We try various plant combinations in our gardens. Some work beautifully, others are not as successful. However, I think that the best combinations are the result of a stroke of luck. Many planned combinations, even when they are successful, have a slight staginess about them, whereas the ones nature creates prolifically, in or outside our gardens, can be just right. This is, no doubt, because our aesthetic sense was learned from nature in the first place.
In some cases, it is difficult to say whether the result you achieved was due to planning or chance. It can be a mixture of both. It is the case with these regale lilies and California poppies. I planted them next to each other, but without remembering that the lily's yellow center is a perfect echo to the poppy.
|California poppies and Regale lilies|
Serendipity plays an even more important role with this double Papaver somniferum that not only seeded itself right in the middle of these lilies, but opened just at the moment when the lily pods, on their way to turning red, were on the same wave length as the poppy. This kind of timing would be almost impossible to plan as it would vary from year to year.
|Lily and double Papaver somniferum|
Just outside one of the garden doors, in makeshift beds where I let garden plants fight it out with the weeds, there is a perennial candytuft (Iberis sempervirens). Under it, one of the creeping veronicas has decided to seed itself creating an interesting layered effect. Both happen to bloom at the same time as the buttercups that are all over the field. The three of them make for a dynamic combination.
Another combination outside the garden proper is made up of Iris sintensisii with bird's foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), a European forage plant that has naturalized in North America. Somehow, all these seem to get along year after year, the iris able to fight off the grass.
A flower of peony Sarah Bernhardt poking through a clump of catnip (Nepeta Walker's Low).
Some plants are usually best left to seed themselves. This is the case of the tall mulleins (Verbascum spp.). They turn up in unexpected places, but it is very often the perfect spot. I would not have seeded them right in front of the coldframe but somehow, it seems just right.
As Beverley Nichols puts it in his book, Garden Open Tomorrow: "The gardener can provide the frame, set up his easel, and sketch the pattern, but as time marches on he must constantly step aside and hand over his brush to Nature."