When it comes to choosing paint colours to use in the garden, the bolder the better we say. Choose colours that will enhance the work of mother nature, with a riot of pinks, reds, yellows, orange, purples and blue bursting forth from our pots and borders throughout the spring and summer months before dying back, leaving our gardens dark, unassuming and lacking vibrancy.
Of course, our flat, grey-tinged light conditions have quite a lot to do with it – the brightly painted facades of Miami and those of the favelas in Rio would look rather overpowering beneath British skies – but follow our garden design and colour experts’ advice, and you can add a lick of bright colour to any garden ideas this summer without scaring the neighbours.
Garden paint ideas
1. Make a statement by painting fences
Painting garden fences is a great way to embrace exterior paint in a major way. The colour will surround the entire garden and therefore makes maximum impact. Dark shades of black and slate grey are trending right now, the perfect accent for lush greenery.
Contrast dark paint shades with striking planting. Flowers with jewel-like colour abound in summer, but take care not to overindulge and limit your palette to three or four complementary shades. Try purple penstemons and salvias, with yellow dahlias, against a backdrop of dark-leaved foliage plants, such as Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’.
2. Welcome pops of bright colour
Always centre stage, vibrant, neon colours shout ‘Look at me’ so use them sparingly, to add dramatic touches to modern designs. Try painting a feature wall in hot pink or sunshine yellow – both colours combine surprisingly well with a wide range of plants. Liven things up with neon planters, and dress tables with vibrant table linen and lime green glassware.
You can go either way with your planting; either tone down the heat with cool green foliage, or add to the thrill with flowers that bolster your zingy shades. Bright pink Geranium psilostemon makes an eye-catching partner for the lime-green flowers of euphorbias, while orange red hot pokers dazzle against magenta.
3. Paint walls to create a contemporary space
‘Coloured walls create exciting effects and bring a contemporary element to a design; the trick is to use strong colours in moderation do they don’t overpower the space,’ says garden designer Catherine Heatherington.
Fellow garden designer Patrick Wynniatt-Husey, of Wynniatt-Husey Clarke Garden Design, explains that a painted surface will draw the eye to an area or feature, adding: ‘In our designs, we also use coloured walls to create a sense of depth or foreshorten a space, and as a foil to planting.’
4. Emulate a holiday destination with familiar colour
There are certain colours that instantly transports you to another time and place. Such is the case with this pinky terracotta wall, which makes you thinking of warmer climates and holidaying in Morocco. Add contrasting bright blue furniture and accessories to enhance a Moroccan theme.
Choose your garden paint shade to reflect a place you’ve visited, to create a holiday haven in your own backyard.
5. Use muted colour in traditional gardens
‘Subtle shades of green work well in traditional settings, or try pale lilac or terracotta,’ says Kathryn Hibberd, designer and member of Crown Paints Colour Influences Panel. Catherine adds: ‘You have to use colour carefully in a period garden but I’ve contrasted a dark purple wall with a brick wall to great effect, linking a contemporary garden with the traditional surroundings.’
6. Give the greenhouse a makeover
Revive a tired-looking garden structure with a lick of paint. This fine example shows how a greenhouse idea can be invigorated by a coat of on-trend sage green colour.
7. Spruce up an old furniture set
Rather than throw out the flaking paint, past-it garden furniture set why not make it an upcycling idea for the garden? Because you’d be surprised what a thorough rub down and a fresh coat of specialist paint can do.
This specialist paint by Annie Sloan requires no priming, ‘you can simply pop open the tin, roll up your sleeves, dip in your brush and apply paint to furniture. Works on wood, metal, laminate, concrete, indoors, outdoors and beyond’ say the paint brand.
8. Give a summerhouse character with colour
your garden building is there to serve a purpose, so make it stand out. Whether you use the space as a summerhouse retreat, or a Garden office idea as a serene workspace away from the house, give the structure a splash of colour.
Of course the purpose will determine the colour you decide on, but either way adding a decorative colour makes the building feel like more of an extension of the indoor space.
9. Liven up walls with a vibrant shade
Give warmth to brick walls, either exterior walls or those in a brick framed outhouse or sunroom. Adding a splash of colour to brick walls helps to create a solid wall of colour, where you don’t notice the pointing – ideal in small garden spaces where you may feel overwhelmed from the ‘busy ‘look projected from a brick wall.
For added style credentials paint any shelving in a contrasting accent colour, preferably another bright shade to add to the vibrancy.
10. Choose calming colour for exterior walls
Use soft, subtle shades to create a sense of quiet and calm, a place that is restful, a million miles away from the hectic pace of daily life.
Available in preservative as well as emulsion paints, apply powdery hues to timber and masonry surfaces and furnish simply with pale hued garden furniture with lean lines and matt surfaces. Lift the look with touches of mirrored and watery-coloured glassware.
11. Introduce jewel tones
Alternatively, sumptuous shades of peacock green, purple, dark red and egg yolk yellow add rich, deep tones that complement foliage plants and pale-hued flowers. Like sparkling jewels, these colours draw the eye and are best used as focal points.
12. Add a splash of sky blue
Use a soothing shade of sky blue to lighting up an outdoor space – making fences appear to stretch up into the sky. ‘Try a pale blue to highlight a darker blue,’ says Patrick; we suggest Echo with Deep Space Blue, both by Little Greene.
‘We also like to use vibrant oranges with natural wood.’ Catherine uses lush planting in her designs, so colours have to work with green. ‘Try off-white walls with a panel of mauve, or dark grey slate floors with pale pink walls.’
What paint should you use outdoors?
‘Buy good quality exterior masonry paint that’s easy to clean once it is on the wall’ Kathryn advises. ‘Remove dust and dirt from all the surfaces before you start to paint.;
Patrick adds, ‘Use test pots to trial colours, but not on obvious surfaces as the colour patches can alter the texture of the wall or ground, and may show through even after you’ve applied the final coats. Also, make a note of the code of special mixes so that you can buy the correct colour when needed, and make a point of repairing any cracks before you start painting as coloured paint will highlight any defects. Finally, never apply masonry paint when the temperature is lower than 10°C or it won’t dry.’
Which garden walls should you paint?
There are no rules. ‘We would paint the house if circumstances called for it and the clients agreed’ says Patrick. ‘But take care when painting walls in eye-catching shades as they can create eyesores, and try to link them with the walls inside the house. For example, we used an orange wall in a small garden that could be seen from a kitchen which was decorated with tiles of the same colour; the finished effect was fantastic.’
What garden paint colours work best in British light conditions?
Subtle colours work well in the low light levels that we enjoy in the spring. But in summer, when the sun is stronger, try bolder colours, like aubergine, purples, and pinks, but make sure you choose hues with some warmth; cool colours such as icy blues can look rather too stark.