearance of being closer; therefore, light pool interiors seem shallower. Light tones also enable swimmers to see the bottom of the pool, which is an excellent safety feature—especially for young swimmers. On the other hand, light coloured pools will also show any debris present, so they must be kept meticulously clean. Pools with dark interiors appear deeper. Dark tones attract the sun’s warmth making them naturally warmer, while also better hiding pool grime.

A pool’s pigment is greatly influenced by the addition of water. The reflection of sky, pool surroundings, and water depth all play a role in how the water colour is perceived. This will also change drastically depending on light and weather conditions. The following are some common pool interior hues and how the addition of water can alter them. Keep in mind, however, the reflected surrounds will also impact the final colour.

Contrary to some opinions, red and pink look great together, such as in this backyard where the pink blossoms and red sofa cushions and furnishings work well together.

This is the classic colour choice for plaster pools. It changes to a light, bright, crystal-clear blue.

Sand tones
Sandy coloured pool interiors turn turquois—similar to a Caribbean beach.

Grey pool interiors transform into soft grey-blues, blending in naturally to their surroundings.

Blue pool interiors typically remain the same; however, the shade of blue can change depending on the time of day.

Just as you choose to adorn the interior of your home with a personal touch of colour and style, the same should be done for the exterior. Your outdoor living space is meant to surround you with beauty and enhance your life. Regardless of trends and styles, there is no right or wrong way to use colour if it makes you happy. Ultimately, it is your home environment so do as you like. However, for those who prefer some seasoned advice and direction, carry your indoor themes into the outdoors. Select your colour concept wisely and consider their effects on all aspects of your outdoor living space, including patio furniture, plantings, pots, pool tile, pavers, and exterior décor to create the chicest of backyard resorts. Just remember, continuity is fundamental to avoid a potpourri end result.

Since 2001, award-winning landscape designer and garden writer, Melanie Rekola, has been making backyard dreams a reality. Offering inspired landscape design and consultative services throughout Ontario, and remotely to contractors throughout Canada and the U.S., she is one of the lucky few to have found their life’s passion. Rekola can be contacted via e-mail at For more information, visit her website

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