Good Plant Combinations
Well here’s a gem of a combination snapped on my allotment on a neighbouring plot. No one was there to identify the lovely cream flowers which combine in the most beautiful way with Allium spaerocephallum available in the autumn as bulbs from peternyssen. I have googled and conclude that the cream flower is the shrub Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ and it’s now in my gardening journal reminding me to plant it with the allium here in the autumn. This particular allium bulb is such a pretty flower with a hint of green at the base of the tight purple buds which are held on tall wiry stems. It’s self-supporting which makes it a useful plant in a mixed border. The sturdy soft woody branches of the hydrangea provide a perfect structure for the alliums to grow through and since they both flower mid-summer they make a fabulous combination.
It’s quite a challenge choosing plants that flower at the same time and that then enhance each other either through colour or form. In my garden a huge clump of Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is looking striking as it unfurls its strange primitive orange flower heads.
However it would look really exciting if it was next to Geranium psilostemon which is also blooming but in another part of the garden. They both grow to a similar height so a combination of the two mingling orange and cerise pink flowers at the back of a border would be dramatic. It’s worth making notes so that adjustments can be made in autumn and since the plants are there it’s an easy and inexpensive improvement to make and herbaceous plants benefit from division every three years.
In a friend’s garden this combination of the acid green flowers of Alchemilla mollis flowering in front of Penstemon ‘Garnet’ is lovely together. I have lots of alchemilla seedlings growing in the cracks of the path and now I’m inspired to ease them out and pot them into 9cm pots to re-plant in the autumn in a similar scheme.
When I first started gardening I visited established and inspiring gardens photographing and noting down the plants that I loved. I still try to do it since there’s always something new to learn and even the most familiar plants can look sensational in different combinations. The designer Dan Pearson once described garden design as the greatest art form and in many ways it is since it’s working with living material that is constantly changing. Seeds fail to germinate, seedlings appear in unexpected places, plants thrive but clash in height and colour with existing schemes, shrubs out grow their space and smother other plants, un-predictable weather kills well-established plants etc. This happens all the time and whilst none of it really matters it can actually be very satisfying to edit, tweek, adjust, re-design and re-plant to get the best out of your plants and garden.
This week the cut flowers are C ‘Lucifer’, and G. psilostemon plus a stem of Knautia macedonica to see if the colours clash or come alive when next to each other. They work really well and what’s more I surrounded them in the pot with the grey-pink foliage of Rosa glauca which makes an exceptional foil for the intense colours of the flowers. In fact it’s so good that I may well re-design the bed the rose is in and surround it with the crocosmia and geraniums in autumn.