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Planting Combinations

Sometimes, however, everything clicks together - the plants are happy in the ground you have chosen and they look great in combination with the surrounding plants. I like to take some of the guess work out of successful planting combinations by writing down striking combinations I have seen in public and private gardens (Van dusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver being one of my favorites) and gardening books such as Take Two Plants by Nicola Ferguson.

The first step to success is to assess the site. Is it hot and dry or shady and wet? Choose plants with similar growing requirements. Successful grouping of plants are often strong and simple in design. They may repeat the same colour, shape or texture. By repeating these flattering companions throughout your garden you will establish a rhythm that is pleasing to the eye.

Here is a planting combination that works well under difficult growing conditions.

DAMP SHADY SITE - Sutherland Cutleaf Elder, Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland, forms the striking background in this trio. Growing to a height of 5-7 ft. this zone 4 hardy shrub displays beautiful jagged foliage. The foliage is yellowish green in a shady site. Some prefer to cut this plant back every year to ensure that plenty of foliage is produced, heowever, there will be a loss of flowers and red berries when this is done.

Planted in front of the elder is one of my favorite perennials, Ligularia stenocephala 'The Rocket'. The dark jagged leaf of the Ligularia is a sharp contrast to the elders golden foliage. As the season progresses, the ligularia sends up striking black flower stems. These can reach a height of 5-6 ft. The flower buds open with bright yellow buds which repeat the yellow theme of the elder and the hosta. This plant loves moisture. Give it what it needs and it is sure to please.

To complete this combination, plant Hosta furtunei 'Aureomarginata' in the foreground. The Hosta leaf is smooth in contrast to the jagged foliage of the elder and Ligularia, but compliments the colour of the other two plants with its green center and yellow edged leaves.


Sun/Shade: Hemerocallis 'Golden Chimes' (Daylily), Heuchera 'Palace Purple (Coral Bells), & Viola 'Penny Citrus Mix'

Sun: Picea pungens 'Koster (Koster Blue Spruce) & Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' (Blue Fescue)

Shade: Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba' (White Bleeding Heart), Hosta undulata var. albomarginata, Lamium maculatum 'White Nancy, & Viola 'Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow'.

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