Who says picket fences have to be white? What’s wrong with green or blue? In fact, no garden structure has to be white if you don’t want it to be.

Lavender chair

A lavender chair against deep blue and purple plantings can be quite stunning.

Photo Credit: Lijuan Guo

Green fence

An old fence becomes the height of vintage charm with a coating of a seafoam green stain.

Photo Credit: Bronwyn Photo

Red bridge

It’s no accident that deep, vivid reds are often dubbed a “Chinese red.” This hue has been used for centuries in Asian gardens to gorgeous effect.

Photo Credit: R.S. Ryan (©rxr3rxr3)

Light blue Adirondack chair

Painted Adirondack chairs are a great way to add color in the garden. These light blue pieces mimic the hydrangea flower color behind and repeat the overhanging horse chestnut tree leaves in their design.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

There’s a whole paint box of colors out there. Choose one, and you just might find it’s the very thing for jazzing up your garden, adding a ton of personality for less than you’d pay for a nice lunch. (And you can do it in just about the same time!)

The key to adding color in the garden is to avoid using color brazenly like a 2-year-old would. When choosing the hue and the object you want to paint, think about how it’ll look every season of the year. The color may have a very different effect in high summer when your garden is at its most lush than it would in winter, when (depending on your climate) all the plants have died back.

Unless you’re one skilled visual artist, avoid mixing colors – I’m talkin’ a purple arbor here, a magenta bench there, a turquoise fence there... While you might be striving for a fun, crazy-quilt effect, you’ll only be creating a back yard that’ll look, well, just crazy. Instead, choose one great color and use it with restraint in spots throughout your yard.

Of course, not all colors in the garden create the same effect. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what hue might work best for you and your yard:

Greens

Deep forest green is a classic, conservative color that goes well in nearly any garden. It tends to disappear in the greenery of the rest of the yard, but this can be a plus if you’re looking for a very subtle effect. (In fact, it’s subtle enough that it’s one of the few colors that works well mixed with others.) For a really elegant effect, look for a forest green that’s almost black.

Pale seafoam green is very reminiscent of charming cottage gardens of the early part of the past century – very 1920s and ’30s. This shade adds a soft, vintage look to a garden and blends somewhat with foliage.

Apple or lime green is one of the few funky, trendy colors that also can, eventually, blend into a garden to some degree. But do use it carefully because it can clash with some plants.

Blues

Deep royal blue-purple is another classic color that’s often seen in Mediterranean climates as an accent color on buildings and landscape accessories. It tends to recede and blend in, but it also offers personality and punch.

Sky blue adds a serene element to a garden. This tone also tends to recede and blend in, yet it adds a soft, charming quality.

Turquoise is another favorite in Mediterranean landscapes and architecture, as well as in Hispanic culture. Edgier than royal blue, it can be difficult to blend with the greens of the garden, so do use this color with caution. But when used against a white, beige or buff background (think adobe, clay and stucco), turquoise really is a quite striking color in the garden!

Pinks

Magenta is a color to use with caution, but when used well, it really can make a garden pop. Soft pink is a safer choice, but if overused it can make a garden look downright babyish or scary-level girly.

Purples

Bright purple-blue is close to royal blue, only with more purple. It can be used in much the same way and is a classic that can blend in, as well as add a hit of color.

Deeper rich plum blends in almost as well as a deep forest green but with a little more playfulness. It’s especially gorgeous with autumn colors.

Lavender really gives a soft, springy feel to a garden and is another exception to the no-mixing-colors rule. It can be particularly charming when used with other pastels.

Reds

Bright, clear red is very bold and especially well-suited to Asian-influenced gardens. This is a stunning color for areas that have snow cover much of the year.

Barn red is traditional and comforting, yet also brightens an area considerably. It’s an excellent choice for a stain (instead of a paint), especially on more weathered wood surfaces. (It’s funny how two different shades can have such different effects in the garden.)

Yellows/Golds/Oranges

These hues are extremely tricky to use well in the garden, perhaps because there are already so many of these same colors found naturally in a garden. Still, they’re very trendy and edgy. And if you’re confident with color, you can have a lot of fun with these. Start out small, with, say, a few pots or a chair or two. Then if you like, you can expand to other portions of your landscape.

Just think of the fun you can have this gardening season by punching up a small patio with a few painted pots or chairs. Or imagine your old arbor, window boxes, shutters, raised beds or deck railings sporting a whole new hue to bring a revived zing of color in the garden. After all, if it can hold paint, you can paint it. So make your garden bright and bold – and color it beautiful!