Great Companion Plants For a Cottage Garden: Astrantia

Astrantias at Arley Hall

First, What is a companion plant?

Plant society members often think of their ‘pet’ plants as the stars of any border: flowering perennials, shrubs, trees and climbing plants that are guaranteed to turn heads. Think of peonies, roses, hydrangeas, day lilies, dahlias, delphiniums, hollyhocks, or even topiary as in the picture of Arley Hall, above.

Companion plants are the ones with a supportive role. They are chosen to complement the feature plants, contrasting or harmonising with them, in colour, texture or form. I can’t imagine a traditional herbaceous border without companions to fill in the gaps and create a tapestry effect. While companions add to the richness and diversity of the garden, they will not compete too aggressively for the limelight or for resources such as food, water or space. They create a healthier ecosystem by attracting beneficial insects.

Many of my favourite companion plants are long-flowering, allowing the garden to transition seamlessly from one season to another. You might have overlooked every one of the companion plants I’ll be highlighting in this short series of posts, but I believe they’re worth their moment in the spotlight.

Astrantia (masterwort)

Red astrantia

Astrantias are such useful, trouble-free companion plants that you’d be hard pressed to find a major English garden without them. Masses of small umbels are held airily on wiry stems like a profusion of stars, as their Latin name suggests. The intricate, lacey flowers are encircled by papery bracts of varying lengths.  Continue reading

Rosa Red Cascade: A Repeat-flowering Miniature Climbing Rose

Rosa 'Red Cascade'

Some of the most picturesque American roses (to my British eyes, at least) have been encouraged to clamber over fences. That’s how Rosa ‘Red Cascade’ managed to sneak its way into my heart. If ever a rose was destined to make a plain fence seem more interesting, this is it. The first time I noticed it growing was in tough conditions, in full sun, on a mesh fence, in a graveyard in Jackson, Mississippi. If it had been flowering at all, I’d have been impressed, but this plant was liberally covered with red blooms.

While ‘Red Cascade’ is often sold as a miniature climber, ‘miniature’ describes the flowers more accurately than the habit of the plant. The Antique Rose Emporium has trained one to grow up a 15ft (4.5m) pillar.  Continue reading

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs: a private tour

Daffodil e

It may seem unseasonal to post pictures of daffodils in the autumn, but far from it: if you live in the northern hemisphere, this is a great time to plant bulbs for flowers next spring. Meanwhile, the gardens of my Australian blogging buddies seem to be full of life all of a sudden, so I imagine it’s daffodil season there.

Either way, I’d only need the flimsiest of excuses to belatedly share pictures from our visit to Brent and Becky Heath, including some taken in their private garden, trial grounds and growing fields. I’m not a daffodil expert so please don’t ask me for their names!

The Bulb Shoppe

Continue reading