By: Vickie Schurter
Color, form, and texture. Those are the three elements of garden design to keep in mind as we expand our gardening skills to include more than roses.
First, however, we need to decide why we want to grow other plants with (or near) our roses.
- Provide harmony in the landscape.
- Provide color between flushes of rose blooms.
- Provide year-round color.
- Help soften the look of container-grown roses.
- Hide or highlight a garden feature.
- Create moods.
- Fill in around or under roses.
- Help define focal points.
You can use color to create moods. For example, red/yellow and pink/dark blue color combinations have a dramatic effect while a variety of pink shades (such as Bonica with pink geraniums and pink artemesia) can create a soothing mood. Grow bright red roses against a stone wall for maximum impact. Use more white for bolder mass plantings (such as sweet alyssum, petunias, lamb’s ear, dusty miller, and artemesia). White plantings next to pink roses make the pinks brighter.
Some other color suggestions:
- Red roses/yellow marigolds
- Red roses/white shasta daisies
- Orange lilies or marigolds/yellow roses
- Yellow roses/blue salvia
- Blue companion plants: lobelia, cornflowers, blue flax, bellflowers, veronica, ageratum.
- Violet companion plants, such as heliotrope, are good with yellows, pinks, and whites.
It is difficult to plan colors around some bicolor roses. Try companion plants that complement the most intense hues of the roses.
When you choose companion plants, pay special attention to texture – to plant surface, edges, and leaf and flower shapes, especially in the winter. For example, rugosas, OGRS, and some floribundas have soft, lacy textures. Hybrid teas have bold, coarse textures.
Contrast the soft textures with bold, open ones, such as iris and lilies. Contrast the hybrid teas with perennial geraniums, dusty miller, candytuft, dwarf nandina, and mugho pines. Some of these provide winter color as well as texture.
When it comes to form, roses are permanent, rigid fixtures in your landscape, Spring-blooming bulbs such as crocus, scilla, anemones, iris reticulata, daffodils, and tulips provide color and soften the bare look of the rose garden in early spring. Azaleas and dwarf rhodies provide contrast to the winter/spring rose forms. Other shrubs, such as Rose of Sharon, lilacs, hydrangeas, and forsythia also work well with roses. And use structures such as arbors, sundials, and gazing balls to add focal points to the garden.
Herbs make good companion plants. Use lavenders as a border or base. Use scented geraniums for fragrance, or to provide a soft texture. Herbs help to control some bugs: chives help roses resist aphids while marigolds (not an herb) attract bugs and slugs. Be careful – if you’re using the herbs for culinary purposes you should incorporate more organic gardening methods.
When you add companion plants to your rose landscape, it’s important to choose plants with similar cultural needs. The reward, however, is having a variety of plants that provide color, form, and texture year-round. Many are good companions in rose bouquets, and others do well in potpourris or dried arrangements.
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