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Companion Planting


I had the good fortune to tour some famous English gardens in the spring. I was most impressed with "Great Dixter", the garden now owned and managed by gardener/writer Christopher Lloyd. Plant combinations were what set this garden apart from all the others.

I'm now at the stage in my own garden when I'm looking at what appears and thinking about what could be. My list of fall purchases has only just begun!

The right plant combinations will transform an average garden into a great garden. It is rare that an individual plant, marooned in a sea of lawn, will be captivating. The most pleasing sights are individuals which shine amidst a well selected planting partner or partners. Experimenting with the infinite possibilities of plant combinations makes gardening so diverse and challenging.

At Great Dixter, red tulips were surrounded by lupins, not yet in flower. The foliage of the lupins formed a pleasing ground cover beneath the tulips and you could anticipate the beauty of a single bank of lupins in about one months time. We usually plant tulips in one area, roses in another etc., but mixing plants leads to much more interesting possibilities. Another winning trio combined early flowering yellow Anemones, the grey foliaged lamb's ears and the later flowering Siberian iris. Granted, these beds would eventually fall out of the lime light, but the plant combinations will extend the glory of that section of the garden.

Plant combinations are chosen because of the aesthetic appeal of the mixture of foliage and flowers.The long term success of the combinations is determined by the ability of the plants to co-exist. The plants cannot be invasive because they will out-compete the others. In your own garden, there will be areas where some combinations work but will fail in others because of a slight change in the growing conditions. This difference in light, water or soil type will give one plant an advantage over the other. You can try to mimic combinations from gardens you have seen, but trial and error is often the best way to find your own winning combinations.

Companion planting in vegetable gardening is done more for the success of the vegetable crop than the aesthetic appeal. Certain combinations are known to produce better results because the plants help each other. Bush beans and potatoes, for example, are excellent companions because they protect each other from beetle attack. Radishes can be planted in the same row as carrots because the radishes will germinate rapidly and loosen the soil for the later emerging carrots. The radishes are harvested and the carrots are left to fill in the spaces. Pumpkins or squash can be grown with corn to keep the weeds out, to make a small plot of land more productive and they may offer some protection from raccoons.

Flowers and vegetables are excellent companions both for the aesthetic appeal and the protection from pests they can offer each other. Garlic is one of my favourite additions to the perennial garden. The distinctive odour will keep away many chewing insects and the flower heads, which appear in July, are a special and unique addition for most beds. Nasturtiums will attract flea beetles and keep them away from your greens. Before the beetles arrive, you have both a lovely flower display and a tasty addition to your salads from the nasturtium leaves and flowers.

Marigolds tend to repel many insects and rodents from the vegetables due to the unpleasant odour which comes from the leaves. Basil, sage, parsley and coriander are all attractive and useful components of the flower garden.

Plants assist or harm each other through their odour, root secretions and their effects on soil nutrients. The poisonous secretions of the Black Walnut is reasonably well known by most gardeners. The poison, secreted by the roots, prevents most plants from growing near its base. This is an excellent example of the profound effect that plants have on each other.

It is not completely understood how and why plants make good companions. By experimenting, observing and sharing ideas with other gardeners we can learn some important clues to successful gardening.


Daisy Moore, 1998.



Other summer garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Extreme Conditions
Growing Roses
Summer Lawn Care
Propogation by Cuttings
Sources of Native Plants
Making Sense of Fertilizer Labels
Annual/Perennial Combinations
Climbing Plants
The Dry Garden
Ornamental Grasses
Chooosing A Good Gardening Book
Companion Planting
Preparing the Compost for Fall Use
Getting the Most out of your Vegetable Garden
Repairing Lawns From Summer Stress
All About Grubs
All About Onions
Useful Herbs for the Home Garden
Screens and Hedges




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Daisy Moore 2005