Great plant combinations are magic! Often they happen quite accidentally, but frequently, they are planned. If they happen accidentally in your garden, my advice is to claim that you planned it! In this article, I'm going to let my pictures tell the story, so sit back, relax and scroll!
When choosing planting combinations, it's important to consider each plant's requirements rather than randomly sticking two together.
Only grow plants together that like or tolerate the same growing conditions. Consider light needs, soil types, drainage, tolerance to winds and hardiness. These need to match if your plant combination is to work well.
Also, consider timing! It's no good if you want that bulb to flower against a complementary - or contrasting - background if the other plant is still dormant!
1. Red Astrantia, lavender, Salvia and Artemisia
Red Astrantia, lavender, Salvia and Artemisia
Here the colours are soft and muted, but they compliment each other well. The red and white Astrantia (Masterwort) work well with lavender and the finely cut grey leaves of Artemisia. Spiky purple Salvia Caradonna stays within the same colour range but adds a vertical element to the planting.
2. Echinacea daisies and Achillea
Soft Echinacea daisies
Here, the same shade of peach has been used in this Royal Hampton Court Flower Show garden. Echinacea Sunrise and Achillea Walter Funcke are the main partners.
Shop for outdoor plants here.
3. Rose, Artemisia and spotted Pulmonaria
Dainty rose with grey foliage teamed with Artemisia and spotted Pulmonaria
Here, NT Tintinhull Garden use a delightful combination of plants, including Rosa rubrifolia, spotted Pulmonaria and dainty Artemisia Powis Castle. The Artemisia is named for the wonderful NT Powis Castle garden close to Wales and England's border.
4. Hosta, ferns and white stem birch tree
Hosta and ferns under white stem birch trees
Here, the textures of the finely cut fern fronds and the bold, large leaves of Hosta work well in the shade of Himalayan birch trees.
5. Rose and wormwood
Rosa rubrifolia and Artemisia Powis Castle
Rose and wormwood create a simple but effective combination. No blooms needed for this one!
6. Lobelia tupa and Giant Oat
Lobelia tupa in front of Stipa giant oat
A soft late summer combo of Lobelia tupa and the giant oat grass Stipa gigantea at The Newt in Somerset.
The Newt in Somerset
Woods, orchards, and cultivated gardens are nurtured using age-old skills at The Newt in Somerset. Close to artistic Bruton, this large working estate immerses visitors in the tranquillity of nature.
The world-class gardens at The Newt cleverly evoke different historic eras. Explore the Cottage Garden for a glimpse of Gertrude Jekyll’s famous landscaping style, and see the flowers that scented 19th century gardens in the Victorian area. The Cascade is a contemporary twist on traditional water features, and the Colour Gardens feature hellebores, astrantias and anemones inspired by garden designer Penelope Hobhouse. Her family home was The Newt’s Georgian manor Hadspen House – now a luxurious hotel.
Once you’ve taken in the gardens and explored the woodland walkways, you can refuel at The Garden Café. Or, at the Cyder Press, sample the cider made from the estate’s 3,000 apple trees, perhaps enjoying a guided tour of the cellar and apple pressing demonstrations.
Make sure to activate your Garden Membership on Candide, and return to The Newt as often as you like over the next 12 months.
All gardens areas are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, though via indirect routes – often up thick lawns, steep gradients, uneven ground and gravelled pathways. Pushchairs may be stored at the Threshing Barn, and for longer distances transport is available for those requiring assistance.
7. Pansy Cercis, Russian Sage Wormwood and Heuchera
Forest Pansy Cercis, Russian sage wormwood and Heuchera flowers
The purple leaf Redbud Forest Pansy is an exceptional garden tree, and it's a small tree, too, so it looks good with so many plants. This is a great little tree to build a plant combination around!
Combinations without flowers
8. Conifers, Heuchera and Heathers
Conifers, Heuchera and heathers
Conifers have been out of fashion for a while now, but perhaps it's time we brought them back in from the cold! Many conifers give great colour all year round, others change colour with the seasons, but most have a real presence in the garden!
Heathers like similar conditions to most conifers and are a good plant group to look for great plant combinations. Either choose those that flower well or those that have bright and cheerful foliage.
9. Black LaceEelder, Golden Hop, Golden Feverfew and Sun Spurge
Black Lace elder, golden hop, golden feverfew and sun spurge
Here, a yellow hop scrambles through golden leaf chamomile, acid green sun spurge, but the leaf contrast is accentuated by the cut leaf Black Lace elder.
10. Italian Arum Lily and Hardy Cyclamen
Italian Arum lily contrasts with hardy cyclamen leaves
In winter, some plants wake up and produce new leaves. That's true of this hardy cyclamen and Italian arum lily. Pop in a few snowdrop bulbs to give it a third element in late winter!
11. Purple Allium and Euphorbia characias wulfenii
Purple Allium and Euphorbia characias wulfenii
Sometimes a simple two colour contrast works well like this Allium and Euphorbia combination.
12. White Allium and Feverfew
White Allium contrast with dainty feverfew
Try using the same colour but contrast with the flower shape and size as with this white Allium and feverfew.
Combining climbing plants
13. Pink rambling rose and Clematis
Soft pink rambling rose and Perle D'Azur Clematis in an old apple tree
A soft pink rambling rose and Perle D'Azur Clematis in an old apple tree makes a very effective plant combo, and you still get apples!
14. Clematis and Wisteria
Pink Clematis montana with blue Wisteria
Brighten up central city properties is with these easy-to-grow climbers.
15. Autumn grasses, Rudbeckia and rich maple bark
Autumn grasses, Rudbeckia and rich maple bark
Soft Pheasant grass, Black-Eyed Susan daisies and the papery peeling bark of Acer griseum complete this late summer scene.
16. Yellow stemmed dogwood and black lily grass
Yellow stemmed dogwood and black lily grass
A real contrast of yellow stem Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea' and black lily grass Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens works well me. How about you?
17. Red stem Cornus alba and Euonymus
Red stem Cornus alba Westonbirt and variegated Euonymus
This red stem Cornus alba 'Westonbirt' and variegated Euonymus fortunei combination looks great all winter in Cambridge Botanic winter garden.
Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Cambridge University Botanic Garden is the most visited garden of its kind in the UK and it’s not just botany students that flock to its extensive collection. Among the visitors are more than 100 species of bird, including a pair of sparrowhawks and the increasingly rare song thrush.
Established in 1846, the garden boasts over 8000 species encompassing nine national collections from fetching Fritillaries and elegant Bergenias to unusual shrubs. The much older western side is framed by a canopy of mature trees and home to Systematic Beds, with herbaceous temperate plants laid out to aid teaching. The eastern half of the garden, which was developed in the 1950s opens out onto a drought-tolerant meadow, a scented garden and spectacular planting arrangements. In between, pollinators dance among the bee borders, while those feeling brave should sniff out Titan Arum, aka the Corpse Plant, so-called for its pungent whiff.
A visit to Cambridge University Botanic Garden wouldn’t be complete without paying homage to the infamous apple tree, said to be a descendant of the species under which Newton discovered the theory of gravity. Family-friendly activities range from craft workshops to educational talks and tours.
18. Bergenia and Acorus in winter
Bergenia and Acorus in winter
Some Bergenia varieties change to a wonderfully rich dark purple when temperatures drop. Teamed with a variegated sedge or evergreen grass, this is a striking winter plant combination!
19. Banana, Canna Lilies, Persicaria and Dahlias
Tropical garden at RHS Wisley
It's hard to appreciate that this scene is of an outdoor garden at RHS Wisley in southeast England. It immediately conjures up a feeling of a tropical hot steamy summer. Banana, Canna, Persicaria and dahlias are the main components here.
I hope that these plant combinations have inspired you to try some yourself in your own garden. If you find a plant combo that works well for you, why not post it on Candide and tag it #plantcombo. I look forward to seeing them there!