It’s no surprise that I’m a fan of tone-on-tone color palettes! Whether inside or out, I find using shades of the same color soothing, sophisticated, subtle and harmonious. While there are interiors decorated in this style, it is more challenging to find tone-on-tone gardens – the exception being white gardens which have been popular since the Victorian period. By the way, I have made it a personal goal to visit as many white gardens as possible, so let me know your favorite(s)!

In planning and designing our blue garden, I frequented one of my favorite DC gardens for ideas and inspirations. Located on the grounds of the Washington National Cathedral is the Bishop’s Garden. Designed in the early 20th century by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and Florence Brown Bratenahl, wife of the second Dean of the Cathedral, this hillside garden is a gem worth exploring.

Inside the high stone wall are herb gardens, perennial borders and beds, a rose garden, a folly (the Shadow House), an expansive lawn, and medieval sculptures and architectural relics. These include a 9th century baptismal font supposedly from the Abbey of St. Julie in the Aisne, 12th century Norman stone arch, 15th century bas-relief plaques, etc.

I recently met with a client at the Bishop’s Garden to discuss designs for her blue garden. Enjoy these photos from mid May.

With the majestic cathedral as a backdrop and sounds of church bells ringing, the Bishop’s Garden is truly spectacular.
The lower perennial garden beds are known as the blue borders. Next to the blue-gray stone walls, the predominately cool colored flowers create a layered tone-on-tone effect.
A stunning color field of blues, lavenders, purples and whites. Above are Baptisias. Below are Salvias (front left) and Siberian Irises (front right).
A close up of Siberians – so pretty and delicate!
Help! Can you help identify the above? My client and I both want this plant. UPDATE: I just learned that is an Anchusa. Many thanks to Monica and Rosemary!
Located on the south side of a hill, the blue borders get full sun and excellent drainage. Once again, I took these photos in mid May. The borders are equally lovely at the height of summer when Agastaches, Buddleias, Lavenders and Russian Sages are in full bloom.
Here are the beautiful lavender-blue blooms of Nepetas.
I love the royal blue color and feathery foliage of these Larkspurs, which are related to Delphiniums. I cannot grow Delphiniums successfully with our very hot and muggy summers so perhaps I’ll give Larkspurs a try. Thank you again to Rosemary for helping me identify these beauties!
Aquilegias and Nepetas spilling over. Notice the repetition in color and plantings, both of which I practice in my designs.
This charming folly is known as the Shadow House. Doesn’t the setting remind you of the Cotswolds in England?
Just as important as flowers, foliage in a tone-on-tone garden should be carefully chosen. I find silvery and gray foliage, such as the Lamb’s Ears above, complement a blue garden perfectly.
Icy blue flowers and wispy foliage make Amsonias must-haves in the blue garden. Behind is a 15th century carved stone bas-relief of St. Catherine and martyrs.
Punctuating the borders in mid May were many purple Alliums.
Not all the gardens at the National Cathedral are blue themed. In the Hortulus (little garden), the perennials and culinary and medicinal herbs are all inspired by plantings documented in a 9th century monastery. At the center is the French Carolingian baptismal font dating to Charlemagne’s time.
Nearby is this 18th century English bronze sundial sitting on a 13th century Gothic capital of carved limestone from a ruined monastery near Reims, France.
I hope you have enjoyed this tour. To read more about the Bishop’s Garden, visit here. And if you know of a blue or white garden, please share. Thanks!