Plant combinations – sometimes magic, sometimes not

Plant combinations are as endless as a gardeners imagination. When the combination is magic, all is right in the gardener’s world. When it is not, there’s choices to be made.

Transplanting one of the offenders near a more favorable companion is one option. Another is gifting the offender to someone more enamored of the plant’s attributes. These options are more necessary when the not-so-wonderful plant combination is due to dissonant foliage color or plant form. When the dissonance occurs only because of bloom times, the gardener can choose to look away until the not-so-magic bloom combo has passed … or shrug her shoulders, name the combo, and turn it into a tale.

I chose the latter.

Remember when baby shower decorations were blue and pink … when no one yet knew the gender of their little one? Meet my Baby Shower combination – a pink-blooming azalea of small stature (exact type unknown) and Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ purchased years ago from the old Capriland’s Herb Farm.

Baby Shower combination

Baby Shower combination – pink-blooming azalea and Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’

I did not foresee these plants blooming at exactly the same time when I transplanted the azalea to the deer-protected fenced area.  At the time of the move deer had “pruned’ the poor little azalea to near death. Later that year I divided and transplanted the amsonia – one of the few truly deer-tolerant plants in my region – outside the fence.

The bloom times of the two have nearly coincided in previous springs but, this year, their blooms opened concurrently … in full Baby Shower regalia.

It’s not that I dislike either shade – or that the colors are highly offensive – I’m just not crazy about the color combination right now.




Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Joene Hendry

8 comments for “Plant combinations – sometimes magic, sometimes not

  1. May 20, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Pink and blue combinations can work very well. What do you think is the problem with this combination? Is it that the flowers are too similar in their mass and density? That the colors are too evenly balanced? Would it be possible to add another type of plant in one of these colors and in a different texture/size (e.g., brunnera)?

    • May 20, 2015 at 10:04 pm

      Jean, I’m sure I could add another flower to tie the two together so it is more to my liking. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with the combo, it does not suit my eyes. It’s a personal preference. Were I to plan this section on paper and think out the bloom times and colors of the azalea and amsonia, I would have sited the two differently so they were not in a direct line of sight while in bloom. Still, since blossoms are fleeting, the view only lasts a short time so I’ve chosen to live with it.

  2. Jim
    May 21, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    I can see what you mean. It’s just “there”. It doesn’t wow in any way although each plant themselves are great plants. It’s a really beautiful azalea (which I do not have bc of deer). And the amsonia is fabulous, I planted it many years ago in my front sunny garden and it’s as scraggly and small as it ever was. Comes up every year but maybe puts out 4 stems, that’s it. It should be a healthy large clump by now! Wonder what’s going on?

    • May 21, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      Jim, I’ve not had any trouble with amsonia growing, though it can take a season or two to really take off. I’ve had some scraggly clumps from small divisions when planted in a fair amount of shade and under a large oak tree. Otherwise I’ve not had any issues getting amsonia to fill out. Perhaps your soil is not to its liking? Where are you gardening?

      • JIM
        May 22, 2015 at 6:40 pm

        Hello, I am in NW Hamden, wedged between Bethany and Cheshire. Very rocky soil (but then again that’s everywhere in CT). It’s a cleared garden patch but is very sandy and acidic. Pretty much normal for CT. I am working on working a bit of compost in when I can. I think I bought the plant at Broken Arrow Nursery bc I saw a resplendent example of it in their gardens. Probably 5yrs later, it’s alive, flowers, but isn’t getting bigger.

  3. May 28, 2015 at 8:44 am

    I think your amsonia is tabernaemontana, not ‘Blue Ice’. The ‘Blue Ice’ cultivar is a very low growing (almost ground cover) amsonia that is just opening blooms now, in late May after the bigger amsonias are well out, and ‘Blue Ice’ flowers are a deep purple-blue and small, not the starry spikes you have.

    That said, your amsonia is gorgeous! I agree with Jean — I think it may be the similar textures and flower / leaf sizes that don’t “go” more than the color combo. I like the pink and blue together but the two plants are so similar in their forms and pretty, almost frilly flowers — some other shape or mass may be needed for balance.

    • May 30, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Laurrie, it is possible the amsonia was mismarked when purchased more than a couple of decades ago, but thanks for the input. Regarding the combo, I’m not too concerned by it since the bloom time for each only lasts a week or two. Bloom times of various perennials have changed so much of late – climate change? – that I now just go with the flow, give iffy-to-my-eyes combos names, and let things be. Good to hear from you!

      • Jim
        May 30, 2015 at 10:51 am

        I am so terrible with matching bloom times. I have may night salvia and purple sensation alliums in the front garden to coincide with the chrome yellow achillea. Purple sensation is way early. May night is somewhat earlier and in its glory right now. Achillea, is it Mellow Yellow, takes its sweet time, the others will be gone!! Last purple irises might be around. But it’s frustrating for sure!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: