September Combinations

This month I'm combining my posts for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, and Foliage Follow-up, hosted by Pam at Digging, to feature some combinations in the garden that I'm really enjoying. Admittedly, I'm also doubling up to save on time a bit. Work on my fall projects is ramping back up with the delivery of bark chips for pathways, so most of my time is devoted to that. I'm determined to "finish" the initial garden planting this fall, minus the usual tweaks and corrections that occur in every garden over time.

But back on topic, these are some combinations of flower and foliage in my garden that are really catching my eye this month. Ok, some of them are just flowers, and some are just foliage. I couldn't completely suppress my urge to document everything.

In the greenhouse:

Streptocarpus 'Waterbug' keeps blooming. I finally managed a shot that shows the true color pretty well, instead of making it look much more blue than it is.

Also a fairly accurate representation of the color on Rhododendron 'Littlest Angel'. The last two flower buds finally opened. It's grown so much this year, I bet the show next year will be amazing.

The flowers on this Gasteria from Cistus are both showy and strange, an unusual combination. Seems like most weird flowers tend towards colors in the dark maroon/brown or green ranges. I learned while I was working at Cistus that Gasteria was named for the resemblance of the flower to a stomach ("gaster" is a Latin word for "stomach"). Look at all those beautiful orange and green stomachs!

On the patio, Lapageria rosea is blooming its heart out. Nearly 20 open flowers and many more buds, all in a 5-gallon pot. The cooler temperatures have deepened the color of the flowers, too.

It's not a good picture, but I just had to share the flower buds developing on this Parahebe perfoliata. Two of my plants have been blooming virtually all summer. I guess they're happy!

Ok, now for some actual combinations. The angle of the light in this photo made for interesting shadows, highlighting the Berggarten sage in the foreground, dappling the Mikado California poppies behind them, and generally doing interesting things with the lime thyme, Carex testacea, and Euphorbia 'Nothowlee' in the background.

More poppies and sage, with heather blooms fading to silvery seed capsules and heath making a rich green backdrop for the Carex testacea in the background to contrast with.

The last heatwave we had in August finally got these orange Bidens going full-speed. I love it with the Carex testacea and Seafoam artemisia.

Artemisia abrotanum is blooming, not that you can tell by the color. The blooms are tiny silver-grey balls along the tops of the stems, adding a different texture to the foliage. In the background, Euphorbia 'Nothowlee' create dark purple shadows with Carex testacea, Mikado California poppies, Euphorbia rigida, faded stems of Allium christophii, Erysimum, and others create a play of other colors and textures. I really love this vignette right now. It will be even better as the Euphorbia 'Nothowlee' grow larger.

My one and only aster, Aster x frikartii 'Monch' holds its blooms among the golden stems of Molinia caerulea 'Variegata'.

And back to a single plant for a minute: I thought I had lost the Orostachys iwarenge I planted last fall, but a few tiny rosettes survived and grew. The ones turning into miniature spires will bloom soon. Now if only the birds will stop ripping the plant apart. I suppose I should be grateful they're debugging the garden for me, but do they have to be so rough about it?

Back to combinations: I got this Colchicum from Kate Bryant last fall. I think it's 'The Giant', but now I can't remember. It's planted among some black mondo grass, which is filling in very slowly. Syneilesis x hybrid, from Jane the Mulchmaid, peeks in from above. As slow as the mondo grass is, I think the Prunella vulgaris and Fragaria virginiana may require quite a bit of control if I don't want them to take over.

The Colchicum look as good as I thought they would popping up through the black mondo grass. Isn't it nice when combinations actually work out as you planned? Now I just need the mondo grass to fill in!

I can't do a September Bloom Day post, even one combined with Foliage Follow-up, without including at least one Tricyrtis. Toad lilies are some of my favorite fall flowers. My other two didn't bloom as well this year, though the Tricyrtis hirta isn't actually open yet. The one photographed here is Tricyrtis 'Blue Wonder', or at least one of the plants that is sold under that name. It's significantly less blue this year than last year. I wonder if it's a pH, temperature, or water issue. It's still beautiful.

Last November I sowed seeds of Anaphalis margaritacea, or pearly everlasting, in several areas of the garden. I've watched as the seedlings grew over the summer. I was surprised when some of them reached blooming size. This is one of my favorite native wildflowers for late summer/early fall blooms. I also like the foliage, which is usually grey on top and nearly white below. There's also a sweet, slightly resinous scent that wafts around the plant, sometimes for several feet in the right conditions.

My camera insisted on making these Cyclamen purpurascens flowers much lighter than the near magenta they are in real life. Wild strawberry leaves and the cone-like seed heads of Prunella vulgaris create the backdrop.

I actually took this photo because of how garish the combination initially struck me as, but it's growing on me. Crinodendron hookerianum dangles a lantern-like flower amidst the brilliant foliage of Trachelospermum asiaticum 'Ogon Nishiki'. I do need more of the Trachelospermum.

Dicliptera suberecta blooms atop fuzzy grey stems, with Escscholzia californica 'Mikado' in the background. The foliage is a near match in color, but the blooms of the Dicliptera have more pinkish red in them than the poppies.

Absolutely loving my Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum that I grew from seed purchased from Milton's Garden Menagerie last year.

You might have noticed by now that I have a love of plants with orange flowers and silver/grey/blue foliage. They're favorite combinations in and of themselves. One of my top favorites of those is Epilobium (Zauschneria) septentrionalis 'Wayne's Silver'. Besides growing in compacted clay that gets soggy in winter (though not with standing water over it) and gets no water in summer, it's such a beautiful plant. The effect is enhanced by the greener leaves at the base of the flowers.

Geranium robustum was looking messy a month or two ago with all the old flowering stems creating a tangle and not much foliage. A quick trim and it's back to being full and lush with silvery, ferny foliage. It's even putting out more blooms.

I've been trying to resist planting until the rains make a more reliable return, but a few showers weakened me and I decided to do a bit of planting in this relatively moist area. Two new Podocarpus lawrencei 'Blue Gem', found on sale at Tsugawa's Nursery in Woodland, WA, Erica cinerea from the same source, and a couple relocated bronze Carex testacea. There's a dark purplish green-leaved Phygelius in the middle, somewhere in front of the red-flowered Lobelia cardinalis 'Victoria', but it's small and hiding behind a carex in this photo.

I love the rich green of the Erica foliage and its purple flowers in combination with the blue Podocarpus and bronze Carex. I'm learning through trial and error the best way to use the unusual color of the carex.

In a moist, shady spot, Satureja douglasii blooms all summer. Look closely. They're tiny and white. Here it is twining through a dark Ajuga reptans. I love the combination of dark purple and saturated green.

Purely a foliage composition. Silver Carex testacea at the base, with variegated Japanese iris foliage and what I think is Juncus effusus mingling above. I definitely need to do more silver and green in the garden.

Yucca filamentosa and Epilobium (Zauschneria) 'U.C. Hybrid' make a great combination on the south end of the house.

I don't think I've ever noticed the fall color of Liatris spicata before. Maybe it didn't acquire these red tints at its former location.

This combination of Rubeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' and Molinia caerulea 'Variegata' has been one of my favorites in the garden since the rudbeckia started blooming in early August.

It's interesting that some of the rudbeckia is growing much larger than others. They all came from the same clump. I think the lusher bits have just tapped into more water and nutrients and are better established.

Cornus alternifolia 'WStackman' (Golden Shadows) and a silver Pulmonaria seemed an odd combination to me at first, but I love it.

Matthiola fruticulosa ssp. perennis 'Alba', Calceolaria integrifolia 'Kentish Hero', and Rhododendron impeditum in the background are another of my favorite combinations lately. Something about the olive-green tones of the rhododendron foliage and the velvety silver stock with those burning orange and red flowers.

I was so excited when the Heptacodium miconioides I purchased from the discount section at Tsugawas last year started showing flower buds this year (oh, and grew over 4 feet, besides). But that pales in comparison to my excitement at the open flowers. The jasmine-scented flowers are addictive, when I can find a flower to sniff that isn't occupied by a honey bee. The first flowers to open have already dropped and the pinkish red bracts are starting to grow. I love this plant. It's hard to equate the plant this year to the sad tangle of half-dead stems I purchased last year.

I'll finish off with a couple combinations that aren't actually planted yet.

I was thrilled that this Calceolaria arachnoidea made it through our soggy winter. It bloomed heavily in spring and early summer, and I let those blooms set and ripen into seed, which I collected about a month ago. Now it's blooming again with those rich purple blooms. I happened to set three potted Hebe ochracea 'James Stirling' on the stump the Calceolaria is growing next to, just to get them out of the way, and absolutely love the combination. It's not one I would have thought of. Accidental combinations are the best, aren't they? I'm not sure I'll be able to plant the hebes close enough to the calceolaria, but I'm going to do my best to recreate this combination.

Another accidentally-discovered combination, a near-perfect color echo between Dasiphora fruticosa 'Summer Dawn' and Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard', both waiting in the pot ghetto until they can be planted. I think I'll be finding neighboring homes for them when I move them out into the garden. And just a tiny little rant for spice: the Dasiphora, which has a perfectly lovely cultivar name, has also been saddled with the useless trademarked name Lemon Sweetie. Why? Just why?


  1. I wasn't aware that Gasteria even blooms, much less so interestingly (something to look forward to...maybe). The blooms on that Artemesia are perfect, so much better than the yellow that usually shows up on silver plants. Isn't it great when planned combos actually work out? I take pictures immediately, as one can never be sure of repeat performances.

    1. I think most Gasteria bloom less frequently in cultivation than their aloe relatives. Though, this one seems to be a pretty good bloomer. Yes, all those silver plants with bright yellow blooms tend to bug me! I'm always looking for alternatives that have pale yellow, cream, or white flowers instead.

  2. Those silvery-grey and orange combinations are stunning!
    Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

  3. I love how your plants look like, even the weeds are beautifully blooming. And that cute little gasteria are really awesome.

    1. The only plant in this post I used to consider a weed is Prunella vulgaris, but I've since enlisted it as an ally to help keep out other weeds. Curious what you consider a weed.

  4. I recently learned the same thing about Gasteria, and think I may have that very same plant in my garden, via Mr. Hogan. Mine was done blooming by the time Blomday rolled around though, so no photo in my post.

    1. Small plant with totally grey/silver leaves? That's it. He brought a bunch back from one of his trips last year.

  5. Epilobium septentrionalis 'Wayne's Silver' is so appealing: I was sad to find out its not suitable in my zone 7. I adore your color combos, even the one you consider garish. I'd say it stands out considering the other 'flavors' in your garden :D. I have 3 Hebe James Sterling: with its rich green/bronze presence its one of my favorite garden plants.

    1. I'd say 'Wayne's Silver' is worth a try. It's definitely hardy in zone 8, and some nurseries do list it down to zone 7. As more people in the PNW grew California fuchsias, they're realizing these plants are much hardier than the Californians give them credit for. Other selections of Epilobium septentrionalis are hardy down to zone 5!

  6. You say garish like it's a bad thing:) Love that combination as well as the others. Your Lapageria rosea is looking great!

    1. Do I? lol. Garish can be good. Sometimes you need something a bit visually jarring to make you pay attention.

  7. I spend more time with your posts than most as they always introduce me to new-to-me plants and I end up running a slew of on-line searches to see whether one or another might work in my climate. I love that purple Calceolaria but sadly it appears to be a thirsty creature. Your post also reminded me that my own Aster x frikartii appears to have disappeared - I'll be mounting a search and rescue operation tomorrow morning.

    1. Thanks, Kris! Sorry I always end up teasing you with plants you can't grow. The Calceolaria isn't really that thirsty, but it doesn't like heat.

  8. So much to love here, Evan! I share your love for silver and orange, but you're way ahead of me in multiple interpretations. Absolutely lovely, and the Mikado poppies are fantastic! Like Kris, I also adore that dark little Calceolaria. If you ever have an extra start of it, I would love to become an adopting parent. Is the Heptacodium what also goes by the name of Seven son's tree? It is beautiful!

    1. Thanks, Anna! I'll look around the Calceolaria to see if there's a rooted piece I can separate. Yep, Heptacodium is seven sons tree. Such a wonderful late summer flower.


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