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Let's Argue About Plants

Apr 21, 2023

To gardeners, spring is the signal of something big to come. It kicks off our season. For the next several months we will primp and preen our beds to maximize their beauty and relish in their good looks. But as all our plants start waking up in April and early May, it can be hard to really focus on the “design” elements. Many of us are often just happy to see any signs of life, never mind if those newly emerging plants look good together. That’s why today we’re focusing on plant combinations (of two, three, or perhaps even four) that look incredible in spring when grouped together. There’s a mix of annuals, perennials, and even a few shrubs in this array. But, when massed in close proximity, the effect is just as stunning as your peak season pairings. Many of you listeners asked us to broach planting design in an episode, so here we are, answering your call!

Expert guest:

Matt Mattus is a regional reporter for The author of two gardening books, he gardens in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Danielle’s Combos

Combo 1:

‘Mango Charm’ tulip (Tulipa 'Mango Charm', Zones 3-7)

'Peach Flambe' heuchera (Heuchera 'Peach Flambe', Zones 4-9)

‘Peach Melba’ horned violet (Viola cornuta ‘Peach Melba’, Zones 6-9)


Combo 2:

Lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis, Zones 3-8)

Fingerleaf rodgersia (Rodgersia aesculifolia, Zones 5-7)

'Halcyon' hosta (Hosta 'Halcyon', Zones 5-9)

‘Nelly Moser’ clematis (Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’, Zones 4-9)


Carol’s Combos

Combo 1:

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia, Zones 3–8)

Interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana, Zones 3–8)

‘Toffee Tart' heuchera (Heuchera 'Toffee Tart', Zones 4–9)

‘Palace Purple’ heuchera (Heuchera 'Palace Purple', Zones 4–9)

Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum, Zones 5–8)

‘October Moon’ Japanese shrub mint (Leucosceptrum stellipilum ‘October Moon’, Zones 5–8)


Combo 2

‘May breeze’ woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata ‘May Breeze’, Zones 4–8)

‘Wanda’ primrose (Primula ‘Wanda’, Zones 3–9)

Creeping mazus (Mazus reptans, Zones 5–8)

‘Ogon’ grassy-leaved sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’, Zones 5–9)

Siberian cranesbill (Geranium wlassovianum, Zones 5–8)


Expert’s Combos

Melancholy toadflax or fairy lights (Linaria tristis, Zones 4-8)

Café au lait’painted tongue (Salpiglossis ‘Café au lait’, annual)

Poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii, annual)

‘Penny Black’ baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii  ‘Penny Black’, annual)

‘Jelly Bean Fiesta Marigold’ monkey flower (Mimulus ‘Jelly Bean Fiesta Marigold’, annual)

Assorted pansies in browns, reds, rusts (Viola × wittrockiana and cvs., Zones 5-9)

Desert bells (Phacelia campanularia, Zones 5-10)

Belarina® Series primroses (Primula cv., Zones 4-8)