Friday, March 21, 2014

Garden Canadensis, Part 3: More Plants & Planting Combinations

In this, the third in a series of blog posts on Garden Canadensis, Chen and Linda's country garden located near Milton, Ontario, we will take a look at interesting perennials and plant pairings for sun and part shade.

(In case you missed the earlier posts here are links: Part 1 and Part 2.)

Planting Combination: Penstemon 'Dark Towers' and Geranium 'Rozanne' and Lavender, Lavandula.

Why this works: Though I am focusing in on the flowers at the moment, I want to take a second and point out the valuable role that the conifers play in this grouping. The blooms in this combination of plants are dainty and their stems are fine and wispy. They flower would tend less noticable without the wonderful and varied backdrop of green that the conifers provide.

Even though the flowers colors are all quite different in this combination of plants, they all have a purply cast that makes the grouping cohesive.

Penstemon 'Dark Towers': Height: 60-90 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Full sun. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to dry conditions. Zones: USDA 3-9

Geranium 'Rozanne': Height: 30-50 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Full sun to part shade. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to moist soil.

Chen says, "I have had this Geranium for years. It is a reliable and forgiving beauty."

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum: Height: 15-20 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Full sun to part shade. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. It tolerates a range of soil conditions: dry to average or moist soil. Zones: USDA 3-9

 Chen Notes: " I like its pale pink flowers and nice green foliage for the front of borders. It spreads fast,  bordering on weedy."

Lavender, Lavandula

Plant Combination: Pale pink Geranium sanguineum var. striatum and Lavender, Lavandula. 

Why this works: Delicate and pretty in combination is always charming.

On the subject of Lavender, Chen writes: 

"This is one of the 'must have' perennials in my garden. I grow them for their ornamental foliage and flowers, and for their easily controlled, neat habit. Most of the Lavandula in my garden are from seeds I sowed many years ago. They self-sow a little, but not enough."

Those of you who regularly follow my blog know that I have struggled to grow Lavender successfully, so I asked Chen if he gave his plants any special treatment:

"The only thing I pay attention to for Lavandula are: not to locate them in a wet spot, give them as much light as possible and a pruning to keep a tidy shape. I do not have any special soil preparation for them. In fact, they seem to do equally well in poor soil. Some of them have even self-sown in the crevices of standing rocks."

Plant Combination: Another mix using Pale pink Geranium sanguineum var. striatum. Here it is combined with ground cover Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'.

Sedum rupestre 'Angelina': Height: 15-20 cm, Spread: 45-60 cm. Full sun. Dry to Average  conditions. Zones: USDA 3-9

Astrantia major 'Roma': Average to moist soil and part shade to sun are best for Astrantia. Height: 60-90 cm, Spread: 45-60, USDA Zones: 3-9

Plant pairing: Chen combines his Astrantia major 'Roma' with a Japanese Iris and purple Geranium 'Rozanne'. See a picture of the mix of all three plants on Chen's website.

In Chen's garden, a problem with voles means he has to struggle to keep his Astrantia flourishing. This area of the garden gets morning sun and passes into shade mid-afernoon.

Giant White Fleece Flower, Persicaria Polymorpha: Height: 90-120 cm, Spread: 80-90 cm. Full sun to part shade. Average to moist conditions. Zones: USDA 3-9

Chen writes:

"This is a lovely giant perennial. I am fortunate to have enough room in my garden to accommodate it. It is used as a bold structure plant and has attractive creamy-white plumes that bloom for a long time from late spring."

Plant Pairing: Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising' and Penstemon 'Husker's Red'. You can see Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising' in the foreground on the left. The front of a border is a perfect place for it.

Coreopsis 'Mercury Rising': Height: 30-45 cm, Spread: 30-45 cm. Full sun. Tolerates a range of conditions: dry to average and moist soil. Zones: The jury is still out on the true hardiness of this cultivar.

Plant Pairing: Coreopsis verticillata with burgundy Heuchera 

Why this works: The soft cloud of ferny Coreopsis verticillata makes a nice backdrop for the wands of tiny Heuchera flowers. 

On the subject of Coreopsis verticillata, Chen notes:

"I have had this for years. I don't particularly like the yellow flowers, but the ferny, refreshing green foliage makes it worth having around."

Coreopsis verticillata: Height: 30-45 cm, Spread: 30-45 cm. Full sun. Tolerates a range of conditons: dry to average and moist soil. Zones: USDA 4-9.

Gypsophillia cerastoides: This little pink flower caught my eye in Chen's rock garden. On his website, he warns that it self-sows to the point of being weedy. It sure is pretty though!

Lychnis coronaria: is a short lived perennial. Height: 60-90 cm, Spread: 45-50 cm. Full sun. Normal, sandy or clay soil are fine. Average to dry conditions. Zones: USDA 3-9

Chen notes,"This flower color is a little too bright to mix easily with other plants. The silvery foliage is what I want. It self-sows quite a bit, bordering on weedy."

"The 'Dragon's Head' is an interesting group of perennials with various shades of attractive bluish flowers. It is most commonly grown by rock gardeners. Some books have warned that this is a highly invasive group of plants. It is my belief that only some of Dracocephalums behave badly."

Final Plant combination: Dianthus and Heuchera' Paris'

"I used to think of Dianthus mostly as fillers, because they are easy to sow from seeds. Over the years I have come to like them as much as other ornamental perennials... 
Dianthus propagates from seeds and grows easily. Although they produce tons of seeds each season, so far, I find that they mostly self-sow in their own little patch and do not run around wildly like Forget-Me-Nots. 
I find the taller varieties have floppy habits. All my Dianthus look like brown patches in late summer. You can easily do a clean-up by pruning off the brown tops, but if you want some self-sown babies, you need to save some for seeds. If you are willing to address these shortcomings in your composition and maintenance schedule, Dianthus belongs in your garden."

In the final post on Chen's garden we will look at his impressive collection of conifers and see how he has combined them beautifully with other plants.

Have a wonderful weekend!


  1. Preciosas todas las flores, muchas de ellas son desconocidas por estos lugares.
    Las fotografías, como siempre, son excelentes!
    Un fuerte abrazo.

  2. Nice to see other people's planting combinations and how they work together - I am a bit hit and miss -if it works it's a bonus.

  3. Whenever I need a flower fix I always know I can find something awesome and beautiful here. Thanks for such great inspiration and beauty.

  4. Your photographs and combinations are beautiful. I also agree about the role conifers play when combining with perennials. Nice post!

  5. lovely... so many beautiful varieties out there - if I had my way, my garden would be a hectare so I could include them all!

    Have a happy weekend!

  6. Goodness gracious!! I just about pinned every single one of your above combinations! And I do so thank you for posting that question about lavender as it has always been a bit of a struggle for me! I would say that I have been watering too much! Ha! Go figure!!! Such a gorgeous post friend!!! Nicole xo

  7. All of these plants are so beautiful. But what I love best about this post is Chen's insight and experience with these plants in the garden. There are a few plants here that I would love to be 'weedy' in my garden. And I love lavender. It loves dry soil so it is quite the perfect drought tolerant plant. I hope you have a great weekend too!

  8. Lovely combinations, Jennifer. I loved the most geraniums and penstemon it's what I always wanted to have in my garden. Thanks for idea!

  9. More stunning photos of a super garden. Love the Persicaria Polymorpha and the lovely Penstemon. We have Geranium sanguinium var striatum and it really is a weed here, it seeds everywhere and I'm always pulling it out!

  10. I am so impressed with how much work and research you've done for this post! Such wonderful information. Combining plants is a major key to a beautiful garden. Most of mine is the hit and miss variety. Good stuff!

  11. Is his garden open to the public? I would love to see it!

    1. Hi Heather, Garden Canadensis was on the Rock Garden Society's garden tour last year, but unfortunately there are no plans to include it on an open to the public garden tour this summer.

  12. Wow, these posts are such a treat. Such beautiful combinations, I would be quite happy with the weedy ones self sowing

  13. Lovely combinations, I like them all!
    I struggle to grow lavender too, they don’t like the wet winters over here and my rich ericaceous soil is not really what they like either – so I have resorted to grow ONE lavender plant in a container, until it gets too big and leggy, and then I buy a new one. My attempt to take cuttings has not been very successful, even though it is said to be easy….

  14. Not only do I love the garden, I love the name! The use of all of the interesting evergreens is wonderful. And I am drooling over the delphiniums....

  15. What a great combinations Jennifer. I am not lucky to get the penstemon and lavender to grow in my garden on clay. I love the garden you are showing.
    Have a wonderful day Jennifer.

  16. What gorgeous combinations! I wish I had his luck in growing lavender. A local garden I saw last summer had beautiful stands of it, and the gardener said the area had originally been all gravel, so it wasn't the best soil. Perhaps I've been babying it too much after all. Love that Fleeceflower--I remember seeing it in a catalog and considered buying one for my own garden, but I didn't know much about it. Seeing it here makes me think I should consider it again.

    It's been a crazy busy week here with another one to come, but I am going to go back and look at the previous posts when I find a few minutes. This garden looks so inspiring, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they used conifers.

  17. These are all such beautiful combinations, Jennifer.
    Each time I come here, I always add one or two to my "have to have" list! :-)

    I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and I wish you a beautiful week ahead.

  18. Such beautiful combinations. Lavender is my dream favorite flower. Only a dream, because in my humid climate it will never grow. I know that because I keep trying and it keeps dying! But I love it still.

  19. Gorgeous photos of gorgeous combinations! This garden must have been a real treat to photograph! I'll bet you are like me - I can hardly wait for Garden Tours to start again! Actually I can hardly wait for above freezing temps :)


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