This stimulus is frequently taken advantage of in winter planting, where a background of dark evergreens is relieved and brightened by the bare red branches of the dogwood (Cornus siberius) or berry-bearing shrubs, such as the barberry, with its bright red clusters. It is the contrast of com-plementaries, present in unequal quantities, that gives so festive an appearance to holly.
Color has certain well-established psychological phenomena: red is a powerful excitant; blue in large quantities, and especially violet, is depressing; while the greens and browns are quieting and restful, probably because we perceive so many of them in nature. This is, of course, a broad generalization, for it is quite possible to find a green that has a most disquieting influence and a red that is almost soothing; but in the main the statement holds. Of course these effects are produced by the elimination of other colors, and, as described, will not often be noticeably present, but if these phenomena are kept in mind, they will be found very helpful in the production of color harmonies. The landscape-designer can take advantage of these facts in his planting, and lend a vivacious or sober aspect to his scheme when it is desirable.
Many people have a predilection for one hue or another. One may fancy red particularly, and another may prefer purple. There are often inherent color antipathies. When a person says, "I don't like blue," he means that that color, apart from its surroundings, is distasteful to him. But for design purposes a color cannot be considered apart from its surroundings.
It must be recognized that no color in itself is necessarily disagreeable, but only in combination with other colors, and in consequence the questions of color combinations and harmonizations are of the utmost importance. The colors employed must either have sufficient of the complementary to bring out salient features-individualities of hue-or must be sufficiently alike to present one simple idea.
Color appreciation is largely a matter of education, as is the enjoyment of music. Catchy songs and brilliant colors fall in the same class: both secure the attention with greatest ease, but do not possess enough refinement to claim an educated taste for any length of time. All the elements of attractiveness are pushed at one, and nothing is left for later discovery and enjoyment.
It is a well-known fact that the taste of people who become interested in pictures changes rapidly as their familiarity with and knowledge of them increases. It is the same with plants. The uneducated taste requires the nerve-shattering accent of the round, red geranium bed in the middle of the front lawn; the more refined taste much prefers the simple expanse of green, with the color accents relegated to the border. Barbaric colors may be cheerful, but they certainly cannot be termed restful.
A painter of landscapes, one who designs them on canvas, has much greater freedom than does the landscape-designer, who depends for all his effects upon architectural and horticultural material.
If the painter desires to change a color slightly, he mixes another color with it to produce the effect he wishes. That resource is not open to the landscape-designer. He must search for another plant that has the required color characteristic in addition to other essential qualities, and there may be no such variety as he wishes. In that case he must re-design his problem so as to use available material. He must know his materials so thor-ougly that he runs no danger of imagining a charming color scheme only to find that there are no plants that will give the desired result, or that such plants as have the required color will not grow under the prescribed conditions. Necessarily, then, the horticultural materials are more restricted than the painter's palette, and one realizes that the gardens of Watteau never grew or could grow as he painted them except in his imagination.
Painters often use a desired color note in a shadow when it is best that it be not too prominent, but even this is usually denied to the landscape-designer. His leaves and blossoms generally require sunlight, and comparatively few species will grow in the shade. "A city that is set upon an hill cannot be hid." Just so will the color errors in the design be set forth in all their hideousness because of the bright light upon them.
The color problem of the landscape-designer is, then, the combining of his materials to the best advantage. His colors cannot be contrary to nature. They are made to his hand, unalterably fixed; he may choose or reject, but that is his only latitude. Fortunately, there is an abundance of plant material which will grow in any temperate or tropical climate, so the natural limitations will not be any great drawback.
Since no color can rightfully be termed ugly when considered by itself alone, how may one combine colors to the best advantage? The laws of repetition will apply here exactly as they did to form.
Colors possessing a common element will harmonize. Yet here are also glorious possibilities for color clashes. If a costume contains three or four different kinds of red, it is sure to. be ugly. Nothing could be worse than a bed of geraniums of several different reds all fighting for supremacy. To be sure, they possess a common element, but it is too much in evidence. If of two reds of much the same value and intensity, one has a leaning toward blue, and the other a weakness for yellow, confusion is bound to result if they are used together. It is much the same as close harmony in music: to many it seems discord. A very simple means of color analysis will prevent mistakes of this kind.
A color may usually be separated into two parts, its dominant note and its modifying note, the latter its suggestion of some other color. A yellow green may be divided into a large amount of green and a lesser amount of yellow.