Category Archives: Planting combinations

Why Plant Flowers and Vegetables Together?

Often vegetables and herbs are kept away from ornamental plants in the garden, and sometimes there are practical reasons for doing this, for example if you want to keep your vegetable garden strictly organic, but like to use non-organic fertilisers on your ornamentals. However mixing vegetables and edibles together can create really ornamental borders and has other added benefits.

Companion Planting

Flowers mixed in with vegetables to attract beneficial insects and aid pollination. Tagetes patula 'Durango Bee' - French Marigold with Mustard 'Oriental Pizzo', Radish, Dwarf bean 'Orinoco', Lettuce 'Lollo Biondo', Ruby chard 'Vulcan' and Tropaeolum minus 'Ladybird' - Nasturtium - © GAP Photos/Graham Strong

Flowers mixed in with vegetables to attract beneficial insects and aid pollination. Tagetes patula ‘Durango Bee’ – French Marigold with Mustard ‘Oriental Pizzo’, Radish, Dwarf bean ‘Orinoco’, Lettuce ‘Lollo Biondo’, Ruby chard ‘Vulcan’ and Tropaeolum minus ‘Ladybird’ – Nasturtium – © GAP Photos/Graham Strong

Companion planting takes many forms, but it generally it involves combining certain plants because they work well together. Many crops rely on pollinators, such as bees and butterflies for successful yields of fruit. By planting flowering plants between your rows of crops which are attractive to pollinators, you greatly increase the chances of success. In addition, many beneficial flowering plants, such as marigolds, have a strong scent that confuses nearby pests, and spares your plants from their clutches.

It adds a cheery pop of colour

Tulipa 'Ballerina' growing with lettuce and Euphorbia characias subsp.wulfenii 'John Tomlinson' - © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

Tulipa ‘Ballerina’ growing with lettuce and Euphorbia characias subsp.wulfenii ‘John Tomlinson’ – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley

The sight of vegetables growing together in a garden is a very attractive one, however bright colour is not often a feature until later in the season. These orange tulips pop against the lettuce growing around them, and provide some much-needed height and vibrancy to spring borders and vegetable plots.

It saves space

Mixed hanging basket with Beta vulgaris 'Feurio' and Petunia sophistica 'Lime Bicolor' - Two-Tone Petunia - © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Mixed hanging basket with Beta vulgaris ‘Feurio’ and Petunia sophistica ‘Lime Bicolor’ – Two-Tone Petunia – © GAP Photos/Friedrich Strauss

Many do not have room for both vegetables and ornamental borders, so why not combine them. Even if all you have room for is a hanging basket, you can still have the best of both words. Here, Petunia flowers tumble down the side of a hanging basket while the dark red leaves of a swiss chard create a proud and edible centrepiece, which can be harvested from as and when is needed.

Considering Colour Combinations in Your Borders

There are so many factors to consider when it comes to choosing plants for your flowering borders, including the soil type, the light levels, the seasonal interest and the growth habits of your plants. One particularly fun aspect to consider is colour. With so many colours available, it can be quite overwhelming to get the right balance. Here we have selected four different colour schemes that always work.

Red and Yellow

Warm colour combinations infuse energy and spice into a border. This is an ideal colour combination for a sunny, late-summer border, as so many summer-flowering perennials that enjoy full sun have flowers that fall into the warmer side of the colour scheme – Crocosmia, Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Alchillea, Dahlia, Coreopsis, Cannas and Knifofia, to name a few. This colour scheme blends summer into autumn quite seamlessly, as many late summer perennials keep blooming until the first frosts, and the foliage of shrubs and trees such as Acers, Liquidambars and Viburnums start to take on a red hue before they fall. Never underestimate the power of cool -toned green foliage used alongside, to really help those reds and yellows sizzle and smoulder.

Blue and Yellow

There are not many true-blue flowers available, so most of the time a blue-toned purple is referred to as blue in the flower world. However, combined with yellow, this combination is uplifting without being too dramatic. Purple and yellow are natural opposites on the colour wheel, so they complement each other well, but blue-toned purples keep the combination cool. There are many blue and yellow summer flowers – Delphiniums, Agastache, Salvia and Perovskia teamed with Rudbeckias, Verbascums and Heleniums all work perfectly. However, this colour-combination is also a natural for spring, as the colours are fresh and reminiscent of Easter. Think woodland borders of forget-me-nots, primroses and daffodils.

Green and White

If you would like garden borders that instantly soothe and reinvigorate, then really consider keeping colour out and just using green and white plants in your garden. This neutral combination is timeless and always in style, not to mention refreshing. Green and white works well all year round, with multiple plants being available that offer flowers in this colour scheme. Consider experimenting with texture and foliage plants that offer a wide variety of green shades, to keep borders interesting. Hostas, grasses and evergreen shrubs are a good starting point.

Pink and Purple

If you are a fan of berry shades, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to spring and summer flowering perennials. This harmonious colour scheme is lively and bold, but with a softness to it. Echinacea, Dahlias, Alliums, Salvias are all widely available and come in many different shades of pink and purple. A bit of silver and blue added to the mix will add some depth and contrast, so consider plants such as Artemisia, Eryngium or Echinops too.

Planting a Hot Coloured Copper Pot

Copper pot with hot coloured plants: Calibrachoa 'Million Bells Crackling Fire', French marigolds, Sanvitalia procumbens, Gazania 'Gazoo Orange', Gazania 'Gazoo Clear Yellow' and Carex comans 'Milk Chocolate' - © Nicola Stocken/GAP Photos

Copper pot with hot coloured plants: Calibrachoa ‘Million Bells Crackling Fire’, French marigolds, Sanvitalia procumbens, Gazania ‘Gazoo Orange’, Gazania ‘Gazoo Clear Yellow’ and Carex comans ‘Milk Chocolate’ – © Nicola Stocken/GAP Photos

Match beautiful plants to an out-of-the-ordinary container, and the overall effect is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Tins, bowls, baskets, crates, kettles, scuttles, pails, pots and pans are some of the many alternative containers that, with minor modifications, make remarkable plant partners. This unpolished, old brass coal scuttle turns a matt, reddish brown colour that suits hot coloured plants — Calibrachoa ‘Million Bells Crackling Fire’, French marigolds, trailing Sanvitalia procumbens, Gazanias ‘Gazoo Orange’ and ‘Gazoo Clear Yellow’. In the centre is the ornamental grass, Carex comans ‘Milk Chocolate’, which provides a perfect foil to the bright colours.

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