Two spring plant combinations to try

Beckie Fox

Updated on:

Purple alliums, columbines and camassias fill a display border at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.
Purple alliums, columbines and camassias fill a display border at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.
Purple alliums, columbines and camassias fill a display border at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania.

Parts of Canada are still snow-covered (at least where I garden), but thankfully it’s March and milder spring weather can’t be far behind. Here are two of my favourite spring plant combinations that would be easy to recreate in most Canadian gardens. The first was inspired by a visit to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania last year; the second is a coincidental pairing from my own garden that I hope to expand upon this year.

Combo One: The spheres of tall alliums (possibly ‘Purple Sensation’) punctuated a planting of frilly mixed columbines (Aquilegia hybrids) in a perennial border at Longwood. Adding sparkle and more soft blue were camassias, a late-blooming spring bulb.

Longwood dismantles its main display borders each season, impractical for home gardeners. If I were recreating this border in my own garden, I would want to extend the colour into summer. By weaving in daylilies, tall veronicas and Verbena bonariensis  — all plants with fairly narrow profiles — I would accomplish this, and extend the pink, purple and white colours of this border. Admittedly, the verbena isn’t hardy, but it often self-seeds as long as you’re careful not to weed out the seedlings in early spring.

The rich colours of snake’s head fritillary and brunnera offer a spring surprise.
The rich colours of snake’s head fritillary and brunnera offer a spring surprise.

Combo Two: This was pure serendipity. One fall, I transplanted a clump of unvariegated Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) to fill a bare spot, not realizing dormant snake’s head fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) were resting there. The following spring, the checkered blooms of the fritillary poked up through the dense bugloss foliage and the blue bugloss and maroon fritillary flowers made a pretty tapestry of rich, saturated colours.

The hardy bulbs mentioned in these two combinations need to be planted in the fall. The perennials (with the exception of the verbena) are hardy to at least Zone 4, and are easy to find in most garden centres.

What’s your favourite spring combination?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

7 thoughts on “Two spring plant combinations to try”

  1. Finding plant combos in the garden is one of my favorite things. Usually it”s a fluke! I was reading the caption for the Longwood gardens combo and I realized I planted a few groupings of cammasia bulbs last year in among my alliums and there already is a few white/green columbines growing there, should be fun to see the results. Mine is not as full as Longwood! That would be amazing.
    I did a few on purpose bulb plantings the previous fall with early shorter narsissus (February Gold) and a botanical orange tulip(praestans shogun), turned out fun and another combo with yellow and pink tulips, too bad I can’t put a picture here! Also have a nice combo of the darker maroon hellebores(orientallis) and alpine pink primulas.
    I do yellow and pink combos later in the season with lilies(mixed) and mulleins(verbascum chaixii) and coneflowers and rudbeckias. Love your combo too as I have those fritillaria and I have forget-me-nots coming up everywhere, must check to see if they bloom the same time, if not I can move some brunnera with them. Thanks for the ideas! TTFN…Susan

    Reply
  2. Looking forward to a copy of your magazine for viewing again. I had subscribed for many years since to your first publication. As a matter of fact since your first year of your first copy was issued.

    Reply
  3. Thank you very much for sending my friend Rose a sample magazine copy. We both belong to the Flamborough Horticultural Society in Ontario and are neighbors also.

    Liz Henderson

    Reply

Leave a Comment