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19 Ideas for Garden Displays Using Hardy Plants

Published on April 20th 2021

by AlanGardenMaster. All rights reserved

Contrasting foliage in a flower garden
A great plant combination can be magical. Although some combinations happen accidentally, most are pre-planned. If they happen accidentally in your garden, my advice is to take credit as your own design!

How to choose plants

When choosing planting combinations, it's important to consider each plant's requirements rather than randomly sticking two together.
Only grow plants together that like or tolerate the same growing conditions. Consider light needs, soil types, drainage, tolerance to winds and hardiness. These need to match if your plant combination is to work well.
Also, consider timing! It's no good if you want that bulb to flower against a complementary - or contrasting - background if the other plant is still dormant!

Colour combinations

1. Red Astrantia, Lavender, Salvia and Artemisia
A close up of a flower garden
Red Astrantia, lavender, Salvia and Artemisia
In this combination of plants, the colours are soft and muted, but they complement each other well. The red and white Astrantia (Masterwort) work well with the Lavender and the finely cut grey leaves of Artemisia. Spiky purple Salvia Caradonna stays within the same colour range but adds a vertical element to the planting.


Salvia spp.

Wormwood 'Powis Castle'

Artemisia 'Powis Castle'


Lavandula spp.


Astrantia spp.

Masterwort 'Rubra'

Astrantia major 'Rubra'

2. Echinacea Daisies and Achillea
A close up of a flower garden
Soft Echinacea daisies
Here, the same shade of peach has been used in this Royal Hampton Court Flower Show display. Echinacea Sunrise and Achillea Walter Funcke are the main partners, but this look can be achieved using any varieties of similar colour.

Combining textures

3. Rose, Artemisia and spotted Pulmonaria
Rose, Artemisia and Pulmonaria plants
Dainty rose with grey foliage teamed with Artemisia and spotted Pulmonaria
NT Tintinhull Garden uses a delightful combination of plants, including Rosa rubrifolia, spotted Pulmonaria, and dainty Artemisia Powis Castle. The Artemisia is named for the wonderful NT Powis Castle garden close to the Welsh and English border.
4. Hosta, ferns and White Stem Birch Tree
Birch trees, ferns and Hosta in a garden
Hosta and ferns under white stem birch trees
Here, the textures of the finely cut fern fronds and the bold, large leaves of Hosta work well in the shade of Himalayan Birch trees.
5. Rose and Wormwood
Rose and Artemisia leaves
Rosa rubrifolia and Artemisia Powis Castle
Rose and Wormwood create a simple but effective combination. No blooms are needed for this one!
6. Lobelia tupa and Giant Oat
Lobelia tupa and Stipa gigantea
Lobelia tupa in front of Stipa giant oat
A soft late summer combo of Lobelia tupa and the giant oat grass Stipa gigantea at The Newt in Somerset.

Combining heights

7. Pansy Cercis, Russian Sage Wormwood and Heuchera
Plants in a garden
Forest Pansy Cercis, Russian sage wormwood and Heuchera flowers
The purple leaf Redbud Forest Pansy is an exceptional garden tree, perfect for small gardens and it looks good with so many plants. This is a great little tree to build a plant combination around!

Combinations without flowers

8. Conifers, Heuchera and Heathers
Contrasting foliage in a garden
Conifers, Heuchera and heathers
Conifers have been out of fashion for a while now, but perhaps it's time we brought them back in from the cold!
Many conifers give great colour all year round, others change colour with the seasons, but most have a real presence in the garden.
Heathers like similar conditions to most conifers and are great when part of a display. Either choose those that flower well or those that have bright and cheerful foliage.
9. Black LaceEelder, Golden Hop, Golden Feverfew and Sun Spurge
A close up of a flower garden
Black Lace elder, golden hop, golden feverfew and sun spurge
Here, a Yellow Hop scrambles through Golden Leaf Chamomile. The acid green Sun Spurge and cut leaf Black Lace elder accentuates colour contrasts.
10. Italian Arum Lily and Hardy Cyclamen
A group of green plants
Italian Arum lily contrasts with hardy cyclamen leaves
In winter, some plants wake up and produce new leaves. That's true of this Hardy Cyclamen and Italian Arum Lily. Pop in a few Snowdrop bulbs to give it a third element in late winter!

Bulb combinations

11. Purple Allium and Euphorbia characias wulfenii
A close up of a purple flower on a plant
Purple Allium and Euphorbia characias wulfenii
Sometimes a simple two colour contrast works well like this Allium and Euphorbia combination.
12. White Allium and Feverfew
A close up of white flowers
White Allium contrast with dainty feverfew
Try using the same colour but contrast the flower shape and size as with this white Allium and Feverfew.

Combining climbing plants

13. Pink Rambling Rose and Clematis
Pink rose and purple Clematis flower
Soft pink rambling rose and Perle D'Azur Clematis in an old apple tree
A soft pink Rambling Rose and Perle D'Azur Clematis in an old apple tree makes a very effective plant combo, and you still get apples!
14. Clematis and Wisteria
Clematis and Wisteria on a fence
Pink Clematis montana with blue Wisteria
Brighten up central city properties is with these easy-to-grow climbers.

Seasonal combos

15. Autumn grasses, Rudbeckia and rich Maple bark
A tree with a flower in a garden
Autumn grasses, Rudbeckia and rich maple bark
Soft Pheasant grass, Black-Eyed Susan daisies and the papery peeling bark of Acer griseum complete this late summer scene.
16. Yellow stemmed dogwood and black lily grass
Yellow stem dogwood with black Ophiopogon lily grass
Yellow stemmed dogwood and black lily grass
A real contrast of yellow stem Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea' and black lily grass Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens works well. How about you?
17. Red stem Cornus alba and Euonymus
Red stemmed dogwoods in variegated Euonymus
Red stem Cornus alba Westonbirt and variegated Euonymus
This red stem Cornus alba 'Westonbirt' and variegated Euonymus fortunei combination looks great all winter in Cambridge Botanic winter garden.
18. Bergenia and Acorus in winter
A plant in a garden
Bergenia and Acorus in winter
Some Bergenia varieties change to a wonderfully rich dark purple when temperatures drop. Teamed with a variegated sedge or evergreen grass, this is a striking winter plant combination!
19. Banana, Canna Lilies, Persicaria and Dahlias
The tropical garden at RHS Wisley garden
Tropical garden at RHS Wisley
It's hard to appreciate that this scene is an outdoor garden at RHS Wisley in southeast England. It immediately conjures up a feeling of a tropical hot steamy summer. Banana, Canna, Persicaria and dahlias are the main components here.

Recreate one of these displays yourself using plants from Candide!

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