Color theory is a powerful gardening tool – but nature is better!
You can spend days in a gloomy library poring over charts of hues that everyone from Goethe to Isaac Newton have drawn up to tell you which colors are permitted next to which. But nobody ever walked into lake country, the tundra, or a field of wild flowers and said: ‘I don’t like it. The colors clash.’
As a gardener, your keenest judge is your own inner voice. And when that voice trembles with doubt, it’s time to turn to nature.
Here’s a fresh look at ten of the most chromatically stunning places on Earth – and an easy-to-crib palette of the colors that nature chose for each location.
1Uyuni Salt Flats (Bolivia)
Bolivia’s alien salt flats are a fluke of circumstance. The modulation and evaporation of prehistoric lakes in the Potosí region have left a surface of brine that act as the world’s biggest mirror.
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At sunset it’s like floating in a cocktail. Chilly blues and sorbet oranges work together to create a feeling of otherworldly paradise.
2Okavango Delta (Botswana)
The swampy nature of the Okavango Delta makes for a lively soup of wild flora and fauna. You’ll recognize the palette of marshy greens, heavenly blues, and sandy yellows from long distance photographs of the very planet on which we stand.
3Lake Louise (Canada)
Rock flour from glacial meltwater tints the waters of Lake Louise an unexpected emerald-teal hue that clashes wildly with the more sober greens of the surrounding trees and shrubs.
It shouldn’t work, but the silvery grays of the surrounding mountains offer the eye relief – and have inspired many a home gardener’s rock pool water feature!
Some of nature’s colors lose their luster in gloomy conditions, but there’s no repressing the hallucinatory purples of the lavender fields of Provence. Let the eyes settle, however, and you’ll pick out countless subtle shades of lilac and pink among that wash of color.
5Halong Bay (Vietnam)
Each night at dusk, the reddish oranges of the Vietnamese sunset descend upon the greenish waters to create a sepia effect that drags the beholder back through time.
If blue is your favorite color, you’ll find a chilling palette of shades in the shadow of Europe’s third biggest glacier.
Kyoto’s bamboo groves balance nature’s most formal designs with humankind’s desire to re-landscape the built world with nature-inspired structures. There is much to ponder as you take a mindful walk through the groves, not least the calming effect of the greens and burned siennas of your surroundings.
8Mt Cook (New Zealand)
If Iceland looks a little cool for you, take a leaf from New Zealand’s book and warm up your blues with a sprinkle of earthy brown.
9Benagil Cave (Portugal)
The stunning tangerine rock formations of Bengali Cave are made more unworldly with golden reflections in the sea at sunrise.
10Bryce Canyon (United States)
It’s hard to believe the States is home to such a beautiful yet undernoted landscape as that of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Nature was really going for the whole spectrum with this one. Which shades will you choose for your back yard?