I love fall in New England. This time of year, there’s no where else I’d rather be. Maybe it’s the cool, crisp mornings and days that still feel comfortably warm. Maybe it’s the fall-like smells in the air of wood burning stoves and the scent of crushed leaves. Or, maybe it’s because you get to break out cozy sweaters and warm boots. All of these are legitimate reasons to love fall around here, but the hallmark of Autumn in New England is the color. Bright, vibrant color.
|Bright orange leaves of a Sugar Maple glow against a clear blue autumn sky
I think the basics of color theory help explain why the colors of fall are so energetic. Most of us probably haven’t seen a color wheel since grade school, so here’s an example.
This color wheel displays the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), the three secondary colors (orange, green and purple) and a number of tertiary colors. Colors that are located directly across the wheel from each other are called complementary colors. These high contrast pairs are the most dramatic, vibrant, and energizing.
It’s no wonder, then, that fall colors are so exciting. While spring colors are mostly soft pastels, and the summer color canvas is predominately green, fall is really the season when the color contrast in nature is amped up.
I think purple and yellow is my favorite complementary color pair. In this planting bed in North Point Park, purple asters are planted in drifts amongst yellow grassy foliage. It’s a beautiful composition that has so much energy.
Or the purple berries of Callicarpa bodinieri, which are stunning against its yellowish foliage.
Red and green is a color combination that extends through fall into the winter season. This fallen Red Maple leaf looks particularly vibrant against a bed of green ground cover.
And the red berries and fruit of Viburnum, Holly, Hawthorne’s, Crab Apples and Dogwoods provide so much interest to the fall and winter landscapes.
If you’re looking for a vibrant plant display this fall, try orange chrysanthemums in a blue pot or place a display of pumpkins on a blue bench. If you have a yellow house, try a collection of purple asters on your front steps. For an indoor arrangement, place a few cut branches from a Viburnum in a tall vase so you can see its red berries sparkle up close!