Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Companion plants for roses and some color combos

I will definitely not say which colors do or do not work together, nor what anyone should or should not plant with roses. Color choices are very individual and there is nothing right or wrong about what colors (or shapes or textures) fit together for a particular person. Companion plants work or not depending on geographic location and gardening practices such as watering and pruning.

My personal preference is for a somewhat wild look without sharply defined shapes or spaces, and without carefully orchestrated color palettes. Something like this.

I like spiky plants with roses to break up the roses' rounded blooms. I have seen many pictures of roses growing with lavender and always wonder at the skill of the people who achieve that. In my garden, roses are mostly on regular sprinkler irrigation which lavender hates. Consequently all my lavender is dead except in one spot where I provide no water but there is some run-off from the neighbors' lawn irrigation. I wouldn't know how to achieve that on purpose... I miss that look though, and use purple and blue salvias, catmint and some penstemons for a somewhat similar effect.

I have a border of thyme along a section of the front yard. Thyme does well with sprinkler irrigation for a number of years and then declines. The roses are Carding Mill, Sophie's Perpetual and Lady Hillingdon.

Cranesbill and pelargoniums are a staple here and I grow a lot of them in my garden. The rose below is Sophie's Perpetual.

I prefer cranesbill with roses because the blooms are less showy and do not compete as much with roses.

Here is Margo Koster with cranesbill and thyme.

I like bacopa too, although mine do not seem to be long-lived. It is a nice unassuming ground cover that compliments roses well. The rose below is Jude the Obscure.

Verbena bonariensis is a tall coarse perennial, but useful for backfilling and providing color up on top. Here it is with Classic Woman.

I recently started planting hollihocks for vertical interest, and they have grown very well so far. Here is Creme de Cassis with Jude the Obscure.

Clematis is common with roses as it is a light airy vine (well, most of them) that comes in colors that compliment many roses so well. Here is Etoile Violette with Abraham Darby.

This is Crystal Fountain, a type II clematis. Type II clematis do not usually do well in warm climates, but this one has been pretty vigorous for me. I don't know how long lived mine will be as it is still young. I grow it over Mme Caroline Testout, cl.

True (non-purple) blue is pretty hard to come by in warm climate gardens. I like Bluebells (campanula rotundifolia) because they provide a wilder informal look. Mine have been in the ground in part shade for 3 years now and are doing well.

Another plant with sky-blue blooms is Cape Plumbago (plumbago auriculata), a tropical plant that could get quite big but mine thanksfully gets pruned every year by winter freezes. It was killed to the ground last winter but came back nicely. The roses are Sharifa Asma and Ebb Tide.

Here is salvia patens Blue Angel with a pink penstemon and Devoniensis. The salvia is one of the most saturated blues in the garden (along with Black-and-Blue salvia) but on its own is a very coarse plant. I planted it so that the clump is out of site and only the flower spikes are visible. Much better. It blooms from late spring to late summer.

I would like to mention gratefully my husband's artistic taste and flawless eye for color. He came up with this combination of Eugene de Beauharnais (purple) and Carding Mill (apricot), which never would have occurred to me on my own.

He also thought of planting Break o'Day with catmint. I am way too conventional to come up with such ideas. But it looks great.

Here is another rose with nepeta - a silvery pink Pretty Jessica goes beautifully with greyish purply blue.

I adore penstemons, and if I had more room I would start another collection. In addition to being healthy and fairly low maintenance plants with interesting blooms that come in many colors, penstemons are perfect companions for roses. They thrive in the same growing conditions and spiky leaves and flower stalks provide a nice contrast.

I miss wildflower meadows I used to see in my youth. It is strange to even talk about a meadow in my tiny garden, but I created a little border that looks like it to me with pink penstemon, alyssum, salvia Blue Angel and geranium Rozanne. The white rose is a young Devoniensis.

Bridal Wreath Spiraea (Spiraea cantoniensis 'Flore Pleno') is one of my favorite early spring-blooming shrubs (the other one being all varieties of loropetalum). The shrubs cover themselves with a profusion of small white double  blooms, and I readily forgive it its lanky growth habit, mildew and aphid infestations later in the year. The shrub to the right is the loropetalum rubrum "Razelberry".

My Snowball Viburum (Roseum) blooms right when most of my roses are at the peak of their spring flush. A really amazing sight that stops people in their track. Showball viburnums can grow into big airy vase-shaped shrubs here, but take well to pruning and can be kept smaller although the natural graceful habit of the plant will be lost. Here is mine blooming with Purple Pavement and Jude the Obscure.

And another picture of a Purple Pavement bloom inside the viburnum.


  1. Oh my gosh, I'm totally in awe of all the beauty you have growing there. My gardens look very anemic compared to yours.


  2. Thank you so much for sharing! Your garden is an inspiration! Beautiful art is your companion planting!

  3. Thank you so much, FlowerLady and Terri. I am glad you liked it.

  4. What a gorgeous collection of roses you have and thank you for this very inspirational post. Plenty of food for though! :)

  5. Thank you Peta. I am glad it is helpful.

  6. I think it is not Spiraea prunifolia.
    Could be Spiraea cantoniensis flore pleno.

  7. Thank you for catching that, Anonymous. I have no idea why I wrote that :). I will correct the text.

  8. bonjour macha,
    Quelles merveilles, je bave devant tant de beauté ! Votre époux a beaucoup de sensibilité et de goût c'est évident ! Merci à tout deux.
    A bientôt bonne continuation.
    Avec toute ma sympathie. Viviane

  9. Thank you so much for this post. I have been looking for inspiration, and this is exactly what I need. BEAUTIFUL!

  10. The garden vignettes of my dreams. I love them all-so beautiful. I would be interested in a follow-up post on the Devoniensis that you said was very young in one of the pictures. I'd like to see it this spring when it blooms again. Thank you for sharing your beautiful world with us.

  11. FANTASTIC photos of your lovely plantings!! A friend was actually looking for companion plantings for groundcover roses, which he and I had never heard of...

  12. Excellent photos and beautiful combinations! Thank you for sharing them with us!

  13. I love roses but not the bare beds. I had no idea that this beautiful combination planting was possible. Thank you for the inspiration. I am waiting for my new roses to arrive by courier. I can't wait to give them some friends.

  14. Right, that's it, I will be putting your blog on my blog's blogroll so that I can keep up with your posts ! Thanks for a really inspiring post, with loads of ideas for companion planting! Not to self - must plant more Verbena Bonariensis!

  15. I lived in San Jose for a while and I remember the roses were breathtaking. Perhaps it is the arid climate?
    And the old orchard trees too...
    Your pictures really make me miss it.


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