Sunday, August 14, 2011

1 + 1 = MAGIC

A humble orange crocosmia seems to be on fire when underplanted with
'Peach flambe' heuchera since the burnished summer tones of the latter
add depth. My design

When putting together plant combinations I usually start off with one key plant and hunt for partners which will emphasize its key attribute. 

 A beautiful but subtle variegation might need enhancing with a solid color in an adjacent leaf for example.

The larger leaved 'Little honey' hydrangea
partners beautifully with the gentle variegation of the
Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola').
Design by Alyson Ross-Markley

Or the sheer size of a leaf might be all the more outrageous when partnered with something delicate.

The dinner plate sized leaves of butterbur
(Petasites sp.) offer marked contrast to 
the hardy impatiens (Impatiens omeiana)
Design by Alyson Ross-Markley
Looking for a reverse variegation adds zing, especially when the leaf shape and texture are otherwise identical.
Two strongly variegated hosta form a perfect union
My design

Maybe the texture of a plant is what give it star status.

A great drought tolerant combination for the garden or
a container, the spiky golden sedum 'Angelina' echoes
an equally spiky 'Quicksilver' hebe.
Design by Tory Galloway

It is this initial duo which I then build upon to create vignettes throughout the landscape or in a container.

Learning to recognize the star (often referred to as a ‘thriller’ in plant combinations’), and identifying its unique qualities can start you on a fun treasure hunt at the nursery. That treasure hunt can also be overwhelming as you are faced with a myriad of possibilities, however. 

Whale tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia) is the star here
for sure, yet made all the more memorable for its
association with blue lyme grass (Elymus arenarius
'Blue dune').
Design by Dallas Arboretum

So instead of loading your cart with a dozen or more candidates, seek instead just two plants that give you the ‘wow’ factor.

Remember, sometimes it only takes two.

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