By Jodi Torpey
Just as I enjoy all styles of music, I appreciate a wide range of plants and their creative combinations. I love plantings whose raucous colors and wild foliage seem to scream “Rock ‘n’ Roll!” Other gardens croon to me like smooth jazz. Maybe that’s why some of my planting combinations might seem out of tune to others.
While I appreciate the quiet of a cool shade garden, a xeriscape filled with low-water plants sings to me. The colors and forms of goldenrod (Solidago), California fuchsia (Zauschneria californica), prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), bluestem joint fir (Ephedra equisetina) and yucca blend for a perfect dryland garden symphony.
Ancient edible companion planting is a classic work of art that endures today. Native Americans combined three vegetables and called it “Three Sisters” because each plant helps the other in the garden. Corn provides tall stalks for beans to climb, beans help replenish the soil with nutrients, and squash leaves shade the soil as a living mulch.
A different take on a kitchen garden features a delicious twist. Instead of edibles this garden teems with hostas selected by their appetizing names. The big, green leaves of ‘Java’ contrast nicely with ‘Cookie Crumbs’. Small containers of ‘Peanut’ sit near ‘Lakeside Cupcakes’, ‘Squash Casserole’, ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ and ‘Tea and Crumpets’.
Many gardeners struggle to grow flowers in the mountains, but the alpine garden at one ski resort makes it look so easy. I love the delicate white flowers of snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) planted alongside the white and lavender Rocky Mountain columbines (Aquilegia caerulea) and pink painted daisies (Tanacetum coccineum). Bright- orange poppies add an interesting contrast.
The miniature rock garden I planted in a lightweight hypertufa container combined shallow-rooted plants in different sizes, shapes and colors. Mock strawberry (Duchesnea indica) and an ice plant (Delosperma) drape over the planter edges to add balance to hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum ‘Red Rubin’ and Sempervivum calcareum), and Echeveria ‘Pearl Von Nurnberg’.
Somehow all five of these different plant combinations work in perfect harmony. Do you have a memorable planting combination? Please share your favorite here.