Colour with flowers
12 May 2016
The colour wheel is one of the first things you are ever taught as a florist. How colour works, interacts and clashes, forms the basis of everything in floral design. It’s also a brilliant way to experiment creatively and discover the unexpected.
Colour has incredible power. It attracts the eye, it evokes feelings, it transforms a space, it creates texture. Floral colour is able to add warmth, cool things down or make elements pop. The colour wheel is a tool that makes understanding colour simple; what naturally harmonises and what fundamentally collides. Once mastered, the possibilities are endless.
It is essentially made up of the 3 primary colours (red, yellow, blue), 3 secondary (violet, green, orange) and 6 tertiary (red/orange; yellow /orange; red /violet; blue/ violet; blue/ green; yellow/green). Without turning this blog into a technical masterclass (you can read a far more detailed explanation via a great post I found from Brandi Hussey), how you link these shades forms the basis of colour pairings, whether that’s for a bold and dramatic effect or something more serene and sympathetic.
Complementary is probably the most commonly cited combination, matching two colours on the opposite side of the wheel. Pairing in this way can lead to some dramatic and intense arrangements. Imagine the punch delivered by canary-yellow sunflowers and amethyst hydrangea. Or zingy orange gerbera and cobalt blue delphiniums. Don’t forget the important role played by the vase either as something as simple as a bunch of cherry red tulips can really come to life in fresh, green pot.
Analogous describes matches with colours that share common pigments, found either side of each other. This typically divides the wheel into two; warm (think of the softness created by adding blushing pink hydrangea and magenta-tinged brassica to the classic pink peony) and cold (imagine the soothing combination of deep aubergine tulips, violet anemones and wispy purple trachelium). Analogous designs are popular for weddings (peaches & creams) or for bouquets on mother’s day (pinks & lilacs) and valentines (reds & pinks) and can often be a safe bet if buying a gift for someone as they are universally loved.
Monochromatic designs use one colour and are anything but boring. The variety of textures, shapes and sizes available amongst flower and foliage varieties can create an unexpected and thoroughly contemporary look. These are ideal for the male recipient (yes men like flowers too!) or to create a hit of colour in a minimalist space and can look phenomenal in office spaces or hotel receptions.
Polychromatic describes a design where pretty much anything goes and many shades of the colour wheel are used (if not all!). This explains why tropical arrangements look so lush and rich.
But this also shows why the colour wheel is only there as a guideline. For a florist it provides endless combinations with which to experiment, for a novice it provides confidence to break out from conventional norms. There should never be rules when it comes to creativity and the colour wheel is a perfect demonstration of why they are always worth breaking.
Take a look at our arrangements online and see if you can spot which is which! For something bespoke, we can take a starting shade from you and the talk you through the incredible designs that open up through the simple use of colour.