In the wild, plants grow in communities, naturally grouping themselves together depending upon cultural conditions. In our gardens, we try to create the same feeling of harmony between plants.
Creating plant combinations is a big part of the artistry of gardening. Size, support, texture, bloom time, and the need for sun, shade, water, and type of soil all come into play when pairing plants. Here are a few combinations going on in my garden this week. I like plants to interweave and grow together and, as much as possible, I leave them alone to make their own patterns....
Here's a combination both colorful and supportive. The deep purple Clematis 'Nike Warsaw' contrasts with the golden leaves of the smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit'). The big shrub's sturdy branches not only serve as scaffold for the vining clematis, but also support the lilies so they don't need to be staked. And the white fluffy anthers in the center of each clematis echo the snowy color of the 'Annabelle' hydrangeas just coming into bloom in the foreground. Which was a surprise to me - often the plants form more beautiful combinations than I ever could have devised.
Helenium autumnale (a.k.a. sneezeweed) with its tall, slender stems and daisy-like flowers in rich colors contrast here with fat, fluffy 'Little Lime' hydrangea blooms. The dwarf hydrangeas are growing in a pot, which holds their blooms up among the helenium. It also allows me to water the hydrangea more; it's thirstier than the drought-tolerant helenium. I like how different these two are; the dark brown cones of the helenium echo the hydrangea blooms in shape if not in color.
I paired this Fuchsia 'Gartenmeister' (and no, it's not hardy, darn it!), in a pot with dark-leafed ajuga and a brilliant orange tuberous begonia. I love the roundness of the begonia bloom and ajuga leaves set against the soft leaves and droopy flowers of the fuchsia. And I fancy the unexpected pairing of the intense orange/red of the fuchsia flowers with the truer orange of the begonia, especially with a pot of shiny golden Japanese forest grass nearby.
It's fun to play around with edible/ornamental combinations. In a big, round feed trough, I'm growing a black eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) up a center tripod, surrounded by bunches of ruffly, very dark-leafed lettuces to play up the flower's dark centers.