Most of us think of either flowers or edibles of some kind when we think of gardens. But what if we’re only scratching the surface with those associations? What if plain-Jane green can be beautiful in its own right?

The photo above was taken at Buttermilk Falls in Layton, NJ. Green may be the dominant color, but notice how the variety of shades and textures make it anything but boring.

Here’s another example, this time along the course of Old Mine Road, also in NJ.

There were more Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) growing on those two hillsides than I’d ever before seen in one place at the same time. I love the contrast in shade and texture between the ferns and the river of Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) flowing through the furrow where the two slopes meet.

Now let’s travel north to Campbell Falls State Park in Norfolk, CT.

Once again, notice how contrasting form and texture holds the key to visual interest when a single color is dominant. On the one hand, you’ve got lacy ferns. On the other hand, velvety moss spreading over the fallen tree.

And here is a photo from my own garden, though I have to admit in my poor defense that I am not the artist Nature is.

Pictured is Carolina rhododendron (Rhododendron minus), barren strawberry (Geum fragaroides), and mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) that are just beginning to unfurl. They’re growing along the edge of a path through our little woodland.

In point of fact, all three of these plants will have flowers, though not simultaneously. But even if they didn’t, the variety of shades and textures make it a pleasing combination (at least to my eye).

This is a young blend and I’m hoping the various species are all going to play nicely together without much (if any) refereeing from me. Theoretically, they will but I’ll report back when the verdict is in!

Hopefully, this little whirlwind tour through the mid-Atlantic and Northeast gets your imagination sparking, because the possibilities for practical application are immense.

A simple garden where green holds center stage can be very beautiful, not to mention eco-friendly and almost entirely carefree if you choose plants native to your ecoregion and well-suited to your specific site.

How might you feature green in your garden?

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