It can be difficult to establish a theme in a garden. There are so many things to consider when choosing plants to fit within a garden theme: light requirements, soil preferences, colour, height, blooming period, and more. But there’s one way that you can easily bring the different parts of your garden together – monoplanting.
This is a looser reincarnation of renowned Dutch gardener Piet Oudolf’s style of planting en masse. Oudolf would focus on the seasonal life cycle structural characteristics of a plant, such as the shape of its leaves or seed pods, then group these plants together. This would leave a garden looking interesting all year round, rather than only during certain seasons. You might recognise Oudolf’s style from the New York High Line, a former railway in NYC that has been transformed into a green walkway! It opened in 2009 and, as a result of its popularity and success, inspired many other cities to convert old, disused infrastructure into green spaces.
Watch my video about the High Line below:
What is monoplanting?
The word ‘monopanting’ stems from the prefix ‘mono’ meaning ‘one’. That means using a singular plant species to weave a theme into your garden. By using one plant in a variety of areas within your outdoor space, you’re creating a pattern that can be very pleasing to the eye if executed correctly.
But isn’t it boring to use one plant again and again? No! Firstly, just because you’re installing a single species, doesn’t mean you have to stick to one variety. Using different varieties allows you to play with characteristics such as height and colour in order to create diversity. Secondly, you can combine your chosen species with other plants that are already established in your garden, or introduce new plants that complement it.
Monoplanting is by no means limiting – so have fun with it!
Which plant is best for monoplanting?
When monoplanting, it’s best to avoid plant species that only grow well under certain conditions – unless the conditions in your garden are the same throughout (i.e. the same soil type, light, exposure to winds). Instead, choose a plant that grows well in a range of conditions, such as a plant that is typically low maintenance. These types of plants are difficult to get wrong, and can withstand a bit of neglect just as they can tolerate varying conditions.
Penstemon is one such plant.
Penstemon – why it’s ideal for monoplanting motifs
Penstemon Phoenix Red
Not only is this a beautiful plant similar to the appearance of a foxglove but without the high toxicity, but penstemon is also a low maintenance plant that yields dozens of bell-shaped flowers even for novice gardeners.
Penstemon Phoenix Pink
Depending on the variety of penstemon, these plants can work in alpine gardens, herbaceous borders and more. One series that can’t go without a mention is the Phoenix series. Comprising a variety of cottage garden-like colours, this series features large plants with a flowering period that spans across five months.
Penstemon Phoenix Violet
These are clump-forming plants that do not need staking, yet can grow to a height of 1 metre and a spread of 5cm. They’ve been selected for their fabulous performance, producing profuse blooms that come back year after year. Plus, they attract a whole host of pollinators, making them a perfect addition to a wildlife-friendly garden.
Penstemon Phoenix Magenta
Penstemon Phoenix can be planted in areas of full sun to partial shade. So whether you’ve got an exposed border that gets battered by UV rays throughout the day, or a bed that only gets a bit of sun in the afternoon, these are the ideal plants for creating that monoplanting motif.
- Appleblossom – white fading into peach-pink edges
- Violet – white bells wit strong purple edges
- Red – white throats delineated with bold, pink-red frills
- Pink – Soft pink bells with white edges and deep red variegation
- Magenta – Dark red-pink flowers with white throats
Plants that work well when planted with Penstemon
Penstemon works well with so many plants, so you’re in luck! Pair this beauty with:
Will you try monoplanting this year? Leave a comment below telling me about your plans!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.
Love the Penstemon so will definitely be adding these to my garden. Would find it hard to monoplant as I like so many things. If I could only have one plant it would be the meconopsis but how hard would that be to grow all over the garden!