Can you repeat that – it looks so good, just keep doing it


Visual repetition always catches my eye. I love it when it is done well. In the garden, it is a very clever way to create rhythm and add impact.

On Beatty Street in Vancouver this week, I found this repetitive planting of variegated Carex ‘Ice Dance’ grasses used in a series of rectangular concrete planters placed to divide the bike lane from the parked cars.

Repeated planting scheme on Beatty Street using Carex Ice Dance in a series of planters

It was very simply done, nothing very special, and yet the impact was impressive – elegant, functional, low-maintenance and attractive.

They could have used boxwood, variegated or plain green, or perhaps nandina or Ilex crenata (Japanese holly) or maybe evergreen azaleas. All of them could be clipped and easily maintained and would have given a consistent, minimalistic look, but ‘Ice Dance’ is a good choice.

Close up of Carex Ice Dance in a series of planters

In my garden, it has become a little tatty if allowed to dry out. The tips turn brown and some of the leaves dry out and turn yellow. But with a little clipping and clean-up, a bank of ‘Ice Dance’ is pretty reliable.

I always take photos of attractive repetitive planting schemes. Here are a few I have snapped over the years. If I had more time, I could find many other examples.

Agave in a series of blue pots on yellow wall in Holland

I think the idea is very versatile. You can apply it to other forms of planting. For instance, using Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra aureola) spaced out in a repetitive way in a long border to create a rhythm of colour and form and texture.

Repeated use of giant sculptural Walla Walla onions in France

Boxwood balls are used in many European garden in a repetitive way to create a similar effect.

Lemon trees in series of planters in Bagatelle Garden, France
Repeated use of kale in planting scheme in Chicago
Repeated placement of chrome spheres on tall sticks to create a patterned installation that has great impact in a French garden


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