Colour in the garden

It’s easy to get excited about colour on the inside of our house… but what about the garden? It doesn’t have to be all about green and brown out there?

There are many ways to add paint colour to the garden. Sure, most of that colour may be from the ‘natural’ part of the spectrum but just like we do indoors it’s easy to use paint or stain colour to create focal points in a garden. Occasional accents, such as an arbour, an over-sized pot, a garden sculpture, or a specimen plant, help create drama in a garden.

Against a background of the garden and walls in Resene Tapa, the bench seat is bold in Resene...
Against a background of the garden and walls in Resene Tapa, the bench seat is bold in Resene Pioneer Red, with Resene Furniture and Decking Oil on timber. Project by Ivy & Bloom. Photo by Bryce Carleton.

When it comes down to it, there’s not much difference in interior and garden design. In a garden, there are the different spaces (rooms) to deal with, each with its distinctive purpose – the alfresco dining area, an area to relax, a lawn for the kids to play on, somewhere to put the bins and dry the washing. Resene colour can play a significant role in the garden, just as it does inside.

When it comes to style, it’s best to make these spaces a visual extension of the interiors. One variation you might make is to use colours that are more muddied and greyed off. These non-glaring tones are a better choice for the strong sunlight at this end of the world, are a great backdrop to plants, and they blend beautifully with other natural elements in the garden.

The exterior walls of our house become an important colour element in our garden schemes particularly around any outdoor living area – just like the interior walls of our house, choose furniture and accessories that work in with the colour of the cladding.

A cohesive looking garden will have an over-riding flavour whether that’s subtropical, native or country floral. Or whether it takes its inspiration from a country or area – California, Scandinavia, Japan, Provence, Bali or Mexico. 

As with this design, the paint colours and details you include will support your chosen theme or look. Just like the lamps, art, accessories and cushions you use inside you home, the accessories and architectural details you use outside will complete the scheme.

You can go for classic partnerships, such as a soft ochre coloured plaster wall in Resene Half Canterbury Clay for your Spanish-inspired courtyard, or a dark-stained slatted fence in Resene Banjul for your restful zen-like retreat.

Or for those same spaces, you can think slightly outside the square – a turquoise wall for the Mexican one in Resene She’ll Be Right, and a deep red high gloss slatted screen for the Japanese in Resene Jalapeno. How about a smoky purple wall of Resene Siesta behind the grey-green foliage in a Mediterranean inspired planting scheme. Or an orange and yellow pop-art style wall for a fun Californian feel?

Using contrast is a great way to avoid predictability in a garden. Like most design principles, in moderation, contrast is good but too much can be confusing and unsettling. This is especially true if you have a smaller courtyard garden. Use one striking focal point, preferably viewed from the house as well.

Plants may be the heroes of your garden but paint and stain colour can create either a sympathetic framework to put those plants within, or they can be used to enhance a garden feature that would otherwise look drab and dull.

Resene All Black fence with a colourful and handy vertical garden in Resene ASAP, Resene Left...
Resene All Black fence with a colourful and handy vertical garden in Resene ASAP, Resene Left Field, Resene Wheel Of Fortune and Resene Limerick.
Fences and screens

For boundary fences, consider deep blacks or green-blacks like Resene Crowshead from the Resene Woodsman exterior stains range, or Resene Black Forest paint. These will not only provide a neutral backdrop for the plants in front, but will make the fence appear to recede and therefore visually expand the size of your garden, no matter how small.

Or take your cue from the colours on the house exterior, bringing those into the garden so that the entire property has a cohesive look – not just a house plonked into a garden. You might use the house’s trim colours on the front fence or extend the weatherboard or wall colour into the outdoor living area or onto plaster walls.

Plaster walls or structures like built-in seats often look good in pale creams or earthy tones – try Resene Thorndon Cream for a yellow-green or Resene Titania.

Bringing out the beauty of natural timber with Resene Woodsman Bark.  Project by Jules Moore. ...
Bringing out the beauty of natural timber with Resene Woodsman Bark. Project by Jules Moore. Photo by Sally Tagg.
Other structures

Do other structures in the garden warrant being highlighted? If your garden shed is a cute timber version, why not treat it to its own colour scheme, or use the same colours as those on the house exterior.

Could the bird house and the letterbox do with a colourful make-over? The playhouse and sandpit? Even the dog kennel might look smart with a new paint job.

And for the ultimate in colour, how about helping our at-risk bee populations and installing some beehives. These are traditionally painted a series of bright ‘flower’ colours to help bees navigate their way home, and Environmental Choice-approved Resene paints are a healthy choice for these little honey-makers.

Accessories and accents

If you’re not keen on strong colour for the major items in the garden, use a bold accent colour on smaller items, like painted pots. Then you can change them every year to suit your own whims or the fashion of the day. Remember to use Resene Terracotta Sealer on the inside and outside of the pots to help repel water, and so that leaching moisture doesn’t affect the paint finish. This is the same principle as an interior where you have the main colour for the walls, but use colourful accessories like cushions and rugs to lift the room.

Texture is a natural ingredient to add to the garden. Finish a wall in a Resene textured finish or enliven some pots with Resene Sandtex textured paint. Bring dimension to your garden by doing things like mixing up colours, creating an ombre effect on a wall, pouring in soft white stones in a few areas, or bringing in potted plants of varying heights.