Neutrality, Part 1

As the late fall of November turns into early winter, I am determined to find beauty and inspiration in the season’s neutral color palette.  Rather than trying to hold on to the lush landscapes of other seasons with evergreens I want to indulge myself and explore a different idea.  My first thought is grey.  In my exploration of this most neutral of colors I discovered its intrinsic beauty but also, as many minimalists already understand, that combined with another soft hue it can create an ethereal mood like no other.  Those subtle combinations will be part of Neutrality, Part 2.

Grey gets a bad rap–even as I write this the sky outside the studio window is  flat and colorless.  Where is the beauty in that? That’s what I set out to find out for myself.   How, as a landscape designer, can I use it as inspiration for outdoor spaces rather than as a three month long sentence of colorless monotony punctuated by an occasional sunny day or snow?   My inspiration takes the form of a virtual mood board–a juxtaposition of ideas that jump starts my imagination.

GREY BLOG AGAVE 300x240 Neutrality, Part 1


GREY BLOG TANKARD Neutrality, Part 1

Silver Tankard

GREY BLOG DOOR 225x300 Neutrality, Part 1


GREY BLOG ARTEMESIA Neutrality, Part 1


GREY BLOG HAT Neutrality, Part 1

Top Hat

GREYBLOG TREE 300x239 Neutrality, Part 1

Tree Well

GREY BLOG STONE 225x300 Neutrality, Part 1


GREY BLOG HAND 300x300 Neutrality, Part 1


GREY BLOG SHELL 300x217 Neutrality, Part 1


Photo credits: Agave-Judy Watts via Flickr;; Door-author;; Top; Tree Well-author; Stone-author;; Xray-Inquiry by Design

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About Susan aka Miss. R

Professional landscape designer, lover of the land and all things design.
LABELS: autumn, color, Creative Process

10 Responses to Neutrality, Part 1

  1. Lynn says:

    I am loving your use of objects other than plants to create mood boards as inspiration for garden design. The blue images were spectacular, and you’ve managed to make grey come alive. I can’t wait to see what you do with the rest of the color wheel. Nothing dull about this post! Lynn

    Don’t forget my fashionista roots. I spent 20 years making mood boards forecasting each season. These types of cross disciplinary images are common there. –S

  2. James Golden says:

    I like this. It IS inspiration for a winter garden. Also reminds me of the color swatches in some of Rick Darke’s books.

    I’ve seen/heard Rick Darke talk. For some reason, I’ve always taken his books out of the library…none, I’m amazed to say in mine.–S

  3. I love grey–possibly because our winters are quite green in Austin and our summers seared brown. Gray (repackaged sometimes as “silver” just like the tankard) plants are popular here because they are typically drought or heat tolerant. I love them for the contrast against the greens. As you know, designing with foliage colors provides more opportunities for interest in the garden than just flowers. Grey/silver is a wonderful color for moonlit gardens.

    Interestingly, grey plants seem to be among the most deer resistant here. I am a die hard foliage lover and you are right about gardens giving many opportunities for creative use of color. Robert Dash’s garden Madoo in Long Island is an excellent case in point.–S

  4. how it grows says:

    You make grey look colorful!

    Phillip–That, for me, was the most interesting part of the exercise!–s

  5. Anne Wareham says:

    This reminds me of how Kaffe Fasset’s knitting opened my eyes to the wonder of subtle grey, greens, browns in the landscape: which he declared as his direct inspiration.

    Not being a knitter, I looked him up. Real men knit, indeed. Beautiful patterns and colors. Thanks for the additional inspiration, Anne.–S

  6. Alice Joyce says:

    A thread worthy of dialogue, and if I can take even a smidgen of credit for inspiring Miss R to post on the topic, I’ll grab it!

    As one who abstained from color for decades – a member of the black clothing brigade – it’s been liberating to consider hue and color in design, in adornment, in every aspect – and that includes grey (or do you say, gray?).

    Alice–You say potato…and I say thanks for making me remember how much fun it is to explore color and their names…-S

  7. kat White says:

    What a creative way to gain design inspiration. I remember reading somewhere a designer’s trick for checking the quality of a designs was to view it in black and white and not color. It was there that you really saw the texture created by light and shadow, much the same as you do with gray.

    That’s the wonderful thing about creative process…it’s unique to each individual but we can all learn from each other!–S

  8. Regarding grey getting a bad rap: Some of my best memories are of grey, rainy days. An afternoon along Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. An evening in Savannah. Thanks for your artistry in grey.

  9. Judy Maier says:

    Lovely post my friend. Judy

  10. bill says:

    Hooray for gray! Gotta like it, I live in Cleveland. I like to look to he gray skies and seek the nuances that there lie. Unless it’s gray soup, there usually subleties that often will never be repeated. Then the drizzly gray day can bring thoughts of how well Faulkner portrayed that feeling on a piece of paper. and the gray monotone a super contrast to something brighter, the remaining golds of the waning willows in November are like golden lamps. Rick Darke is a realy inspiration for appreciating natures neutrals. I also dig how Dali uses gray infused with other colors.

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