Deb Babcock: Pairings that complement your garden
March 31, 2013
As we drool over the beautiful flowers in the garden catalogs that are cramming our mailboxes, it's easy to become overwhelmed by choices. One way to narrow down what you might want to add to the garden this year is to consider planting pairings that will look good together in different areas of your garden.
Try an interesting combination of color and texture, casual and formal, work and play. Pairing different plants based on their colors, textures and shapes as well as heights, foliage, aroma and growing pattern can add interest to 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 their need for full sun and moderate water.
I love the way the tall blue spires of salvia, and their wonderful minty aroma, complement an area where I surround them with the bright pink of a medium height but exuberant Dianthus. This area gives pleasure from spring through fall with beautiful foliage, color, aroma and density.
Orange-red tulips (Tulipa) surrounded by deep blue forget-me-nots (Myosotis scorpioides) is an eye-catching, hot/cool combination that blooms from 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 anemones (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, so they can be placed most anywhere in the garden or yard.
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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 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 Music Festival. As you pore through the garden catalogs that come in the mail, check 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 when you place together those with similar sun/shade and watering needs. 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 like you carefully choose which shirt to wear with your jeans, choose plants that go together in your garden to give you the effect you desire.
Deb Babcock is a volunteer master gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Contact 970-879-0825 or
firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.