Complimentary accent…

False Indigo copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

My original goal was to have a perennial garden of blues with some pink and purple for depth while maintaining a calm, comforting arena. Wild Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis), another “false” plant was one of my first choices. I had come to appreciate the beauty of the Indigo plant when first seeing the Cream False Indigo on a restored prairie; so to keep with my goal I purchased the blue version. Read “How to feel inferior…”, one of my past blogs for my opinion of falsely named plants.

Then I fell in love with a few non-blue species like the brilliant orange Oriental Poppy. The Indigo and the Poppy bloom at the same time of year, late spring. I would like to say that I was the wise designer who planned to have these two favorites bloom at the same, and be near each other to complement each other. But in truth they are near each other because they are both in the rare sunny spot of my yard which fortunately happens to be in front of my largest window.

I now know that their close proximity brings out the beauty of each because their colors are complimentary on the color wheel (see below). The warm orange poppy in this image is the ideal background for the cool blue indigo.

The complementary color scheme is made of two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. This scheme looks best when you put a warm color against a cool color, for example, red versus green-blue. The complementary scheme is intrinsically high-contrast.

When using the complementary scheme, it is important to choose a dominant color and use its complementary color for accents. Using one color for the background and its complementary color to highlight important elements, you will get color dominance combined with sharp color contrast.


The complementary color scheme offers stronger contrast than any other color scheme, and draws maximum attention.


This scheme is harder to balance than monochromatic and analogous schemes, especially when desaturated warm colors are used.


1. For best results, place cool colors against warm ones, for example, blue versus orange.
2. If you use a warm color (red or yellow) as an accent, you can desaturate the opposite cool colors to put more emphasis on the warm colors.
3. Avoid using desaturated warm colors (e.g. browns or dull yellows).
4. Try the split complementary scheme; it is similar to the complementary scheme but offers more variety.

Taken from:


    • Head up north some spring! It’s a great plant in the garden because after bloom the seed pods are neat and the plant acts like a small shrub with very pretty and unique leaves.


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