GARDEN TREND: Monoculture Container Design

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GARDEN TREND: Monoculture Container Design, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


I give credit for the monoculture trend in container design to the brilliant container groupings by Danish gardener Claus Dalby. The groupings of containers he places at the entrance of his garden receive over 2,000 Instagram likes for the striking color and scale impact they create. Traditionally you see “mono” container groups of singular variety of specimen plants, such as begonias or succulents. However, this new trend focuses on a variety of plants curated based on color and texture. I compare it to a French or English florist showcasing the seasons best blooms at the entrance to their shop.  The work featured here is all by Claus, but there are a lot of Nordic designers that are creating amazing monoculture container groupings are large and smaller scale.

New Garden Design Trend - Monoculture Container Design showcased in the work by Claus Dalby. More on the trend at


Generally, monocultures are not a good horticulture practice since they leave your garden vulnerable to pest and disease. Just ask anyone losing their boxwood to boxwood blight or dealing with the relics of Emerald Ash borer. However in container gardens, planting pots in a singular species gives you flexibility in swapping out under performers and revise placement based on height and spread.


New Garden Design Trend - Monoculture Container Design showcased in the work by Claus Dalby. More on the trend at




SKILL LEVEL: This container design method is great for gardening novices, you can move and swap to keep it looking fresh and easily replant any unsuccessful pot. Also mono-containers can use smaller, less expensive containers and be placed in compact outdoor spaces. Plant geek level gardeners will also love this trend since you can highlight your unique plants and constantly fiddle with your groupings.


PLANT SELECTION: Following in Claus’ footsteps, I recommending following a strict color palate when selecting plants. Either go for variations on one color family or just warm or cool tones. If you are more confident in color theory, mix it up with using complementary colors, etc. But remember this is a designed collection, not a hodgepodge of random plants.


CONTAINER SELECTION: This design is great for smaller containers which don’t work with when building combo containers. Since using small and easily moved containers they can be made of just about any material; terracotta (just store indoors during freezing temperatures), metal, concrete, pottery, fiber-clay and reclaimed containers.


CARE: Smaller containers will have more frequent maintenance. Check soil daily for moisture. Some weather could require daily watering compared to their in the ground counterparts. Smaller pots provide less organic matter for growing and will result in root bound plants with a shorter plant lifespans for your plants. Outside of watering, remember to fertilize and feed your plants. Also lighter containers could be susceptible to strong winds blowing over, so just take note if placing on a balcony.


ARRANGING: For the height and impact, you need a multi-tiered surface. You can start with a grouping of tables nesting together or line a collection down your stairs. You can take it to the next level and find or build a tiered plant stand (try searching antique/vintage French and English plant stand for some ideas). The objective is to have a graduated height with focus on the plants not the stand. For the minimum I would start with 10 containers and a maximum only limited to what the space can hold.


GARDEN TREND: Monoculture Container Design, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

I am currently building my small container supply and designing a plant stand based on some antique French models to create my own grand display. I will share the plant stand design and planting results. Also, if you don’t already follow Claus on Instagram (with over 100,000 followers- I hope you do), I highly recommend you add him to your list and include posting notification. Outside of views into his own garden, Claus visits some beautiful gardens across Europe.

Sites for Great RHS Chelsea Flower Show Recaps

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Hard to believe that The RHS Chelsea Flower show has already closed and all the beautiful gardens are being torn down. Since I have yet be able to make the trip across the pond to see the gardens myself, I have gotten good at finding others that have for all the best images and videos. Since I am sure there are others like me looking for the best perspective to the show, I wanted to share my sources. Please if you have any sources please pass long, either videos, blogs or articles. Hopefully soon, I will be able to share my own experience until then I will continue to live vicariously through others. (Sorry for the lack of photos, but I clicking through the links you will not be disappointed)

Shoot provides photos and the plant breakdowns for all the show gardens. New this year they provide photographic photos of the plant IDs to help you identify the plants in the gardens and understand how they play with the others with spread, height and texture. This detailed information is great for anyone that needs help ID-ing the plant they like. You can also go back in the archives to previous Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower shows.


Preparing for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show with James Alexander-Sinclair 

I love anything behind the scenes, and the videos James Alexander-Sinclair did for creating the Zoe Ball Listening Garden provide that on the fly behind the scenes commentary. The second video shows how they tested the sound vibrations in the water, which is just beautiful and you will never understand from looking at the finished photos alone. James has a series of videos called The View from Here… which are also fun watching.


RHS 3D Garden Views

For the best quality photos, no one beats the RHS’s own website. For the show gardens they even provide 3D tours, allowing you to experience walking through the spaces experiencing all the different angles. The RHS also has great videos of the whole process leading up to the big reveals that are fun to watch. The link provided is to the landing page of Charlotte Harris’ garden for the Royal Bank of Canada. HERE is another great video with Charlotte talking about the elements that influenced her garden design.


The Frustrated Gardener 

For amazing personal photographs, I love the posts from the Frustrated Gardener. The images are beautifully presented on the page, allowing you to focus on each one’s attributes. Beyond the Chelsea articles, this is an amazing blog to add to your reading list for a great garden design perspective.


Patrick Blanc – A Madly Inspiring Scientist & Artist

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Patrick Blanc – A Madly Inspiring Scientist & Artist, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Back in February, I traveled to Cleveland to hear Patrick Blanc speak on the Science, Architecture and Design of Vertical Gardens. The Shaker Lakes Garden Club hosted the event in which Patrick spoke for a full two hours and shared hundreds of images and projects. Patrick is the person responsible for vertical gardening across the world, with the inspiration and foundation starting as a boy in love with aquariums and providing the best environment for fish. What I think is missing in a lot of main stream articles about Patrick is the fact he is a scientist first and foremost in botany and has spent a lifetime exploring the world studying and discovering new plant varieties. It is his vast knowledge and lifetime of passion and curiosity that as giving him the ability to be both the founder and maverick of the vertical gardening world.

Patrick Blanc – A Madly Inspiring Scientist & Artist, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

A private residence in Seoul, features green walls in a motor court that engulfs visitors and blurs the lines of the space. The birch trees are striking against the green backdrop. One of my favorite projects he has completed.


When he explains the systems, it all seems so simple and straight forward, but again that because of his expansive knowledge and experience. His walls can have hundreds of different plant species woven together, however each plant and placement is made based on the individual sight specifications such as direct sunlight based on surrounding structures. The irrigation systems are rigged to deliver water based on the wall placement. Indoor locations get shorter more frequent watering compared to outdoor spaces. He is also very specific in the nutrients added to the watering system, knowing the balance of the plants needing only a bit of some nutrients. Finally, maintenance should just be watching the watering and periodic trimming back if following his directions.

Patrick Blanc – A Madly Inspiring Scientist & Artist, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

(Posted information at the Shin-Yamaguchi Station in Japan showcasing the plants included (many native to the area), Patrick’s sketch for plant placement and the young plants of the wall to the left.)


Besides his ability to put is work into such simple terms to understand the basics of the system, is his ability to constantly be pushing what and where vertical gardens can be. Here are a few projects he shared that I enjoyed the most, but his website lists so many you should really explore.


His personal home, featuring a home office on a glass topped aquarium with green tendrils dripping down the walls, filled with frogs and birds. It is pretty magical in photos, can only imagine what it is like in person, especially in the evening with lighting in the aquarium. More photos of his residence are HERE)

Patrick Blanc – A Madly Inspiring Scientist & Artist, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

Patrick Blanc – A Madly Inspiring Scientist & Artist, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Blank walls seem to be the logical place for a vertical garden, but this project for a free-standing sculpture covered was an aha thought, you don’t need a building with a blank wall to go vertical. (More photos of the Spiral at Chaumont Sur Loire HERE).

Patrick Blanc – A Madly Inspiring Scientist & Artist, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Another great example of thinking away from the empty wall, is this rainforest chandelier hanging down the center of a shopping mall in Bangkok.   (You can see more images of the project HERE)

Patrick Blanc – A Madly Inspiring Scientist & Artist, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


All the images on the post are from Patrick’s site, so I highly recommend you check it out and explore. A great tool is the project MAP, you can see where all the projects are located, maybe in you area during your future travels.