Garden Design in Black and White

There are many factors to consider when choosing plants for your garden. Once you’ve narrowed the list to plants that do well in your environment, it’s common to start choosing plants by the color of their flowers or foliage. However, some garden designers argue that it’s better to choose plants first by shape, then worry about color.

Imagine your garden as a black and white photo in each season. This will help you see its overall structure. Make a list of climate-appropriate evergreen and/or strongly architectural trees, shrubs and perennials that will ensure an interesting outline through the seasons. Then think about color to narrow the list.

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5 thoughts on “Garden Design in Black and White

  1. As a garden designer, I totally agree about choosing plants by shape before color. I even go so far as to start a garden design with the evergreen and architectural backbone plants first. This ensures that the garden will be interesting during winter once all the perennials and and deciduous foliage is gone. Once I’m happy with the backbone, I will tweak those plants and add more for interesting shape, color, and texture of the plants when they are in full foliage. Finally, I add the perennials for a lush, textural look.

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  3. Thank you for this post. I’ve begun reworking a bed that has become overgrown using this technique, starting with removing or moving items that detract from the black and white photo. I will then add in plants with better structure and foliage. Hopefully come next summer I will have a much nicer garden to look out on!

    • Hi Jane — small world! Thanks for pointing that post out! It is full of great ideas for plants with dark, striking foliage too. So key in keeping a perennial border interesting all through the summer.

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