Whether you are using perennials or annuals, choosing from all the different varieties can be a bit overwhelming. I like to choose plant combinations in three’s. Begin by picking one plant as the foundation. Then decide if you want to organize your threesome by texture, shape or color. A combination of any of these design elements may be to your liking also. Using a pot or container let’s say with a basket weave design can contribute to the texture of a whole planting. A pot color should be taken into consideration so that it complements the colors of the flowers in the planting. Another thing to consider is to keep the size of your plants in scale with the size of the pot and choose one large enough to give the roots some room to grow in. Some plants may overtake others and then the balance of the planting will become out of proportion. This can be remedied by giving the aggressor a little trim.
Filling your pot with a thriller, filler, spiller combination can give your container pizzazz. Choose a thriller, or centerpiece plant that is bold and beautiful. Then add a filler, which can be a foliage or flowering plant that will complement the thriller. Lastly add a spiller that will tumble out of the pot and again, will complement the thriller.
Combine plants that require the same growing conditions. I like to use container plantings that can withstand a drier condition mostly because I tend to forget to water the poor things. Heat and drought tolerant Rudbeckia, Pentas, ornamental pepper, begonia, sweet potato vine, Euphorbia and hens and chicks are some of my favorites. A container planting that is a magnet for bees would include cornflowers, spanish lavender, tickseed, blanket flower and baby’s breath. A hummingbird feast could be a vibrant mix of salvias and verbenas and a butterfly banquet could include delphinium, salvia, red verbena and coreopsis.
By using a combination of containers, you can fill a space with beautiful color and texture or use them to soften a hardscaped area. Because pots are portable, they can be shifted around as the plants in them grow and bloom and can be changed through the seasons. Consider elevating containers at varying heights in your garden area. Plant stands, bricks, buckets and concrete blocks are a sampling of items that can be used to give your pots a boost. Whatever you decide to use will need to be sturdy. A pot filled with wet soil can be very heavy.
Remember, plants are living entities that react and grow differently under different conditions or circumstances. What may work well for your friend may have you singing the blues. Keep a garden journal to record the combinations you have tried over the years. Being a very visual person, I like to take pictures of the combinations I use. The hands-on experience you will gain over the years of gardening cannot be replaced. Have patience, experiment with all kinds of different plants, enjoy what you are doing and remember that to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in La Grange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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