Figuring out what to plant with what is often a delicate balance between the pursuit of artful ambitions while simultaneously tending to more practical considerations. Gardeners I talk to often ask me for guidelines, so I've provided a few in this post. Following these guidelines can help you be more successful when creating plant combinations in your garden—they take the mystery out of the making so that you can focus on the fun!
First things first, you need to take care of the business end of things—study your site and employ your analytical side as you consider the practicalities of your site.
Take note of the physical growing conditions of where you want your new plantings. How much and what kind of light does this spot get? Is water an issue? And if so, is it a case of too much or too little? Selecting plants that will be satisfied with the conditions you have to offer is the bedrock of success. Beyond that, are there essential functions you need the plants to perform?
Consider things like provide screening, cast shade, control erosion, and so on.
Consider the Current Situation
Are you starting fresh or adding on? Your approach will dictated by where you're starting from.
Are there other plants that you need to consider? You'll want to take other plants nearby into consideration as you select your new additions—first from a practical standpoint, and then from an aesthetic standpoint, consider companionability.
If you have a plant that you're starting with, use eGardenGo to come up with ideas for companions. First search for the plant in our database to see if it's included. If it is, click through for plant combination ideas to plant with it.
If you didn't find your plant in our database, do a new search based on aspects of your existing plant that are most notable and/or descriptive. For example,
do a new search based on the type of plant (shrub, tree, perennial, etc.), how big it is, its shape and the color of its foliage, and so on. You'll
be served up plants that are similar to what you have and then you can do the same as above—click through for companion plant ideas.
Hurray for options! Creating a new garden from a blank slate presents an opportunity to unleash your inner artist. Though liberating, this freedom can
also be a bit daunting.
To make the process more manageable, I suggest starting your design process by honing in on one plant and then build out your combo from there. Starting with something pivotal, such as a tree or large shrub, is often a good place to begin. Then, as illustrated in the video above, one decision leads to another—each chosen plant, in turn suggests possible partners. Is there a plant you've always wanted to grow? Start there! Or is there a pressing need that you're trying to address? For example, a tree to provide shade, a narrow evergreen plant to provide screening, and so on. Select a plant that will satisfy that need as your starting point and build out your combo from there.
Alternatively, you may choose to explore plant combos, filtering the hundreds on the site to narrow the options to those that satisfy your specific growing conditions, aesthetic preferences, and/or practical priorities. For even more direction—tangible, actionable inspiration—filter for plant combinations that include planting plans.
Adapt and Adjust
Garden beds come in an wide array of shapes and sizes, and adapting the eGardenGo plant combinations to your unique garden situation can take a little thought. Are you creating a garden along the front of your house? Maybe a bed that tucks into a corner? Are you planting your parking strip? Which side(s) will it be viewed from? Or is it a very specific situation—a large container, a parking strip, etc?
In an earlier post, we showed examples of planting plans for three typically-shaped beds—rectangular beds viewed from one side, ell-shaped beds for tucking into a corner, and island beds that are viewed from all sides. Each of the example plans use four different plants, and the illustration shows how many of each plant to include and provides guidance for getting the spacing right between each.
Read the full post here.
Worth mentioning again is the idea of "forever vs. for-now" plants—it's important to take extra-special care to space out your long-term, structural plants, allowing adequate room for them to reach their eventual size unencumbered. I posted about this a while ago, and you can read that here.