Catherine StewartUsing paint colour in your garden

You can use paint or texture finishes to add pizzaz to a drab area, disguise ugly bits and pieces that detract from your garden, unify a group of disparate elements or create colour focal points. Whether your garden makeover is on a big or small budget, one of the best parts about using paint in your garden makeover is that it’s not permanent. You can even do a complete colour makeover every season if you want to give your garden a fresh new look.

Design Transforming Designs, Sydney

Design Transforming Designs, Sydney. A painted panel is fixed to a dark brick wall to better highlight the decorative metal panel.

You can try paint on anything

You can try paint on anything

People always think about paint when they’re doing some internal redecorating, but it’s often overlooked outdoors. Gone are the days when all that was available was some plastic-looking paving paint in a limited range of colours. Now it can be in any colour of the rainbow, as well as a range of textured surface effects, such as marbling, raking, scratching, mottling and streaking. You can also use paint to create lots of faux finishes like terracotta, rusting steel, stone, polished concrete and limewash effects on walls, pots, furniture, water features and decorator items.

Design Jenni Woodruff

Design Jenni Woodruff

Painting walls
Painting fences, screens, retaining walls and even some external house walls can completely change the look of your garden. If you’ve got unpainted brick walls that you don’t want to damage, you could fix some waterproof cement panels to the wall and paint them instead.

Use painted walls to change the apparent proportions of a garden space. Bring a wall forward by using intense, lighter and warmer colours, higher gloss levels, and strongly textured or patterned surfaces; this can shorten the look of a long, narrow space. Conversely, flat or matt paints, smooth surfaces and darker but less saturated colours recede, so you can use them to push back a long side wall. Use contrasting paint colour to set of focal points like sculpture or feature plants, or echo the colours of nearby foliage and flowers to draw a composition together. You could even turn one of your outdoor walls into a spectacular work of art with a mural or tromp l’oeil.

Rusted steel-look paint finish balances the cool greys and whites in the garden. Design Margery Postlethwaite

Rusted steel-look paint finish balances the cool greys and whites in the garden, complete with tromp l’oeil door and cat. Design Margery Postlethwaite

Painted walls can be a good way of balancing warm and cool colours. Gardens with lots of colourful foliage, warm-toned timber and cor-ten rust-look steel might need to be balanced by surrounding walls and fences painted in cooler greys, blue or green. Conversely a garden dominated by cool colours like silver steel, black, white, grey or lots of neutrals needs some warm hues to make it feel more comfortable and welcoming.

Vibrant red wall lifts the sea of green. And ducks. Design Steven Wells

Vibrant red wall lifts the sea of green. And ducks. Design Steven Wells

Colour appearance can vary considerably, depending on the aspect of the wall, how textured the surface is and the reflectivity of the paint. A swatch will often appear darker than the finished wall. Paler colours can reflect stronger colours nearby, making off-whites look orangey or pinkish. It’s a good idea to buy a sample pot to paint a much larger swatch so you can really see how the colour and tone works before you commit a lot of money and time.

Design Ros McCully

Design Ros McCully

Bauwerk Lime Paint in Clover and Pepper

Bauwerk Lime Paint in Clover and Pepper. Credit Bauwerk

If you don’t like the slightly plastic-skinned look of a paint, investigate the range of limewashes that are available. Limewash paints have a much softer, velvety or distressed look, depending on the application technique you use. In Australia, Murobond Pentimento, Bauwerk, Porters and FX limewash can be overlayed in several colours for subtle variations. Limewash develops a patina of mottling and streaking over time when used on absorbent masonry such as render, stucco, block and unglazed brick. Bauwerk Lime Paint has a wide range of subtle colours, and FX paints have a stonework and travertino finishes. You can even buy special paints for surfaces like mudbrick (Fx Mud Paint).

Painted outdoor oven Albion Farm Gardens, NSW

Painted outdoor oven Albion Farm Gardens, NSW

Cement paints (Murobond, Porter’s Boncote) come in a powder form and are mixed up with water. They bond into masonry surfaces and can be used on surfaces that get hot, such as chimneys and outdoor pizza ovens. They allow walls to ‘breathe’ and as the ultra matt surface fades a little over time, it develops an appealing patina. Mineral paints (Keim Royalan, Leviathan Matte Paint) containing silicates also bond onto masonry surfaces and their colour intensity lasts for decades, never peeling or cracking. Mineral paints are ideal for fade-resistant outdoor murals and tromp l’oeil.

Render and texture effect paints are twice as thick as normal paints for more surface ‘build up’, creating a slightly textured look which can soften old painted surfaces but they won’t cover over cracks and hollows. They can be tinted and used to create a Mediterranean-style look of stucco, marmorino and travertine.

A textured paint covers most of the brickwork mortar joins. Design e-ga

A textured paint covers most of the brickwork mortar joins. Design e-ga

Texture coatings
Coloured acrylic based texture coatings create a smooth, modern looking surface over bricks, blocks, lumpy render, Hebel block and fibro-cement sheets without additional painting. Sold in three densities, depending on how much unevenness you wish to cover, texture coatings can be smooth, have a sandy grittiness, added marble and pebble aggregates (a bit like a very fine pebblecrete) or have a Mediterranean ‘bagged’ look. Being a flexible acrylic, these texture coatings are also an excellent way to cover small cracks.

Up to three coats might be needed to smooth out raked mortar joins or very uneven surfaces. Texture coatings can be bought pre-coloured or tinted to a wide rage of paint colours, including those requiring an ultra-deep base, or painted over after drying.
Some are sprayed on and others applied with a special roller or mitt and then trowelled off to create the desired finish.

Chalkboards
Several companies make outdoor chalkboard paint that can give you (or even older guests!) hours of fun drawing and writing. And you’re not limited to old-fashioned black or dark green. Let the kids decorate, or create your own graffiti masterpieces.

Satori Garden Design

Satori Garden Design

Painting floors
Old decks or concrete areas can be given a complete makeover with exterior floor paint like Porters Perfect Floor Paint which comes in dozens of colours from brights to neutrals and pastel washes. Paint your own outdoor ‘rug’ to anchor an outdoor furniture setting, a faux tile pattern along a path, or sweeps of colour to disguise an odd assortment of concrete pavements.
For a less ‘painted’ look, try Pascol semi-transparent concrete stain which mimics the look of natural stone.

Cloudehill, Victoria

Cloudehill, Victoria

Furniture, sculpture and decoration
Give your old outdoor furniture a new lease of life with anything from bright gloss colour to rubbed back paint for rustic, antique effect. The secret to painting old furniture is always in the preparation – you must be ready to spend more time and effort in sanding, filling, sealing, etching or preserving the original material than that top coat of paint if you want it to last.

MIFGS Student garden. Design Brooke Nolan

MIFGS Student garden. Design Brooke Nolan

Cor-ten steel look paint finish on retaining wall warms up the surrounding greys. Design Cycas Design

Cor-ten steel look paint finish on retaining wall warms up the surrounding greys. Design Cycas Design

Faux metal effects are still a very hot look and a great way to overhaul old sculptures, wall plaques, gates and even water features. They come in a wide range of metal looks, from rust to the shimmer of micaceous iron oxide, tin, bright copper, verdigris copper or aged zinc.

Co-ordinate a collection of unmatched pots with paint. You could paint them all exactly the same, or experiment with different tones or opacity of the same base colour.

Belair garden, Berry

Belair garden, Berry

Go for COLOUR!

Nothing livens up a garden as much as random splashes of colour. You can do it with plants, but for an all-year-round effect, use some paint!

Design Nicolle Clout

Design Nicolle Clout, Blossom Gardens

Design Fiona Brockhoff

Elegans garden, Sydney

Elegans garden, Sydney

Like this post? Why not share it with a friend?


Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Creator, curator and editor of GardenDrum. Sydney, NSW.

7 thoughts on “Using paint colour in your garden

  1. Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

    Inspiring story! Thank you!
    Jennifer

  2. Vibrant ideas from a colourful imagination. Thanks Catherine.

  3. Mark Morrison on said:

    Catherine, some great ideas and colour combos to keep in mind.
    Thanks, Mark.

    • And I’m walking the walk too – that’s my own turquoise wall at the top.

  4. Roula Vasiliadis on said:

    Hello Catherine. Can you please tell me the name of the colour that was used to paint the outdoor pizza oven Albion Farm Gardens, NSW. We are building a pizza oven and I really like the colour. Thank you

    • Hi Roula – I have already written to ask them but haven’t yet heard back. Will let you know asap.

      • Hi Roula – Sandra at Albion Farm tells me: “The oven was rendered roughly with a mixture of lime, cement, fatty sand and with a terra cotta oxide mixed through the mixture. It looks great, works well and we have enjoyed some very happy pizza meals. One other thing, we have established a “Boston Ivy” to grow over the top.” So it’s not actually a paint as such, but a coloured render over the oven bricks.

Feel free to comment (no need to register)
For help to identify a plant, find a gardening product or for general gardening advice, please use the Gardening HELP page.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *