One of the most important elements in any flower arrangement – one can say more important than the type, size and style of each flower – is the colours. Which colours go together? What does a primarily red/orange bouquet say over a blue/purple arrangement? How can I learn to match the right colours myself?
Although it seems a simple case of just mixing up two or three of your favourite colours, that does not make for the best botanical recipe. Colour pairing is a bit of an art form. In all seriousness, most of the magic comes from the simple, strategic, universally recognised colour wheel which we get taught from about aged eight or nine. It is how you mix these primary (red, blue and yellow) and secondary (purple, green and orange) colours together in various combinations and quantities which serve as the ingredients of something that can be altogether rather pleasing to our eyes.
Primary colours are the anchors of the colour wheel. I still find it rather mind-boggling that from different proportions of just these three colours you can make any shade under the sun. But anyway, back to business. In between these tones on the colour wheel, sit the secondary colours. Whilst the primary colours can often seem a little jarring placed right next to each other, these secondary shades sit comfortably and complimentary to the ones on either side creating an effect very pleasing to the eye. Contrasting colours are colours that sit at on either side of the wheel, opposing each other (blue and orange, yellow and purple and red and green). Typically these colours do not harmonise very well, especially within a flower arrangement, but that is not to say they should not be used together. The use of contrasting colours can be quite effective – albeit saying something very different than a pleasing concoction of yellows and oranges.
An arrangement founded entirely on the primary colours is best to be avoided. Similarly to the advice given in art classes across the country; it can look a little pre-school (unless you are David Hockney that is). Play it safe and stick to harmonious shades. This means bouquets of colours that sit next to each other on the wheel; reds and purples or purples and blues. It is just important to note how, by changing one colour (in this case swapping a red flower for a blue but keeping purple in the mix) really changes the overall feel of the arrangement. Blue cools down purple so, with this in mind, it might be interesting to go for lighter paler shades of purple like lavender whereas with red, a mauve or violet would be more appropriate for a deep, warming intense arrangement. Remember to only stick to about four colours within an arrangement as anymore can be somewhat distracting to an eye which doesn’t know where to look.
Contrasting colours are not to be completely avoided. They can create quite an impact, and form an incredible centrepiece similarly to the way contrasting styles of flower paired together can. Often the purples of Delphiniums or Freesia have been used with the bright yellow of a Sunflower to great effect. However, there is always a certain place for this ‘eccentric’ creation, and if one is merely buying an apology bouquet for a loved one, then maybe stick to the more traditional ‘pretty’ arrangements.
My last few words of advice concern the colours white and green. Green is on the colour wheel but can often be forgotten, it is used in many arrangements as the leaves or roughage around the outside, but green Chrysanthemum or Hellebore can work just as well as the meat of a bouquet with blues or yellows, or it can contrast nicely at Christmas time with red shades. White, a colour that is not on the wheel, is also used throughout the flower industry, and used well. It, again, should not be forgotten, but unless you wish to create a designer all-white bouquet for a beautifully modern house or special occasion then use it sparingly. It contrasts with the deep, warm tones so you should be careful when using it around maroons and violets, but it fits perfectly with the pastels and lighter shades to create a very natural and wildflower impression especially when using the likes of Baby’s Breath.
Overall colour mixing may be an art but it is also fun! So take a look at our products for inspiration and go and enjoy yourself, your eye will be the best judge – if you don’t like it, try and try again!