The Keys to a Monoculture Container Grouping

Monoculture Gardens

Tired of our standard symmetrical planter strategy, we went in search of some gardening inspiration, which led us to Columbus, Ohio-based landscape designer Nick McCullough’s blog, Thinking Outside the Boxwood. With more than 3 million followers on Pinterest thanks to exquisitely curated boards of gardens, plants, paving, and more, McCullough is clearly dedicated to seeking out new ideas and cultivating beauty, and he takes this passion a step further on his blog, where he shares images from farm and garden tours, details of landscape-related travels, book recommendations, and thoughts on his favorite gardening trends.

In a recent post, McCullough highlighted a series of container groupings by Danish gardener Claus Dalby (view them on Thinking Outside the Boxwood here), and discussed the beauty and benefits to putting a fresh twist on the monoculture container grouping trend by focusing less on groups of a singular variety of specimen plants, and more on a variety of plants chosen for their similar color and texture. Here are his tips for creating a modern monoculture container grouping at home, which we used to create our version featured above.

Choose your containers. According to McCullough, creating a monoculture container grouping is a great opportunity to use small, easy-to-move containers. In terms of material, anything goes—terra cotta (just remember to store indoors during freezing temperatures), metal, concrete, pottery, fiber-clay, etc.

Pick your plants. McCullough recommends following Dalby’s lead in terms of plant selection, which means following a strict color palette. “Either go for variations on one color family or just warm or cool tones,” he writes. “If you are more confident in color theory, mix it up using complementary colors, etc. But remember, this is a designed collection, not a hodgepodge of random plants.”

Arrange for maximum impact. A multi-tiered surface is imperative for achieving height and impact in a monoculture container design. McCullough recommends starting with a grouping of tables nesting together, or arranging a collection lining the steps leading to your door. Or, take it to the next level and purchase or build a tiered plant stand—McCullough suggests searching for an antique or vintage French or English plant stand as inspiration, noting that the objective is to have graduated height with focus on the plants, not the stand. In terms of number, “For the minimum I would start with 10 containers, and a maximum would only be limited to what the space can hold,” McCullough writes.

Take good care. Smaller containers require more frequent maintenance, McCullough warns, which means checking the soil daily for moisture and watering accordingly (in some cases, daily) and feeding and fertilizing your plants. Also, smaller pots provide less organic matter for growing, and will result in root-bound plants with a shorter lifespan. Wind is also a factor with small containers, which can blow over easily (so take note if you’re planning on putting your grouping on a balcony!).

TSG Tip 232 from Nick McCullough of McCullough Landscape & Nursery LLC in Columbus, Ohio.