Recently, I had slides scanned from my first garden tour to England in the late summer and early fall of 1992. Looking at them reminded of me of some wonderful plant combinations that blew me away. Now I’m going to share three of them with you. 

Eupatorium purpureum, Aster 'September Ruby', Cimicifuga racemosa

Eupatorium purpureum, Aster ‘September Ruby’, Cimicifuga racemosa

The first photo was taken at Bressingham, the home and island bed gardens of Alan Bloom. There I saw, side by side, in a sunny moist bed, Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum), Aster ‘September Ruby’, and Cimicifuga (now Actaea) racemosa. The medium pink and ruby pink complement each other and the white of the Snakeroot livens up the scene. In addition, all three have different flower forms and differing foliage textures.

Kniphofia, Stipa, Festuca, Heuchera 'Bressingham Bronze', Picea pungens

Kniphofia, Stipa, Festuca, Heuchera ‘Bressingham Bronze’, Picea pungens

Adjacent to Alan’s gardens was a piece of land Alan had given to his son Adrian who continued the idea of island beds but started out planting them solely with conifers. Eventually, he added ornamental grasses and perennials. I loved his ‘lava flow’ that was composed of Kniphofia, Stipa tenusissima, Festuca ovina glauca, and Heuchera ‘Bressingham Bronze’. Echoing the color of the blue fescue was Picea pungens ‘Glauca’ on the left back side of this grouping. The colors and textures were unlike anything I had ever seen before. If we wanted to duplicate this in Cleveland, we would have to replant the Stipa each year since it is an annual for us.

Arctotis 'Flame', Kniphofia 'Little Maid', Caryoptensis clandoensis, Yucca 'Bright Edge'

Arctotis ‘Flame’, Kniphofia ‘Little Maid’, Caryoptensis clandoensis, Iris pallida ‘Variegata’

Later in the tour, we visited Burford House, the home of the owner of Treasures of Tenbury, a Clematis nursery. At the time very few Clematis were marketed in the Untied States so I was blown away by the number of species and hybrids I saw. What I want to share with you, however, has no Clematis in it. In one of the beds, I saw a striking vignette of Arctotis ‘Flame’, Kniphofia ‘Little Maid’, Caryoptensis clandoensis, and Yucca ‘Bright Edge’. Arctotis is a South African annual rarely grown here but we could substitute Echinacea ‘Sombrero Flamenco Orange’. I would also substitute Kniphofia ‘Popsicle Lemon or Pineapple’ for Kniphofia ‘Little Maid’ because it reblooms. The mix of flower color contrasted with the variegated foliage of the Yucca is fantastic.

It was a wonderful tour and I have lots more about gardening and landscape design to share with you in future posts.