Color Study — Shades of Green

Plants speak in many languages. Their scents reach outward, enveloping us and grounding us in our surroundings. They shade us and provide shelter. They're a visual world unto themselves — of texture, of form, of every color imaginable.

In native gardens, plants collage into a sea of green. Signifying nature's vitality, green is the primary color in a garden's palette, encompassing many hues within it. Through the thoughtful arrangement of plantings based on shades of green, one can achieve a visual balance that makes the garden inviting and tranquil.


Greenery naturally tinted with yellow infuses gardens with a spirited atmosphere, pairing beautifully with plants in the deep green color range. California natives in this category include ground cover like Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens), a perennial bunchgrass with dense foliage, and Field Sedge (Carex praegracilis), a grass-like, drought-tolerant plant with yellow-green blades. The highly aromatic Californian Black Sage (Salvia mellifera) has bright, elliptic leaves and produces white, blue or lavender flowers during the spring season.


Native plants with cool, blue-green foliage help shape serene garden environments. California Sagebrush (Artemisia californica) is a drought-resistant plant with wispy, silvery leaves that produce a soothing sage-like aroma. White sage (Salvia apiana), also called sacred sage, is a shrub with fragrant pale leaves that produce white or pale lavender flowers. With its gray-green linear leaves, Coyote Willow is a deciduous shrub known to attract a wide variety of pollinators. Blue-green species can appear visually discordant with yellow-green foliage, so using more versatile deep green species as a buffer between the two is always advisable.

Deep greens

Deep green-hued California natives are ideal for the garden as their particular shades of green coordinate well with either blue-green or yellow-green species. An optimal choice for Southern California coastal and mountain climates is the California Bay Laurel (Umbellaria californica), a large hardwood tree with fragrant lance-shaped leaves. Other natives with similar colors and leaf shapes include the Coffeeberry (Frangula californica), Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) and California Myrtle (Myrica californica), all evergreen shrubs. The Island Alum Root (Heuchera maxima) is a perennial herb that produces a white inflorescence, adding variable texture.

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