I am a huge fan of colour in the garden, whether it is from the planting or the structures such as fences and gates, furniture or walls. Colour can either perk up a grey day, or it can be enhanced and illuminated by bright summer days.
Paint is an important garden material and much overlooked in the design process. Colour can add depth, interest, focus and contrast to any garden, however we do have a British tendency to be reserved about the colours we use in our gardens and to shy away from bold colours, but rather than go the whole hog and paint everything blue, adding accents and emphasising particular features or furniture can transform a dull space into something far more individual and exciting.
Paint extends the range of colours and textures available. A painted background colour on a wall can harmonize a group of plants. A painted highlight on furniture can provide an accent to a colour composition. The natural solution is to use gloss paint on furniture, to enhance the highlight, and matt paint on walls, to allow planting to become the highlight. To avoid everything looking too brand new, sandpaper can distress the texture and create a more worn look, which might appeal to some people, particularly where the garden is older and more established.
A coat of the right coloured paint can transform an old structure and immediately help it to blend in with a new garden. This can work particularly well with old sheds and fencing, or stonework. Likewise, colour in the garden is often associated with minimalist gardens, using large blocks of bold colour with minimal planting.
Much inspiration is provided by architect the late Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and his picturesque village at Portmeirion in North Wales.
A walk around Portmeirion on a sunny day is rather like being dipped in a paint pot of intriguing and wonderful colours. Everywhere it is possible to add colour, there it is. Either in the buildings, the sculpture, the many architectural features, the palette is predominantly strong and capable of coping with the elements of north Wales whilst at the same time mimicking a very strong Mediterranean influence.
On a much smaller scale, there is a lot of inspiration to be had from these techniques and which can be applied to the smaller garden with stunning results. Whether you paint a wall a bold colour and plant contrasting-coloured plants in front of it, or simply paint a bench and allow the colours to shine out.
As Sir Clough Williams-Ellis wrote in Portmeirion: The Place and Its Meaning (1963) “design and colour really do matter profoundly to all of us as a powerful source of pleasure, if we will but use our eyes as we ought.”