As we move towards winter, the number of different plants in focus day by day are bound to become fewer, and although I shall continue to present them, I intend to intersperse them with the results of what I am currently looking into, which is plant associations, combinations and successions. It’s an aspect of gardening that I am not good at, as it demands a much wider general knowledge of plants than I have; it’s necessary to draw on the expertise of better gardeners, and proceed as they mostly have, by trial and error.
Where I am starting is to try and assemble companions to the evergreen trees and plants I have, (since they are more or less constant and unchanging) along with expanding the few juxtapositions of plants that I have arrived at already, whether planned or by accident.
Apart from the obvious interplay of size, scale, colours, structure, period of interest, attraction to wildlife, there are one or two other factors, such as the fact that some plants actively reject others whilst others attract them, to consider. Some people like to combine plants which grow naturally together in the same part of the world (which cannot be wrong but isn’t necessary in my view). An essential is that every plant must closely suit the conditions (of soil and weather) that it is being asked to grow in. A potential drawback is that like many men, I don’t have much sense of colours that clash. I don’t like the combinations of pink and yellow, grey and yellow, or pink and orange, but apart from those, I am not worried.
My approach is to plot the existing garden layout in terms of its layout of permanent planting, and see what best combines with it, then see what would accompany that successfully and then what could be added to that, and so on and so on and so on, until I have the whole garden covered, for all seasons of the year. I know that for many gardeners this process could be instinctive and quick, but I have to plod methodically in order to get where I want to be.