Before my garden design training I struggled to create successful plant combinations in the garden and have found a few of the principles taught to me a revelation. One of the simplest plant design concepts was to use plants that have complementing and contrasting characteristics. The little grouping below works within this simple guideline. It developed over time as I acquired plants and cuttings from various sources. Living as I do in a rental property I have to be more circumspect on my garden spending than I perhaps would be if the garden was my own.
It is complemented by the blue/green strappy leaves of the Renga renga lily as it is known in
Background: Aechmea fasciata “silver vase plant”
Middle: Plectranthus argentatus and Clivia miniata
Foreground: Arthropodium cirrahtum “Parnell”
Also in the grey palette is the bromeliad Aechmea fasciata, the silver vase plant which is most likely the home for the aforementioned snails. However this epiphyte’s tolerance of intolerable conditions keeps it in favour it lives at the base of the Silver Birch tree. This one has strange pink inflorescences which appear in winter. I have become a bit of a convert to bromeliads of late finding them happily tolerating my difficult garden conditions.
The contrasting colour in all of this is the fat dark green strappy leaves of the Clivia miniata, I think this one is a Belgian hybrid (it came from a client’s garden). In my view the Belgian hybrids are the showiest variety having the glossiest leaves and brightest flowers. I love their bright orange flowers but equally if not more love the contribution their foliage makes year round to the garden. Totally pest free and undemanding they are my heroes of dry shade. They also thrive as container plants and I have a huge pot of them that I shunt around the garden depending on the season.
My plan now is to add at the front of the bed the cascading form of the native Dichondra “
Of course in planting it is not all about aesthetics and the plants must all be compatible with the growing conditions. In this case these plants live in almost permanent deep and very dry shade exacerbated by our strict water restrictions here in Melbourne. They are planted beneath a weeping Silver Birch (the lovely silvery bark is in the background of the photo) and an Australian Frangipani Tree (Hymenosporum flavum) and next to a 3m high brick wall covered with the beastly (in my opinion) creeping fig (Ficus pumila) which grows year round in a relentless and determined fashion. They are quite content in these conditions and their silver tones give this dark little corner of the courtyard a lovely lift particularly at the gloomier times of year.
Plectranthus argentatus: This plant seems virtually indestructible and while it does wilt in hot summer sun it will survive in sun or shade and can be easily grown from cuttings. It is native to the north coast of
Arthropodium cirrahtum “Parnell” this variety has the bluish tinge to the foliage that works so well in this combination. In my experience in full shade it doesn’t flower so if you are after flowers I would suggest planting in slightly brighter conditions. As I mentioned it can be susceptible to snail damage.