Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Tropical South
January, 2004
Regional Report

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The silvery purple foliage of Persian shield blends well with lavender pentas.

Favorite Plant Combinations

When I was a college student in Pennsylvania, my roommate and I once stayed up all night to make a planting plan. We racked our brains for the perfect combinations of color, texture, height, and
shape. At least all the annuals bloomed at the same time there. In Florida we have to consider winter annuals and summer annuals.

Bloom time came at the top of the list on plans for perennial gardens or complete landscapes. We ran out to the gardens to check on these details until dark, combed garden catalogs, and wished we'd kept better blooming calenders. Other students would wander in with
glassy eyes and say things like, "Do you think Don Juan would go with Cecile Brunner?"

Since then I have been searching for great combinations. With ornamentals, you'd think eye appeal would be most important. But if you ignore sun/shade needs and water needs, the plants may never get to the bloom stage.

Companion Planting
I learned about this idea later when I was growing mostly vegetables to feed my clan. Some plants just seem to grow better with certain neighbors. Cabbage does well with potatoes and strong scented herbs, such as dill, sage, and mints, to ward off insects. But the whole cabbage family hates strawberries and doesn't care much for tomatoes or beans. Some of my best lettuce grew between strawberry plants, which grow as annuals in our area. Most of the commercial growers put onions at the ends of the strawberry rows, but when I asked why, the man said, "To make money."

Chives nearby discourage insects on rose bushes. And neem trees nearby seem to deter fungal diseases on surrounding plants. None of this is very scientific, so don't feel you have to erect barriers. It is more like keeping everyone congenially mixing at a party. It works. Try it.

Suggestions from Disney
Heather Will-Browne, horticulture program specialist at Walt Disney World, suggested the following combinations:

In Shade:
*Caladiums mixed with impatiens for full shade
*Violas with alyssum for partial shade

In Full Sun:
*Red salvia with yellow marigolds
*Dusty miller with red salvia
*Pink coneflowers, blue browallia, and 'Strawberry Fields' globe amaranth
*Yellow coreopsis, blue salvia, and red-plumed celosia
*White cosmos, coral Salvia coccinea, and lavender globe amaranth
*Salmon nicotiana with lavender globe amaranth
*Pentas with angelonia
*Lantana with Madagascar periwinkle
*Crossandra with blue salvia

Trees and Shrubs
These combinations are even more important since they are more permanent. Some great ones I've seen are the silvery purple foliage of Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyeranus) with lavender pentas in partial shade. Or let the white flowers of butterfly ginger sprawl over red pentas.

In full sun I've seen pink allamanda vines on a trellis as a focal point in a small garden edged with maroon coleus that stopped traffic. Another place with purple bougainvillea blooming with yellow cassia did the same.

Keep watching, and when you find a good grouping, write it down and fit it in at home.

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