A garden of another color

Blue Oak – Quercus douglasii

Mesa Meadow fescue

Our newer, water-saving landscapes are helping us break free of plain old green in the garden. With many plants, the traits that make them water-thrifty, also give them interesting foliage color and form. We can use this to our advantage by creating a “wow!” garden based on the monochromatic style.

Monochromatic gardens have been around for decades. Probably the most famous is garden designer Vita Sackwill-West’s “white garden” at Sissinghurst. Modern monochromatic gardens use foliage as well as flowers, or even in place of flowers, to create a single or narrow-range of color.

Abutilon palmeri
Palmer’s mallow –        Abutilon palmeri
Eriogonum crocatum
Conejo Buckwheat – Eriogonum crocatum
Bee’s bliss sage – Salvia ‘bees’ bliss’ Photo: Priscilla Girard

Any of these plants can be used in this way to create a grey, grey-green, white, silver or blue-green   garden. Be ruthless!



A very young (and small) Quail bush – Atriplex lentiformis.



Don’t allow too much variation from your main color, which can be based on a dominant plant.

Quail bush, because of its size, might dominate, for instance, and so the main color will be blue-green in the cool season and grey-blue-green in the summer and fall. Use dark colored boulders or mulch, or colorful containers (all one color is best) to provide contrast and retain the theme’s strong statement.

A successful monochromatic garden elicits a “wow!” first impression, but then is quite restful. So we can use this either as a front yard for curb appeal, or as a secret or courtyard garden as a place to sit and stay awhile. Like all successful gardens, there will be something of interest year-round, including visits by wildlife, and even though monochromatic, it won’t be at all boring.

White sage, and another friend.
White sage, and another friend.