By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer
As a society, we’ve been trained to see meaning in certain colors; red means stop, green means go, yellow says be cautious. On a deeper level, though, colors can also evoke certain emotions in us. Bright colors can make us feel more energetic and vibrant. Cool colors can make us feel calm, content, tired or melancholy. Pastel colors can make us feel relaxed, refreshed and peaceful. For more information about using pastels in the garden and types of pastel flowers, read on.
Pastel Garden Ideas
Pastel colors are soft and light tones of pink, purple, blue, green, orange and yellow. In marketing, we often see pastel colors used for baby stuff because these colors remind us of softness, sweetness and security. At 3 a.m. when the baby is fussy and fighting sleep, it will be much easier to lull him or her back to sleep surrounded by soft colors and lights. Pastel colors also adorn everything around Easter time to celebrate the start of spring. After a dreary, cold winter, the light pinks, blues, yellows and lavenders of spring decorations gently bring us out of our winter slumbers.
In these same ways, using pastels in the garden can create a space where we can unwind after a hard day and feel refreshed. A pastel garden can be placed almost anywhere in the yard. Pastel colored flowers look beautiful in bright sunlight, but also stand out in shade gardens and can brighten up especially dark areas. Although not actually a pastel color, white is often used in pastel garden schemes. Silver and dark green also provide striking contrast to pastel garden plants.
Creating a Pastel Garden
When creating a pastel garden, include light colored flowering trees, shrubs, and vines, as well as perennials and annuals to add different heights and textures to the bed. Variety in flower beds can maintain garden color longer, attract different beneficial insects and pollinators, and also hinder some plant specific pests and diseases.
Pastel gardens are usually designed in a cottage garden style, but due to the color’s soothing effects, they would be excellent for mandala or meditation gardens too. Here are some different types of pastel flowering plants that can be used in creating these gardens.
- Newport Plum
- Ornamental Pear
- Weeping Cherry
- Butterfly Bush
- Flowering Almond
- Rose of Sharon
Perennials and Annuals
- Bleeding Heart
- Joe Pye weed
- Morning Glory
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Pastel Planters: 5 Favorite Petal-Colored Pots
Easter, and spring in general, has us in the mood for pastel planters. Here are our favorites in subtle sherbet shades that won’t overpower your flowers.
Above: Ceramist Elizabeth Benotti hand forms these pleasingly pale mini planters (also shown in the top photo) in her New Hampshire studio. Available by custom order, her Small Square Herringbone Planter comes in pastel colors $30 apiece. Above: Made in Belgium, these chalky planters from SMUG come in a variety of shades and sizes. Pictured here, their Pink Plant Pot and mint plant pot in the small size £7.50. Other pretty pastels include a medium Peppermint Plant Pot £10. Above: A 4.25-inch glazed stoneware Sötkörsbär plant pot is $4.99 from Ikea. Above: Boskke’s clever pastel planters are made from recycled plastic. Shown here, the Recycled Small Pink Sky Planter £16.95 each (see Boskke for restocking information). See The Hanging Kitchen Garden for more on Boskke’s hanging planters. Above: From Terrain, a 15-inch Pastel Terracotta Pot + Saucer is $198.
Want more pastels in the garden? See 10 Easy Pieces: Outdoor Dining Chairs in Shades of Spring. On Remodelista, see pastel vases inspired by nature: Soft Touch: Pastel Pottery by Lenneke Wispelwey.
Spring Pastel Décor to Brighten Your Home for the Season
Pastels, as you well may know, are colors lightened with white to achieve a calm, creamy version of the original. The resulting colors bring to mind all the emerging buds of spring and Easter baskets filled with bright eggs and candies. Spring and the Easter season are the perfect time to bring these light pastels into your home décor!
The most popular pastels for this season are blush pink, pistachio and mint greens, sky blue, and periwinkle. The pastel pinks and greens speak of apple and cherry blossoms on newly budding branches. The blue calls to mind sweet spring water, and light purple is often used to represent spirituality. Together, these colors create a peaceful atmosphere with a fresh, joyful spirit.
If you’re ready to bring some of that calm, blossoming energy into your home this season, here are a few ideas for picking the perfect pastel décor to brighten your home!
For the Walls
- Garlands: For a quick and easy splash of color, hang a spring garland in your living or dining area. This multi-colored garland features felt balls in six delightful pastel colors. It’s great for hanging from a mantel or draping across a dining room wall to celebrate the season simply.
- Art: For an even bolder statement, trade out your current wall art for a floral canvas like this Dreams in Pastel or an abstract pastel set like these prints on linen paper . Or, you can go 3D with a flower décor set in pastel green.
- Lights: For a fun, floral take on string lights, grab a string of these pastel Origami Flowers LED lights . They’re great for above reading areas or in a kid’s room, and they feel more elegant and spring-y than bare bulbs.
For Tables, Shelves, and Surfaces
Add a dash of spring to an office shelf with this Pastel Egg and Berries Decorative Floral Spray. The light pastel Easter eggs and berries pop on this nature-inspired brown stem. The gentle pinks, blues, greens, and purples welcome new growth for the season.
Grab these Farmhouse Painted Mason Jars in your choice of pastels and fill with sprigs of new leaves from your garden or fresh-looking faux flowers from the same shop! The most popular color combo is Mint Green, Pink, Yellow, and Paris Blue – together, they create a sweet accent to a countertop or island.
For the Living Room & Bedrooms
- Pillows: Throw pillows are a great way to liven up your living room for spring. Proclaim the spirit of the season with a printed pillow like this Bloom & Grow pastel throw, or let the colors do the talking with a throw like this Pastel Swatch pillow of all shades of purple and white.
- Blankets: A throw blanket is great for those sometimes-chilly spring days, but the pastel reminds you, “Hey, it’s still Spring out there!” The muted pastels in this geometric pattern are calmly warming, while the pastels in this multi-colored woven throw pop with the addition of a vibrant pink and red.
Photo by Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Kitchen & Dining
- Plates: Pastel plates and serving trays create a sense of freshness and fun for the season. Fill them with fresh, light foods, holiday cupcakes, or use them for egg decorating! We love these Talking Tables We Heart Pastel hexagonal plates and these flower-shaped Pastel Daisy Plates.
- Tablecloths: Pastel tablecloths are a great way to bring a large block of color to your dining area. Go for various pastels with a Spring Plaid Tablecloth or a solid like this one in a cheerful canary yellow.
Welcome in guests just as you’re welcoming in spring with a pastel welcome mat like this Pastel Rainbow Mosaic Pattern doormat. You can also brighten your doorway with those pale pinks, joyful yellows, and grass greens in a wreath like this pastel ribbon wreath accented with a cute bunny outline.
There are so many ways to decorate for spring, but there’s no question about it pastel décor is a great way to go!
The color wheel can only take a garden so far. When it comes to pairing hues, it is certainly a helpful tool. But too often, using colors, not picking them out, stumps gardeners the most. As a designer, I don’t believe in rules or obsess over color theories. In my experience, almost any color combination can work. I do, however, design within a few basic parameters. These self-imposed restrictions strive for the same goal: to establish a sense of order. That is the secret to successfully working with color. It’s what often separates amazing gardens from those that seem off or cluttered.
2. Hot-color garden
3. Checkerboard patio
4. Blue-and-white garden
5. Front-yard pond
So how do you establish order? It’s actually easier than it might sound. All you need to do is keep proportions balanced, stick to a color scheme, and avoid making any sudden changes. By applying color within this framework, you can create a gorgeous space, without having to stress over long lists of designer dos and don’ts.
A simple ratio lets each color look its best
In my garden, I have developed a series of rooms, each with its own color scheme. While the style of the plantings and my approach to color are relatively consistent, the changing palettes make the rooms feel quite different.
Keep the colors simple, but choose a highlight. Hints of yellow brighten quiet pastels. Without the yellow, the pinks, blues, and whites in this garden would appear muted and dull (photo taken at 6 in the illustrated site plan).
During the early stages of planning, I typically select no more than three main colors (excluding green) and a fourth highlight color for creating contrast. Giving each main color equal weight keeps proportions in check, while the accent color spices up the palette. In my pastel front-yard garden, for instance, I use roughly equal amounts of pink, white, and blue (photo, above). As a highlight, I add splashes of soft yellow (silver foliage would offer a similar effect). My back patio, in contrast, has a bold color scheme, with yellows, oranges, and reds, all given relatively equal standing, while patches of dark purple provide contrast and cool down the sweeps of bright hues.
To avoid a busy look and to keep the eye moving, plant large groups of each color and repeat them throughout your beds. You might add a mass of pink, for instance, followed by a large grouping of white, trailed by a mass of blue, then touches of yellow as highlights. Once established, repeat this pattern—or a subtle variation of it—throughout the garden. If the beds have a great deal of depth, stagger the pattern from the front to the back.
Using restraint prevents a cluttered lookHolding back pays off. Instead of forcing these must-have water lilies into a spot where their colors wouldn’t work, the author created a new area where they would fit in with the existing palette (photo taken at 5 in the illustrated site plan).
Sticking to a color scheme often means bypassing beloved plants for the sake of good design. If your goal is to create a pastel garden, don’t introduce reds or oranges in a moment of weakness. No matter how much you’re drawn to that pot of scarlet poppies or bright yellow zinnias, don’t give in to these whims. The rewards of restraint far outweigh the sacrifices. We all know that an abundance of flowers does not guarantee a beautiful garden. Too much variety tends to overwhelm viewers. Limiting your color palette makes it easier to strike a pleasing balance. And for the novice who finds the infinite varieties of plants daunting or the enthusiast who shops compulsively, fewer options at the nursery might actually feel like a blessing.
There are times, of course, when self-control is unrealistic. A few years back, I became enamored of pink water lilies. At the time, my only water feature was in the blue-and-white garden, and adding the color pink was out of the question. So I rethought my space and built another pond on the other side of the house facing my front garden. Filled with pink, white, and yellow water lilies, this pond blends with my pastel entry garden because they share the same color scheme (photo, right). This approach works just as well on a smaller scale, when simply cutting one or two new beds will do the trick.
Smooth transitions keep colors from clashing
If your garden has more than one color scheme, don’t just butt them together add transitional spaces between them. These neutral areas soften the contrast between different sections of a landscape and give the viewer’s eye a chance to rest. There are essentially two approaches to designing a transitional space. You can either rely on a neutral color palette of greens, tans, and grays or incorporate colors and plants from the two areas you’re linking together. I’ve done both.
Neutral areas add diversity. The tan gravel is the perfect bridge between two color schemes—hot colors and pastels—that wouldn’t work if they were adjacent to one another (photo taken at 1 in the illustrated site plan). Photo: courtesy of Andrew Grossman
The tan gravel patio that stretches along my side yard creates some necessary breathing room between the pastel front garden and the hot-color back garden (photo, above). The pale yellows, silvers, and hot pinks planted around the patio intentionally flatter both gardens equally. Meanwhile, the checkerboard patio that connects the hot-color garden to the blue-and-white garden serves the same purpose as the gravel patio (photo, below). Its geometric patches of golden thyme offer a neutral color palette that gently leads the viewer from one area to another. These visually quiet spaces are as important as the more colorful ones. Use them to pace the viewer’s experience and enhance the beauty of your garden.
Green is soothing. This lush patchwork of thyme offers refuge from the hot-colored summer blooms and provides a transition to the calmer blue-and-white garden (photo taken at 3 in the illustrated site plan).
Color in the garden – here’s how:
Why do so many gardeners hate orange?
Hot color adds excitement: Colors such as red, orange and yellow are considered hot, and they also stand out best during the hottest summer months.Cooler pastel tones can look faded in bright sunshine.
Avoid a riot of color: If you use every flower color in the book, you’ll just give yourself a visual migraine.
The problem is that each color cancels the next one out. Your garden will resemble the guy who wears plaids, stripes and prints together. (Remember: he’s usually the clown!)
This gardner has chosen pastel flower colors, with poppies, roses, peonies and iris in bloom
This isn’t just a matter of taste: according to color experts, the human brain, has an innate dislike of too many contrasts all at once.
Pastels soothe: For subtle, relaxing effects, stick to cooler pastel shades – mauve, pink, white and shades of blue and, of course, the green and other colors that come with foliage. This is particularly effective in small gardens.
Contrasts – in moderation – add spark: Use contrasting color in the garden for bold, eye-catching effects – blue and yellow, orange and purple, red and white. You won’t want to overdo this because too much contrast is jarring to the eye (see the above point).
Burgundy foliage adds drama to this garden
Enjoy the best of both worlds: Use the subtle and the bold by varying your color scheme with the season.
For example, spring and early summer color might be a pastel with tulips in white and pink along with pale yellow and white daffodils, leading to pink peonies paired with Siberian irises blooming in mauve and blue.
Then, come the heat of summer, your color scheme can switch to bold by pairing tawny orange and mahogany Helenium, pink Echinacea and chrome yellow black-eyed-Susan. Because the bloom times of the first and the second group of perennials are different, you’ll avoid color clashes.
Chartreuse foliage and red begonia:
make for an attractive and bold constrast
Single color gardens: Garden designers love single color gardens, which have the undeniable appeal of sophistication.
Besides discipline, the secret to success with monochromatic schemes is using the particular color you’ve chosen in its varying shades, from pale and pastel to dark and rich – and playing leaf textures and colors off against each other as well.
White garden caution: White flowers can be difficult to incorporate, as white can make other colors pale in comparison or stick out too much. But white also glows in the evening, which is great if you like to sit out in the garden after dinner.
In a white garden, you need to be meticulous with deadheading, because faded brown petals stick out among pristine flowers.
Color in the garden – helpful hint: Here’s a neat trick for solving clashes of color in the garden – pick the problem flower and hold it up to the other flowers to see if you cant find a better match.
If it’s mid-summer, don’t move your plants right then – they will sulk or worse. Just pick the flowers you don’t want in the garden, and put them in a vase, and make a note to do the transplanting job in spring or fall.
More Garden Design Tips
All-season bloom: Plant a garden that’s colorful from spring to fall