“A Garden is to be a world unto itself, it had better make room for the darker shades of feeling as well as the sunny ones.” – William Kent, Architect
Garden conceptualism is a type of design in which a single idea, or concept, is clearly decipherable as conforming to a particular theme. Themes can be as complex as creating a classic English garden or as simple as using a single color. Single-color, unique gardens can unify your landscape, guide your plant and material selections, and complement the architecture of your home.
Monochromatic garden design
A monochromatic color scheme allows plant and leaf forms, foliage, bark, shape, height, stems, and textures to take center stage in a garden. Focusing on a single color does not imply using a single flower; the more variety of plants in a single-color garden, the more striking will be the effect. Monochromatic gardens usually have multiple single color variations, for instance gold, lemon, rust, or tangerine-colored plants could be used in a garden with an orange color theme. Different hues and shades, and two-tone blooms and evergreens contribute to the overall color palette. To enhance the effect, landscape designers sometimes add touches of alternative color. For instance, Victorian gardeners used white flowers to contrast with black plants in the popular gothic gardens of that era; the wide adoption of black gothic gardens at that time may have arisen from the early practice by gardeners of planting black hollyhocks to disguise outhouses.
Famous single-color gardens
Landscaper Getrude Jekyll wrote: “…besides my small grey garden, I badly want others, and especially a gold garden, a blue garden, and a green garden”. She is credited with creating a number of mono-color gardens and popularizing the idea of using a single color in unique garden design.
White gardens were the rage in the 1920s and ’30s in England and the U.S. (source: Eleanor Perenyi). One of the most famous single-color garden schemes is the all-white English garden at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, created by Vita Sackville-West in the 1930s. It was designed to be at its best “especially in the evenings or when illuminated by a full moon” which is why all-white gardens are often referred to as moon gardens.
In the United States, the most famous white, unique garden is one that forms part of the Sarah P Duke Gardens in North Carolina. Inspired by the Sissinghurst Castle garden, Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Centre Gardens, decided to create a U.S. version that would become a stunning and welcoming accent that space. .
Another famous American monochromatic garden is Edith Stern’s Yellow Garden in New Orleans, created by landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman in 1935 and commissioned after visits to other monochromatic gardens in England. Edith Stern also commissioned a Pan Garden, designed with pink and purple blooms, and a Wild Garden, planted with native plants of the Gulf South.
While no flower is truly black in color, some varieties come close with shades and hues of burgundies, reds, and purple so rich that they appear black.
Thanks to hybrids, the traditional color range of popular plants has increased. Hybrids are created by crossing two flowers of the same variety but different color. To create a black (or nearly black) lily, yellow and red lilies are cross bred. The new plants are then cross bred with each other; each iteration creates darker varieties of the original plants. The pH of the soil can also influence the shade of a dark-colored plant.
Black gardens don’t only flaunt dark flowers. Eggplants, basil, sage, and ornamental peppers can be used to blacken an unusual herb and vegetable patch.
Tips on selecting colors for monochromatic garden schemes
A hue is a name for a pure color that contains no black, white, or gray. Its value is an indication of how light or dark it is. Tints are colors mixed with white, tones are colors mixed with grays, and shades are colors mixed with black.
Cool colors (blues and purples) and pale shades create a sense of depth in the garden while bright colors (reds and yellows) bring the garden to the forefront and make it look closer. Bright colors work well in full sun; pale colors, yellows, and whites reflect light and illuminate shady spots. Dark plants should be grown in sunny areas to prevent them from becoming lost in badly-lit areas of the garden. They will stand out more effectively if planted against a light background and should be watered more frequently than light-colored plants.
One of the reasons people love flowers is because of the range of colors they offer. Although most people select plants in a wide variety of colors, the alternative, a single-color garden, can be a very powerful personal statement, accent the unique architecture of your home and can create a distinctive mood for your outdoor space.
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