Saturday, March 5, 2016

Favorite Plant Combinations

I've been studying my garden from a new angle lately.  My wide shots posts consider the major segments of the garden as a whole.  My Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-up posts generally look at plants in close-up as stand-alone entities.  So what's been missing is an intermediate view of plant assemblages.  Some of my combinations are pleasing but many are too busy, especially at this time of year when every other plant seems to be blooming, preparing to bloom, or just finishing blooming.  When I take a step back, I find that the combinations I like best usually feature one or more strong foliage accents.


This combination includes Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Cotyledon orbiculata 'Silver Storm' and Pelargonium x hortorum 'Mrs. Pollock'.  Without the mediating influence of the Cotyledon, the variegated foliage of the Abelia and the Pelargonium would fight with one another.

This combination includes Aeonium arboreum, Aeonium 'Kiwi', Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' and Senecio vitalis.  Although the Aeoniums and Senecio do bloom, this combination is based on foliage color alone.

This combination consists of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Aeonium arboreum and Phormium 'Ed Carmen'.  Pops of yellow flower color will be added when the groundcover Cotula lineariloba 'Big Yellow Moon' begins to bloom in earnest, picking up the yellow color in the Phormium.  In the meantime, interest is provided by the contrast of textures and shapes.

The contrast of shape and texture is the principal source of interest in this combination too.  It consists of Agave attenuata, Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid', which is just beginning to produce its chartreuse flowers, and trailing Lantana montevidensis.

Phormium 'Maori Queen' echoes the floral color of Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' in the foreground.  The variegated foliage of Correa 'Wyn's Wonder' (to the right and left of the Phormium) picks up the creamy yellow in the Phormium's foliage and the dainty pink flowers and chartreuse foliage of Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' complement both.  The Correa also produces pink blooms in spring. 


Most of my combinations are a crap shoot.  I'm waiting and watching to see if this one comes together.

This combination consists of Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira', Argyranthemum frutescens 'Madeira White' and Carex oshimensis 'Evergold'.  The Echium has already produced buds but it's anybody's guess as to whether the blue flower spikes will appear while the Ceanothus behind it (not shown) is still in bloom.


Some combinations are tied together by small elements.

The small white and pink flowers of Erigeron karvinskianus neatly mimic the larger flowers of Gazania 'White Flame', which in turn echoes the colors of Coprosma repens 'Inferno' and Phormium 'Maori Queen'


I'm currently working on a new combination in the backyard.  It has a ways to go before it fills in but I already like how the foliage and flower colors reinforce one another.

This combination includes Grevillia 'Ned Kelly', Leucadendron 'Jester', Lobelia laxiflora and Melianthus major.  The Lobelia was just added and I think it does a great job of picking up the sunset pink color of the Grevillea and the Leucadendon without making it overwhelming.



My successful plant combinations are most often a matter of pure serendipity but a new book on my bed-side table may help me up my game: The Perennial Matchmaker by Nancy Ondra.  Nan has written several books and regularly publishes posts on her blog, Hayefield.  Although my climate and Nan's couldn't be more different, I always learn something from viewing the wonderful plant combinations she features in her posts from her Pennsylvania garden.  Her new book provides a plant-by-plant discussion of ways to complement 80 perennial favorites and a step-by-step guide to good matchmaking.  You may notice some familiar photos among the 400 included in her book to illustrate her points - as the credits at the back of the book show, many garden bloggers have contributed photos.  I even have one (on page 118)!  I received an advance copy but the book is scheduled for release next week.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

22 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful approach to looking at the plants, Kris! You do have some lovely combinations (no wonder one of yours ended up in the book!) and it's quite inspiring. Some of my plants are almost big enough to see together, so your post is extra handy just now!

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    1. I haven't given enough thought to groups of plants in my garden until recently. Surprisingly, spring, with the masses of blooms that arrive seemingly all at once, highlights the conflicts between plant neighbors to a great extent than other seasons. I may start running a monthly feature on plant combinations as a way of exercising more discipline in this area.

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  2. I like your plant combinations. I especially like the combos that have texture difference - they always look good!

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    1. I was impressed by how much impact textural differences had on my reaction to plant combinations too, Renee.

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  3. You've worked hard on getting your combos looking good Kris. My favourites are where the succulents lend their contrast to the surrounding plants - they also work really well because the plants look ever so healthy too.

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    1. So many succulent gardens fail to incorporate softer plants. They're missing out because, as you say, the stark contrast between many succulents and herbaceous plants and shrubs is generally pleasing.

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  4. You are very skillful with your plant combinations. I'm not surprised that Nan chose some for her book. I need to spend more time thinking about this aspect of gardening.

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    1. Your own garden is full of wonderful plant combinations, Jenny!

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  5. Congratulations on getting a photo in Nancy Ondra's book! You have some terrific combinations. I particularly like the second one you show. All foliage but quite colorful!

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    1. Ha! I took that photo mainly because that narrow border along the driveway is so often hidden from view by my husband's truck. The contrasts there are subtle but I like it too!

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  6. The Echium and Argyranthemum combo is wonderful. You have a good eye.

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    1. I've never grown that Echium before so it's going to be interesting to see how it looks in bloom.

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  7. I like to put interesting plant combos together in my garden too. These are all great, but I really like the Star of Madeira with the daisies. I hope it blooms with the Ceanothus, that would be spectacular. Nan was so nice to ask so many bloggers to contribute to the book! I've got my copy too, and have been reading it slowly.

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    1. Congrats on your photo too, Alison! I wish I could grow both of the plants in your photo.

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  8. I love seeing your combinations, Kris, I think you've got such a good eye. My favorite is Phormium and Arcotis - lovely!

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    1. 'Pink Sugar' makes everything look good, Eliza!

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  9. The very first gardening book I bought for myself was about creating a garden through combining certain plants together. I followed a few of the examples and was very pleased with the results so it has always been one of the first considerations when choosing plants. How they work together with existing flowers but more importantly foliage. I'm a firm believer that without good foliage form and texture a garden is never a success.

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    1. Yes, in most cases flowers are too temporary to build anything more permanent than a vase or a seasonal potted arrangement on. I must overcome my flower addiction.

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  10. Nice combinations going on there already Kris! It's also fascinating to see how come combos evolve too and if it carries on working well later on, or even improve with time :)

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    1. That can be hard to predict, even with some foliage-only combinations. So many plants manage to fool one by growing to unexpected sizes.

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  11. Great combinations! The blue of that Echium is glorious and will be greatly enhanced by the white all around. My favorite is your last one. Grevillia 'Ned Kelly' and Leucadendron 'Jester' won my heart when I saw both during the San Francisco Garden Bloggers Fling. Oh to be able to grow them in the ground.

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    1. If it wasn't for the lack of rain, coastal Southern California would be paradise.

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