Rose Cuttings – September, 2009

Wonderful side-by-side drama is achieved here with vivid yellow protea flowers and spiky variegated yucca.
Photo courtesy of Mike Shoup.

Side-by-Side Plants

‘Maggie’ rose blossoms contrast with the form of potted sotol. Photo courtesy of Mike Shoup.

Gardening offers an infinite number of opportunities when we experiment with plant combinations. Most side-by-side plantings that we try have visual appeal, others stimulate the senses of touch and smell, and a few others even approach a “darker” side of taste. What plants we put together may illustrate more than what “meets the eye.” 

Typical configurations use compatible plants to embellish color, texture and form. Color combinations that marry opposites on the color wheel are extremely appealing. For example, a bed of ‘Basye’s Purple Rose’ planted amid the bright orange blooms of ‘Livin’ Easy’ roses makes a stunning statement. Contrasting forms are also effective: ribbons of ornamental grass blades in close proximity to the fat, succulent leaves of an agave can have great visual appeal.  Texture has its place in the garden as well. Pairing small-flowered, finely textured perennials like dianthus, alyssum or verbena with big-leaved rudbeckias, crinums or yuccas will allow each to stand out.

There is no limit to our opportunities when we juxtapose all of these components — color, texture, and form. Imagine purple fountain grass with the globular, yellow-orange blooms of ‘Lafter’ (hybrid tea) and underplanted with finely textured blue plumbago. These contrasting elements can be realized in one small area.   

Many interesting combinations are more than just eye candy, however. Plant groupings can create other kinds of garden interest as well. Theme gardens like an historical garden are nothing more than a collection of plants noted for a certain period of time, while a fragrance garden is a diverse combination of plants with leaves and flowers with interesting smells. Think of plants in these gardens as individuals that are companions to each other based on certain criteria.

Even a social garden containing plants named for celebrities can’t be ruled out. Not many gardeners could claim to have a garden promoting the arts — with such roses as ‘Mozart’ (composer), ‘Rubens’ (artist) and ‘William Shakespeare’ (writer) in the same bed. In a way, these gardens are a stretch of the definition of “yard art” beyond the typical visual props.
Stretching even more is the trend toward secretive, even provocative, gardens. Eleanor Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: “Not good in bed, but fine against a wall.”

Would it be scandalous if you planted the voluptuous ‘Mrs. B. R. Cant’ in the same bed as the rogue “Gipsy Boy?” Mr. Ben Cant would roll over in his grave! I have even heard someone joke about planting the lovely ‘La Biche’ rose next to the virile, hip-producing rose ‘Cadenza.’ The person hoped for a seedling that could be called ‘Son of La Biche’. The real fun of these gardens is that they can be kept secret, privy only to those knowledgeable gardeners who planted them.
As you enter a garden, there may be a lot more than meets the eye. Step lightly; there may be intrigue and folly, but watch, too, for the manure!

About the author: Mike Shoup is the owner of the Antique Rose Emporium. Visit their Brenham and San Antonio display gardens for endless ideas on landscaping with roses. To order roses online, visit

Posted by Neil Sperry
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