Gardening: Finding the perfect plant match


I've always been envious of people who can throw on a wild selection of mismatched clothes and look fabulous.


It was definitely "the look" in the 70s when hippie fashion demanded you look like you'd dressed out of the giveaway bag at the op shop, which many of us did.

Sadly, while others chose whatever had the greatest array of colours, I was always fossicking around in the leftovers looking for things that matched. Pathetic.

Not a lot has changed. Everything in my wardrobe goes with everything else in my wardrobe which, if nothing else, makes getting dressed when blind drunk, or during a power failure, less of a fashion risk.

It's not a useful characteristic in the world of tops and bottoms, but it is in the garden. Plant matching is one of those talents that enables you to create (to borrow an expression from the late Lyn of Tawa) a visual symphony.

And it's not actually about colour, but about putting together a pleasing arrangement of shapes, heights, textures and density that take on an architectural form.

It's easy enough to achieve this with hard landscaping, which can give a garden area a focus and a mood. But when that's not an option, it pays to know which plants play nicely together without the distraction of a path, pergola or paving.

Finding credible information on how to do this is near on impossible. Type "plant matching" or a variation thereof into Google and you will find out how to match plants to sites, plants to environment, plants to soil, plants to pests, plants to paint colours and vegetable plants to other vegetable plants. But ornamental plants to each other? You're on your own.

Our Sunday drives, which we only ever have if it's raining, are punctuated with yells of "stop, what are those, they look great together" and the flashing of the camera that lives in the glove box for such occasions.


We've also made exciting discoveries in the local garden centres, where someone has dumped a gang of somethings with a group of other somethings and they just happen to love each other.


We recently found half a dozen little native trees, the name of which eludes me, alongside a couple of terminally ill yucca.


The natives had tiny leaves on disorganised, weeping branches - a perfect foil to the disciplined spikes of the yucca.


We'd already planted a row of yucca and these wee natives are now providing the perfect backdrop.


Likewise a planting of the small leafed, cutesy orange jessamine with stroppy, strappy Lomandra Longifolia, and a new, very blue lavender with frondy foliage alongside a big astelia, are doing the visual symphony thing.

As well as choosing plants with contrasting or complementary foliage, it's a good idea to look at sizes and shapes.

Matching leaves is all very well, but it'll be more like a single, repetitive note than a visual symphony if everything is the same height and shape. Include tall, short, thin, fat, lush and leggy plants: as with humans, all have a part to play.

- Hamilton News

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 27 Dec 2014 23:45:53 Processing Time: 444ms