• Amsterdam Garden Centre

8 High-Contrast Perennial Pairings

The hot, glaring sun washes out colour, so you have to brighten things up in the plant department in order to get a little more "pop" out of your garden. One of the best ways to do this is to utilize richly-hued perennials in tandem to provoke that colour burst, which will focus attention on a particular part of your landscape. The trick here is to use them sparingly and well-spaced, as too many bright tones will simply throw your landscape into polychromatic chaos. So, here are eight perennial combinations for the sun that should put up with the heat and still catch the eye.


Coreopsis ‘Jethro Tull’ & Salvia nemerosa ‘Blue Marvel’

Coreopsis ‘Jethro Tull’ & Salvia nemerosa ‘Blue Marvel’
Coreopsis ‘Jethro Tull’ & Salvia nemerosa ‘Blue Marvel’

Our first combination includes Coreopsis ‘Jethro Tull’ (Z4), a natural hybrid of Coreopsis auriculata ‘Zamphir’ and C. grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’. While I am not normally a fan of the latter, ‘Jethro Tull’ brings consistently fluted (tubular) golden-yellow petals and a floriferous nature to the table, but it is still important to occasionally deadhead the spent blooms. I have paired it up with an opposite hue on the colour wheel, the richly cerulean flowers of Salvia nemerosa ‘Blue Marvel’ (Z4), a compact cultivar (10-12” tall) which literally glows in front of the ‘Jethro Tull’.


Digitalis x valinii ‘Firebird’ & Echinacea ‘MOOODZ Meditation’

Digitalis x valinii ‘Firebird’ & Echinacea ‘MOOODZ Meditation’
Digitalis x valinii ‘Firebird’ & Echinacea ‘MOOODZ Meditation’

I am really excited about the new Foxglove (first introduced in the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show) featured in this next duo, as Digitalis x valinii ‘Firebird’ (Z7) features stately coppery-peach spires with pointed petals, and it blooms from May through summer with deadheading. I knew as soon as I saw them together, that the metallic yellow to salmon-pink rays of Echinacea ‘MOOODZ Meditation’ (Z4) were a perfect compliment to this new foxglove. This fast-growing coneflower will grow to 2’ tall, with ‘Firebird’ peaking behind it at 3’.


Gaillardia ‘Dwarf Goblin’ & Monarda ‘Balmy Purple’

Gaillardia ‘Dwarf Goblin’ & Monarda ‘Balmy Purple’
Gaillardia ‘Dwarf Goblin’ & Monarda ‘Balmy Purple’

This is about the sharpest of contrasts in garden design, but for the brave, a scarlet-yellow-purple combination screams for attention. We start with an old reliable Gaillardia ‘Dwarf Goblin’ (Z3) that bears radiant pinwheels of scarlet centers sharply edged in fringed yellow tips — these will bloom from early summer to fall with faithful deadheading. It can be paired side-by-side with the compact beebalm Monarda ‘Balmy Purple’ (Z4) which has intense purple blooms and good mildew resistance. Those of you having trouble overwintering Gaillardia should choose a site with sharp winter drainage, otherwise they rot out.


Flower Carpet Rose Scarlet & Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’

Flower Carpet Rose Scarlet & Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’
Flower Carpet Rose Scarlet & Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’

I cheated by introducing a shrub here, but the Flower Carpet Rose Scarlet (Z5) is so floriferous and compact (2-3’ tall and wide) that it really deserves to be planted more often with perennials. You can expect disease-resistant, glossy green foliage and double crimson blossoms from spring through to late autumn. Plant the variegated Lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’ (Z4) behind it (as it usually stretches to 3’ tall) and give it lots of room to spread, as it likes to form a large clump.


Crocosmia ‘George Davison’ & Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Bluesette’

Crocosmia ‘George Davison’ & Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Bluesette’
Crocosmia ‘George Davison’ & Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Bluesette’

Sometimes we can increase the effectiveness of lighter tones by throwing a brighter colour beside it. Such is the case in this classic blue-yellow pairing (which would make Monet proud) of Crocosmia ‘George Davison’ (Z5) and the Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Bluesette’ (Z4). ‘George Davison’ bears pure yellow flowers opening from pale orange buds from June to August and looks great when interspersed among the subtle lavender-blue flowers of the Russian Sage.


Echinacea ‘Delicious Candy’ & Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’

Echinacea ‘Delicious Candy’ & Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’
Echinacea ‘Delicious Candy’ & Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’

Yes, I used another Echinacea in this next partnership, but there are so many beautiful new varieties, that I couldn’t help myself. Echinacea ‘Delicious Candy’ (Z4) lives up to its name with vibrant fuchsia-pink cones and petals (18-24” tall) that persist from mid- to late-summer. Its twin is the variegated Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ (Z7) with evergreen foliage of silvery-blue and crisp cream margins. Both these perennials grow to the same height, so plant them side-by-side and the latter can also be substituted with ‘Glacier Blue’.


Phygelius ‘Colorburst Orange’ & Lavandula angustifolia ‘SuperBlue’

Phygelius ‘Colorburst Orange’ & Lavandula angustifolia ‘SuperBlue’
Phygelius ‘Colorburst Orange’ & Lavandula angustifolia ‘SuperBlue’

Cape Fuchsia is one of my favourite perennials, mostly because of its vast colour range, long season of bloom, and its use as a hummingbird attractant. For this combination, I chose a newer cultivar, Phygelius ‘Colorburst Orange’ (Z7) which is really more salmon and flowers from late May until early October. Its mate, Lavandula angustifolia ‘SuperBlue’ (Z5) bears intense violet-blue flowers at a height of about 16”, so plant it in the foreground and get ready to invite all those pollinators to your garden.


Echinacea ‘Sunny Days Lemon’ & Coreopsis verticillata ‘Hot Paprika’

Echinacea ‘Sunny Days Lemon’ & Coreopsis verticillata ‘Hot Paprika’
Echinacea ‘Sunny Days Lemon’ & Coreopsis verticillata ‘Hot Paprika’

My last partnership pairs yet another Echinacea, but one glance at the ‘Sunny Days Lemon’ (Z4) reveals why I have included it here, as the brilliant pom-pom canary-yellow blooms literally smother the mature 30”-tall canopy. We have moved a few steps over on the color wheel to contrast it with a dazzling Coreopsis verticillata ‘Hot Paprika’ (Z5), which bears eye-popping pure red daisies over fine foliage, maturing at 15-18” tall.


As of writing this blog post, all these perennials and the rose are in stock at Amsterdam Garden Centre, so if you want to give your garden that designer look, come on down and get them.


All images Copyright 2022 MK Lascelle


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