Combinations of plants can prove spectacular
Harvest French, and runner beans and courgettes regularly
to encourage continuous cropping.
Agapanthus 'Black Pantha'
We all need good companions and the same is true for garden plants if you want to get the best out of them. Individually plants can be beautiful but in combination with carefully selected others they can be spectacular.
Whenever I'm out and about I am constantly on the look out for inspiring planting ideas. The combinations are so many that there are always new and fresh variation to be found.
One of my favourite trips is on the Dart in Dublin where you get to see a steady stream of back gardens. Many, I feel, could do with my services which is both inspiring and encouraging. But amongst the oversized trampolines, overgrown vegetable plots and ubiquitous apple trees occasionally a gem jumps out at you.
Whether by luck, skill or that the planting gods have smiled and created something wonderful, there are riches to behold if you keep your eyes open. Viewing from a speeding train can be a bonus as the flickering blur can visually link one garden to another seamlessly rendering the wooden fences and boundary hedges obsolete.
Hence a solitary plant from one garden can link with another two doors down and in your mind's eye create a workable planting scheme.
Garden centres are a great source of inspiartion as well. Good ones will have areas arranged showing planting combinations in season for different growing conditions. Plants for shade, sunny dry areas, summer borders, small gardens. Frequent visits pay dividends as you will not only improve your plant knowledge but aslo get a better idea of what colours and types of plant you best like.
I'm a great believer that you can never be wrong in your colour choices. If you like firece shocking pink and brick red together don't let anyone tell you're wrong. I'm also great believer that a little white introduced can harmonise any colour clash in which case you really never can be wrong.
Plant comibations are not all about colour. The spikey foliage of a Phormium' Platt's Black' with soft furry leaves of a Stachys byzantina does have a black/ silver colour contrast but also the form and texture are equally attractive. A feathery Stipa tenuissima with the ferny leaf of a Geranium palmatum gives movement and texture.
Some combinations I like that are very attainable.
Late spring:- Choisya 'Aztec Pearl', Ceanothus repens, Cytisus ' Killiney Red', Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' and Iberis sempervirens.
Summer shade:- Fuchsia 'Madame Cornelissen', Hydrangea 'Selina', Hosta sieboldiana 'Elegans', Euonymus 'Emerald Gaiety' and Anemone 'Whirlwind'
Summer sun:- Rosa 'Red Velvet Flower Carpet', Lavendula 'Imperial Gem', Agapanthus 'Arctic Star', Sambucus 'Black Lace', and Hypericum 'Hidcote'
Winter:- Euonymus 'Emerald and Gold', Erica 'White Perfection', Skimmia 'Rubella', Iris unguicularis and Sarcococca humilis.
Autumn:- Schizostylis coccinea 'Major', Abelia 'Edward Goucher', Ceratostigma willmottianum, Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne' and Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku'
These are just suggestions, spend some time, keep your eyes open and enjoy the fun of plant combining and coming up with your own original scheme.