It's been a while since I managed to join in on the monthly favorites round-up, hosted by Danger Garden on the last Friday of the month. I was planning a post on some plant combinations in my garden that I've been enjoying. They really are my favorites right now, so it's good timing.
Last weekend, I visited Castle Rock Nursery, in the Washington town of the same name, and picked up these Bidens 'KOIBID1346' (the orange flowers). Everyone else will probably call them Bidens Campfire® Fireburst, just don't let me catch you putting single quotes on that name like it's a cultivar (pet peeve of a plant geek with curatorial training). I'd never seen orange bidens before, just the yellow ones, so I decided to bring a few home to try in front of the house. They complement the orange tones of the Carex testacea, and contrast with the other plants like Hebe pimeleoides 'Quicksilver'.
I also love them paired with the purple of Salvia officinalis 'Purpurea'. It's hard to see any of the bidens lacy foliage, but it also has a purple tint. While the backbone of this bed is foliar interest, it doesn't hurt to play around with some flower power. They're still wispy, so we'll see how they fill in as the season progresses.
Further along the same bed, more silver and orange foliage (it's kind of the theme for this bed). More Carex testacea ties the bed together, with Geranium harveyi adding gorgeous silver foliage. It does throw off a few pinkish purple flowers, but they don't disturb the combination too much. I planted two of these South African (yes, a South African Geranium, not a Pelargonium) geraniums last year. Both have taken off this spring, filling in and growing into beautiful silvery pools. Behind the geranium is Thymus 'Fragrantissimus', with dark green Erysimum foliage with just a touch of grey.
The Eschscholzia californica 'Mikado', a red seed strain of California poppy, that I sowed earlier this spring are finally starting to bloom. The one photographed below is particularly red. There's a lot of variation from one plant to the next, though all are darker than the yellow-orange of regular California poppies. You can see a little of the foliage below. It's a beautiful blue-grey, and some of the plants have red tips. I love this one backed by another Carex testacea.
This vignette is still filling in. I added the Carex testacea last weekend, a replacement for a plant that didn't survive the stress of being divided last summer. The Euphorbia rigida are seedlings I planted last fall. These two plants really go well together. Erysimum peaks in on the lower right, and the drying inflorescences of Allium christophii on the left. In the background is an orange Calluna vulgaris, chartreuse lime thyme, and spikes of Salvia nemorosa 'Ostfriesland' (East Friesland'). I'd love to take complete credit for this vignette, but in truth it's part planning and part happy accidents. Not only the colors, but the varying shapes and textures, pack a lot of interest into this one small space.
The other Geranium harveyi, growing on a compacted clay slope, no less, pairs with a charteuse Erica cultivar. A fuzzy grey Calluna vulgaris peaks in on the right. The sun was so bright when I took this photo, it was really difficult to capture. The combination glows on cloudy days.
Orange/chartreuse and blue/grey/silver is everywhere in the driveway island and along the front of the house now. Here, lime thyme backs the feathery blue foliage of Seseli gummiferum, with a dark green patch of Veronica liwanensis about to be swallowed by the thyme. I may rescue it, or not. That particular plant hasn't performed well, damaged even in the extremely mild winter we had this year, despite its hardiness rating of zone 4.
I love Origanum 'Kent Beauty', but it does get a little bare in the middle. So it's best to plant it where it can grow out from under the edge of another plant, like the orange Calluna vulgaris in this photo. More orange/charteuse and soft blue-green foliage, with just a hint of rosiness on the developing bracts of the oregano.
This is another combination that involves planning and some happy accidents. The Carex comans at the bottom, Diervilla rivularis 'SMNDRSF' (Ugh, these nonsense cultivar names really do kill me. You can call it Kodiak® Black bush honeysuckle.), and the young Leycesteria formosa 'Gold Leaf' just barely visible behind the Diervilla were planned. The mass of green topped by purple blooms in cone-shaped inflorescences to the left is a volunteer Prunella vulgaris that was allowed to grow. I'm glad I did. This combination needed some soothing green to tie it together, and the purple flowers work, too.
The purple of the prunella works well with the small yellow flowers of the diervilla.
It still needs to fill in a lot to make a nice vignette, but I love the combination of blue Andromeda polifolia 'Blue Ice' in the background, bronze Carex comans on the right, and the bright green foliage of Bletilla striata and Iris 'Black Gamecock' on the left. A dark purple iris flower amongst the bright green foliage adds a dramatic contrast to this combination. This foliage combination isn't one I would have thought of at first, but now I think it's wonderful and unusual.
I've shown this scene before, but it's still one of my favorite combinations at the moment. The Rhododendron impeditum provide the backbone, quietly attractive with their blue-green foliage. Calceolaria arachnoidea provides a dramatic splash of woolly grey foliage with contrasting deep purple flowers high above. It's small, but I love the tiny punch of bright green Scleranthus uniflorus just to the left of the Calceolaria. It will be even better as the Libertia behind the rhododendrons fill in and add a swath of strappy orange foliage in the background. I've started opening up the rhododendrons with some judicious pruning, which will make the Libertia a little more visible, too.
And I'll end this post with a simple combination of Hosta 'The Shining' and Cyrtomium fortunei rising through a sea of self-sown Prunella vulgaris. The purple blooms of the prunella contrast with the bright foliage of the fern and the hosta, while those two plants in turn make a textural contrast with the finer foliage of the prunella. And the deep green of the prunella taking up most of the space in this photo makes it a relatively calm vignette. I also love this combination because the prunella has filled in so well. Look! No bare soil! True, the prunella can swallow smaller plants like Cyclamen, but for larger plants like the hosta and shrubs, it makes a fantastic filler. It's evergreen, blooms most of the spring and summer (into fall with a bit of extra water and a summer shearing), and it's absolutely free! All I have to do to spread it around is collect the seeds and sow them in fall. They germinate and grow quickly. Provided an eye is kept on areas with smaller plant, this plant makes a valuable garden ally, instead of the weed I used to consider it.
A few plants really stand out for me in these combinations. And they aren't the flashy stars. They're the plants that tie everything together. Carex testacea, Carex comans, and Prunella vulgaris. We love the star players, but it's these supporting actors that create unity in the garden and make everything work.