Whether you are a real pro or just a beginner, there comes a time when every gardener embarks on a new project – something more exiting or more challenging. As experience, expertise and confidence grow, projects that seemed interesting a year ago no longer keep their hold. A novice gardener is usually busy getting to know the new plants, tracking them down, mixing and matching them. The plant world is inexhaustible in terms of shapes and colours, however, harmonious compositions do not come easy. The monochromatic gardens are most challenging to design – it requires some effort to amass a collection of plants, which would be consistent yet not boring, stimulating yet not patchy. And, what is most important, which would insure continuos show from spring till autumn.
One of the most elegant and challenging of the monochromatic gardens is the white garden. Shades of white, green, grey, blue and their combinations become important elements of the design, while variation in size, color, and leaf shape creates lots of textural interest. Clever balancing of textures is very important, if you want to avoid your white garden looking like a pale and flat blob.
Start building the white garden from a small fragment – a group of 3 or 5 plants. Move the plants around until you achieve a satisfying effect. Proceed to adding more plants only after you master the principle. A few years down the line, most probably you will still be moving plants around and raplacing them with new ones – but not for the lack of knowledge. Quite opposite, this is a sign of a true gardener, who is searching for harmony and is not afraid to admit a mistake.
Apart from the flower shape and colour, other significant criteria, when building blocks of plants is their bloom time, and height and width of the clump. Plant width is especially important when planting small divisions or seedlings, since these tiny things may eventually spread to an extent where they will start encroaching upon neighbouring plants. Bear in mind the ultimate height of the clump when grouping the plants – the tallest ones are normally planted towards the very back. This is especially true when planting at the foot of a fence, a housewall or other tall screen.
When planting an island bed, consider planting the tallest plants in the middle of the bed, so that the composition would be well visible from all sides. The bloom time is an important issue to keep in mind so as to have as little as possible of days or weeks when no flowers are present among the sea of greenery. Since all these objectives are not easy to combine, plant several variegated or long-blooming plants, such as Gaura lindheimeri `Whirling Butterflies` and Centrantus ruber `Albus`.
© Giedra Bartas, 2011