Steamboat Springs "Levis and Lace," the theme of a recent fund-raiser for Steamboat's Tread of Pioneers Museum, suggests an interesting combination of color and texture, of casual and dressy, of work and play. So it goes in the garden when you choose plants. Pairing plants based on their colors, textures, shapes, heights, foliage or aromas can add interest to various parts of your garden.
A patch of bright red, tall Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica) surrounded by delicate white baby's breath (Gypsophila) looks like a florist's bouquet growing in the garden. It's a beautiful combination of plants that also is compatible in full sun and moderate water.
Orange-red tulips (Tulipa) surrounded by deep blue forget-me-nots (Myosotis scorpioides) are an eye-catching hot-cool combination that blooms in spring through summer. An advantage of the long-lasting forget-me-nots is their ability to hide the withering foliage of your tulips following the end of their bloom. Both plants like a garden spot with full sun to partial shade.
Blue anenomes (A. blanda) coupled with bright yellow daffodils (Narcissus) is another pleasing combination for the early-season garden. The daffodils are immune from deer, voles and other wildlife and so can be placed most anywhere in the garden or yard.
For a hot, sunny hillside or berm, consider a combination of stately feather reed grasses (Calamagrostis x acutiflora "Karl Foerster") and the delicate, beautiful silvery mounds of artemisia (A. Silvermound). Both of these plants thrive on my unprotected south-facing hill and receive no water outside of natural rainfall and snowmelt. I leave the grasses standing throughout the winter for interest in this part of the garden.
For other great ideas on plant pairings, check out the gardens at the Yampa River Botanic Park or visit area gardens during the annual High Country Garden Tour sponsored by Strings in the Mountains. I also pore through the garden catalogs that come to the house to see how landscape centers display the plants they sell.
Keep in mind the sun and water requirements as you consider which plants to place together in your garden. It's much more efficient and healthier for the plants to place those with similar sun/shade and watering needs together. Also consider the bloom period of flowering plants so that you get maximum effect from the foliage and flowers. It doesn't do a lot of good to pair a spring flowering plant with another that blooms in the late summer, if you're looking for a particular color or texture combination.
Just as you carefully choose which shirt to wear with your jeans or shorts, choose plants that go together in your garden to give you the effect you desire.
Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org