How to Plant a Monochromatic Garden
Monochromatic Gardens, the Easy Way to Plant Flowers
Monochromatic is a big word, but it means something very simple: one (mono) and color (chromatic). It's an easy way for beginning gardeners to create a beautiful garden while learning the basics of plant care.
When you're trying to design a garden for the first time, there's a lot to think about. Many beginning gardeners feel overwhelmed. They pick up a basic gardening book and there are scary chapters on soil pH, soil composition, light, plant choices, composting and fertilizer and a bunch of stuff that can seem like you're back in time, staring at the blackboard in chemistry or biology class.
Now, if you like that kind of thing, more power to you. For me, I want to plant flowers because I want to look out of my windows and see a pretty garden. I love to plant butterfly gardens so that I can enjoy the color and motion of beautiful butterflies. I attract birds to the garden for the same reason. And while I enjoy the science behind gardening, when I was just starting out, I wanted fast results.
With monochromatic planting schemes, you can group flowers along a similar color theme to create an instant splash. Your garden will look coordinated. A border planted with all white flowers will make fellow gardens admire your "English" style in honor of Gertrude Jekyll, a famous British landscape designer who created a monochromatic formal "white" garden. Best of all, using a single color as the dominant theme in the landscape makes garden design easy and fun.
So let's get our trowels and shovels ready to plant a single color or monochromatic flower garden.
Understand Gardening Basics
Before talking about color schemes, it's important not to skip gardening basics. The right plant for the space you have is really the key to a successful garden. Plants, like people, have likes and dislikes. Some like a lot of sunlight; others prefer shade. Here are a few basics you'll need to know before choosing your color scheme and finding plants to add to your garden:
What type of light is available in the area for your garden? Full sun is defined as six or more hours of bright, direct sunlight each day, without shade. It tends to be hot, dry, and bright. Semi Sun or Semi Shade means about 3 to 6 hours per day of sunlight. The light may be divided among dappled shade, full sun, and times of each. The more sunlight you have in that area, the closer it is to semi sun. Shade means just what you think it means. The area is in shade most of the day. This type of light is found at many homes and can be tough to design a flower garden for, but it can be done.
Light is one of the few things in a garden that is difficult, if not impossible, to change. So be sure you know what kind of light you have. Write it down in a small notebook. Sketch the area where you want to plant your garden. Measure it, too. That will help you choose plants that will like the area and thrive there, too!
I won't quiz you on chemistry. Just know whether or not the soil is hard and red like a brick (clay) or sandy, where the water just runs right through (sandy.) If you're not sure, ask your neighbor or take a soil sample to the County Cooperative Extension Office for a soil test. It costs a few dollars but not much, and they can help you understand which nutrients you may need to add to the soil, and anything else you might need to do to prepare the garden for flowers.
Rain provides water, but some plants like a lot more water than others. Desert cacti and succulents have adapted to harsh, dry conditions. Native plants, or plants that grow in the wild in the area where you live, are probably better adapted to the water and growing conditions than others may be. Know how much water your area gets and be prepared to supplement rainwater with sprinklers or other water to keep your plants healthy.
Gardening Zone is a number from 1 (think Antarctica) to 10 (think tropics) that describes the first and last frost date and other conditions. Once you know your gardening zone, you know it; it's not something you have to think of except maybe once every 10 years when climate changes may shift it around a bit, but otherwise, once you know it, it's there. To find out your garden zone, visit my blog, Seven Oaks. In the margin is a calculator from the Arbor Day Society. Type your zip code in (in the USA) and it will give you the gardening zone for your area. Easy!
Perennials and Shrubs
Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon
Kerria japonica shrub
Choosing Flowers for a Monochromatic Garden
Now that you know the basics of your garden, it's time to choose the flowers you want to plant in your monochromatic garden. Shrubs and perennials return yearly; these should be the 'anchors' for your garden. So choose these carefully.
Consider which colors you want. In my garden, pinks and purples dominate the spring, with hot orange and yellow the dominant palette in summer. Fall, we return to a mixture or blend of both, like the reprise of a symphony.
Green in the monochromatic garden is treated like a neutral color.
Think of pairing your flowers the way you would clothing. Choose shades that blend together, and that bloom around the same time. In my garden, for example, the summer palette shown here is orange and yellow. I've planted large sections of stella d'oro daylilies (yellow) and day lilies (orange). These are next to big patches of Rudbeckia, or black-eyed Susan, a yellow flower, and yellow daisies. Gaillardia, an orange flowered variety underscores the theme. Since my garden isn't entirely monochromatic, I do have white and lavender butterfly bushes blooming now, but these tend to be clustered in my butterfly garden, in which hot pink and purple is the dominant color.
I've grouped flowers together in sections of the perennial garden to create a monochromatic effect. As the seasons change and new perennials emerge, the palette shifts too.
Annual flowers can be used to great effect in the monochromatic garden. You can use them as an accent color. The color wheel can be useful to choosing accent colors. It provides a circle of colors, and the accent or opposing color is on the opposite side of the wheel. Some annuals, such as spring blooming pansies, summer impatiens or petunias, and fall mums bloom in a wide range of hues and colors and make great accent plants.
The monochromatic or single-color garden is refreshing, and texture can be used to great effect to add variety. Smooth leaves versus thorns on the rose; pointy versus round leaves; consider all aspects of the flower when choosing your plants.
And what if you make a mistake? Don't worry! Gardening should be fun. If you love a flower and it doesn't fit your color scheme, consider planting it anyway. Gardening should be fun. And, for the most part, all flowers are beautiful.