Perfect plant combinations
This is the time of the year when I see and enjoy plant combinations in other people’s gardens, as well as my own, and in hanging baskets and plantings in the town and cities.
Some plants just go together so well, like the proverbial horse and carriage. They seem to be just made to be in combination. Most great partnerships in the plant world depend on colour schemes, shape of plants and timing as well as similar needs.
I like to have a mix of tall, rather ethereal plants that seem to float in the air, high above their bases on tall stems; then I place frothier plants that seem to fill the space in between, in and around them. The combinations in my garden may not all be perfect, but they give me pleasure!
Alchemilla mollis or Lady’s Mantle is one of my all-time favourite frothy plants. It is only frothy, though, when it is in flower in summer, with its citrine-lemon flowers on long stems. Its foliage is good too, as it is a fresh, almost apple-green colour and individual leaves hold the dew. A few days ago I bought a bunch of alchemilla flowers combined with a deep, dark burgundy-coloured dahlia. It made me think that they would make a good partnership in the garden too.
Photo: Roadside stall purchase of a bunch of alchemilla flowers combined with a deep-purple dahlia.
Photo: The grass, Stipa tenuissima, is a good background for many plants including this dark-flowered dahlia.
One of my favourite combinations in the garden at the moment is the late summer-flowering Salvia bethelii ‘Involucrata’ with elongated bright pink flowers, and Echinacea. They both flower at above 45cm, the salvia with arching stems and the Echinacea on ram-rod straight stems. Their colours work well, they both enjoy full sun, and the soft fronds of the grass Stipa tenuissima makes a good foil for them both.
The grass, though, has got a bit big for the space and I have plans to lift it and divide it, to give the other plants a bit more air and light.
Photo: Salvia bethelii ‘Involucrata’ and Echinacea magnus are made to match.
Photo: Echinacea also looks good with Scabious atropurpurea ‘Ace of Spades’
Verbena bonariensis is the plant that you see everywhere in combinations as it is one of those high-flying plants. I have some of the tallest specimens of this at the moment, growing to about 2metres in height, as well as a lower-growing Verbena ‘Lollipop’. This goes well with the Eryngium ‘Jos Eyking’ and the two seem to support eachother.
I have started to enjoy white flowers in the garden. Seedlings of Ammi majus, sown earlier in the year, have grown into a good show of white flowerheads and they offer a light foil to two of my favourite yellows. The yellow flowers of Patrinia scabiosifolia and the golden foliage of Agastache foeniculum ‘Golden Jubilee’ are cooled by the white flowers.
The Royal Horticultural Society published the revised and expanded Encyclopedia of Planting Combinations (978 1 84533 682 0, £25, Mitchell Beazley) earlier this year. It offers 4,000 achievable combinations… so a wealth of choice. This is a fountain of all knowledge and has given me food for thought about some of my plant partnerships.
Images and text copyright Barbara Segall 2012.
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