Creating Garden Combos - You Can Grow That!

So you fall in love with a plant at a garden center, online or in a magazine. It arrives on your doorstep and, if you're like me, try to find a place to put it in your garden. You'll determine the best spot for its light, soil and moisture requirements, make sure it can defend itself against bullies if necessary, tuck it in and hope for the best.
But there is just one more consideration, possibly the most challenging. That consideration is its "playmates." After gardening for decades, I still fail at more in-ground combination attempts than I succeed at. I only have so much room and energy. At least that's my excuse. So when I stumble upon a working group, I snap its photo.

Cleome 'Seniorita Blanca' with Geranium 'Rozanne'
and Echinacea 'Magnus'.
Some plants fit into an existing scheme than others. I'm really enjoying Proven Winners trial plant Cleome 'Seniorita Blanca', a compact and very floriforous "spider plant." Although not yet on the market, it certainly will be a great addition to anyone's garden next year when it's readily available at garden centers. Proven Winners sent me three plants to test, and I planted them in the ground near the Monarda with some Echinacea 'Magnus'. Just three plants make quite an impact in just a short time.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' with Amsonia
Quite by chance, another combination was created. I love Amsonia hubrechtii three seasons of the year. With its subtle blue spring flowers and bright gold foliage in the fall, it has quite a bit to offer. But let's not forget the summer, when it stands just three feet tall and lends an airy quality to its bolder neighbors. A good neighbor for its vertical nature is Crocosmia, and in this case 'Lucifer'.

Things tend to get tall this time of the year, especially in a sun-challenged garden like mine. I neglected to cut back Monarda 'Raspberry Wine' in mid-May, so it stands about five feet tall on the east side of my house. And, just as I pretend to have planned it, Asiatic lily 'White Tycoon' keeps it company.

Lilium 'White Tycoon' with Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'
And, just because we can't have flowers all the time, it's not a bad idea to hedge your bets with some foliage plants. Or at least plants with good-looking foliage. The Heuchera at the center of this vignette is either 'Christa' or 'Caramel', both of which I've planted and both of which were hybridized by Frenchman Thierry Delabroye. I'm sorry I've lost track, but will scrounge around for the tags I try to bury by the plants when I think about it. Anyway, to its left is the Mukdenia, a slow-grower but rewarding plant, and just above is Heuchera 'Sashay', from Terra Nova Nurseries. At lower right is Acanthus spinosus, or spiny bear's breech.

Heuchera with Acanthus spinosus and Mukdenia 'Crimson Fans'
I've snapped lots of combos over the years - some better than others - and I'll share them now and again just so...


  1. Oh I like the Monarda, very pretty color, not a big fan of lilies myself, the scent is too overpowering for me but I bet the Monarda will do well with other plants as well.

  2. If you don't like fragrant lilies, SowandSo, this variety has no scent at all. Most of the Asiatics are scentless, and easier to grow than the Orientals and other fragrant types.

  3. So many colorful combinations. We are limited only by our imaginations! Thanks for the lovely examples!

  4. I really like your plant combinations, Jean,. Sometimes it does take a couple of tries (and moves) to figure out where a plant is going to pop or enhance another plant. Thanks for sharing.