Tropical Style

Monochromatic Garden Magic Done 7 Ways

January 25, 2019

Does your lawn resemble a jar of jumbled jelly beans — wildly colorful but with no true awareness of cohesive layout? Try toning things down with a monochromatic color scheme. Select just 1 color but utilize an assortment of tints, shades and hues — for example, light blue, rich cobalt and blue-purple. Far from being boring, this kind of restraint allows the focus to be on the juxtaposition of shapes and textures. Foliage, flowers or a mix of both can be employed to create a magical effect which will have you reaching for your camera rather than your own sunglasses.

You do not need to devote to an Whole backyard in a single palette, like the famous White Garden at Sissinghurst in Kent, England. Design a unique border or just a container to learn more about the options. Or separate high-color-contrast plantings from the backyard with a monochromatic vignette to give the attention a soothing place to rest.

Design for yearlong curiosity or just 1 season — you’ll soon be wondering why you ever believed that monochromatic layout would limit you.

Personal Garden Coach

Moody Blues

Talk about making a statement. The entry to this blue backyard at Lotusland, in California, must be among my favorites. Large architectural agaves (USDA hardiness varies)stand sentry while two blue atlas cedars (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’, zones 6 to 10) contrast with those bold succulents. Hummocks of blue fescue grasses (Festuca glauca) resemble a herd of spiky blue hedgehogs in this fantastical display.

Applying containers, fabrics and decorative accents to reinforce the color scheme adds curiosity. Here the pathway is edged with large chunks of translucent blue glass.

All these plants are drought tolerant and flourish in well-drained soil in full sun.

Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC

For a more romantic look, combine cottage garden favorites, such as blossom catmint (Nepeta sp) with perennial blossom (Salvia sp). Their mounding forms are punctuated here by spheres of lilac alliums, held aloft on sturdy stems.

This really is an excellent drought-tolerant summer trio for full sun.

Deborah Cerbone Associates, Inc..

Classic White

This is perhaps the quintessential monochromatic backyard. Fences are festooned with white candy fall clematis (Clematis terniflora, zones 4 to 10), while trimming boxwood hedges corral billowing mounds of roses and hydrangeas.

Elegant, formal and innovative, this is quite a timeless look that will never go out of style. The plan is held together even when no flowers are blooming, since the home itself continues the theme.

Verdance Landscape Design

If you like the concept of a white garden but do not want to dedicate to such a huge area, try flanking a pathway with a simple springtime combination. White daffodils or tulips could join pansies or snowy forget-me-nots (Myosotis sp, zones 3 to 8) for an early-season display. At a shadier place, a mass planting of snowdrops would be beautiful.

Le jardinet

Shimmering Silvers

To get a new spin on the classic white garden, select silver. This combination is about the foliage. Soft, feathery mounds of ‘Silver Mound’ wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana) contrast with the rough texture of this bigger, seen lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) leaves.

The achievement of the combination took me in my zone 6b garden; both are flourishing in full sun with minimal water. I always believed lungwort needed partial shade. Just goes to show it’s well worth experimenting.

6 Beautiful Silver-Leaf Plants

Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

Green into Gold

“Acid green,” “chartreuse,” “apple green” — these are all terms we use to explain that zesty shade we have come to appreciate in our houses. Here the flowering bracts of spurge (Euphorbia sp) burst into color like a crazy bouquet, their color repeated by the flowering kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos sp) and assorted gold grasses.

This combination is powerful in part as a result of the sheer bulk of a single plant. The monochromatic scheme is at its peak in late spring, however since the grasses and spurge are evergreen, in many zones that the structure will stay in a hot, sunny place like this through the year.

Glenna Partridge Garden Design

Shady woodland gardens are among my favorites to style. Their success depends largely upon blending interesting foliage textures and playing one shade of green off another. This layout beautifully partners Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’)with assorted hostas, astilbes and ferns. The result is a soothing medley which will thrive in partial shade, in average to moist soil, in zones 5 to 8.


This is a challenge to create a backyard when both sunny and shady environments have to be considered together. The designer has additional soft apricot daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids) into the sunnier side, echoing the colors of this shade-loving grasses and hostas. Butter-yellow roses, such as ‘Graham Thomas’, would likewise have been fairly. Or maybe a sweep of ‘Mellow Yellow’ spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’, sets 5 to 9).

Le jardinet

Wish to punch up the color? How about wealthy gold with a hint of tangerine?

This trio would do the job equally well in a large container or garden border. The yellow variegated ‘Gold Coast’ holly (Ilex aquifolium), strappy ‘Goldfinger’ New Zealand iris (Libertia ixioides, zones 7 to 11) and colorful ‘Delta Dawn’ coral bells (Heuchera, USDA zone varies) are evergreen. Tuck a few yellow pansies in for an extra splash in spring, and you’ll have sunshine year-round.

Exteriorscapes llc

Sunset Shades

From peach to rust and magenta, this color palette offers warm shades that seem like they would melt into your mouth. Cluster sun-loving ‘Sedona’ coleus, dahlias along with other similarly colored annuals in a sunny container for a simple monochromatic medley.

Waterwise Landscapes Incorporated

Pretty in Pink

Paler shades of pink can look washed out, particularly in the heat of high summer. Insert magenta into the mix, however, and it really comes to life. The cushion of rockery pinks (Dianthus sp, USDA zone varies) from the foreground is combined by additional drought-tolerant plants in this sun-loving mix.

Shirley Bovshow

Pink muhly grass(Muhlenbergia capillaris) is among the most striking for late-season color. As opposed to massing these in a single border, the designer added them throughout the space, effectively moving the eye across this beautiful backyard. The pink-purple beard tongue (Penstemon sp, USDA hardiness changes)from the foreground adds a wonderful touch.

Le jardinet

Passionate Purple

Blond and busty meets bright and shiny in this magnificent pairing. The bigger leaves of ‘Spellbound’ coral bells (Heuchera) glisten with a soft metallic sheen, giving an exciting backdrop for the narrow, velvety foliage of ‘Ruby Glow’ spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides). This fresh sun-tolerant coral bells cultivar is sharing a container with an spurge in my zone 6b garden.

Whether you would rather bold and vivid shades or a cool and sophisticated palette, a monochromatic color scheme might help bring a touch of designer magic to your backyard. Which color will you choose?

Research the plant library by color: Flowers | Foliage

More: What to do on your U.S. backyard this month

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