All-green woodland gardens can provide serenity

By Dean Fosdick

Associated Press

All-green gardens are becoming popular again as the centerpieces of monochromatic landscaping. The designs are appealing and restive, driven as they are by massed ferns, moss, leaves, bark, berries, rock and foliage combinations. They serve some practical purposes, too.

“Cool, mossy and damp, small space woodland gardens bring a welcome sense of organic Zen and a respite from digital overload, especially in dense urban areas where they can help to mitigate the effects of pollution,” said Elka Karl, a spokeswoman for Monrovia Nursery Co., based in Azuza, California.

“It’s like bringing ‘forest bathing’ to the city with mixes of ferns, mosses, coral bells, hostas and anemones in high-contrast, almost unnatural places for a garden style that’s gaining ground,” Karl said.

She said the company has seen a marked increase in consumer demand for all types of woodland plants over the last three years.

One of the best attributes of plants with green foliage is that they’re the chameleons of the garden, said Kate Karam, Monrovia’s editorial director.

“A holly, for example, can be left to grow into its natural form for a more woodland look or can be sheared into a tight shape suitable for a formal garden,” Karam said.

Green gardens don’t have to be exclusively green, although foliage dominates.

“Even the greenest of green gardens will likely have something that flowers, such as plants that bloom but are chosen for the foliage,” Karam said. “Grasses, spurges and hostas are good examples. Yes, they flower, but most of us don’t really grow them for that benefit.”

There aren’t many “green flowers” in nature, but varieties like Nicotiana langsdorffii, euphorbia and Green Envy zinnia, among others, can be layered into the foliage, said Karen Chapman, a garden designer and co-author, with Christina Salwitz, of “Gardening With Foliage First” (Timber Press, 2017).

Chapman said the monochromatic palette “can be adapted to create a richly textured, shaded woodland border with a framework of Japanese maples, feathery ferns and bold hosta, or a more traditional design of clipped boxwood hedges and architectural conifers.”