Paints giant AkzoNobel sponsored a garden at last week’s Chelsea Flower Show to promote a new collaborative project to create paints that capture vibrant structural colours found in nature. The Honeysuckle Blue garden featured plants that have been used throughout history to produce dyes. It was designed by Dutch designers Claudy Jongstra and Stefan Jaspers.

© RHS/Sarah Cuttle

The project – which is being funded by the UK government through Innovate UK – is collaborating with researchers at the Natural History Museum and University of Sheffield to identify the structural features that produce the most striking blue and white hues among different animals and plants.

In synthetic paints, colour comes exclusively from pigments, whereas in nature nanoscopic structural features, such as layers of reflective materials in birds’ feathers and beetles’ exoskeletons, produce more complex colour effects by interacting with light. The idea is to try and incorporate these effects into new paint formulations.

In a statement, AkzoNobel’s Philip Taylor said the garden was a great opportunity to ‘showcase the importance of colour’.