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Floral companions to plant under roses.

Good choices to cover bare soil

GARDENERS DELIGHT in growing roses. But all too often the plants are displayed in bare patches of soil without any attention to what grows beneath or between them. A good way to dress up the legs of gawky hybrid teas or add a carpet of color beneath the greenery of shrub roses is to cover the ground with flowering annuals or perennials.

A good companion plant must be colorful, form a bushy carpet, and grow no more than about 1 1/2 feet tall. The best plants generally have a long bloom season--preferably midspring through summer--that is compatible with the bloom season of the roses. In some cases, you may decide to sacrifice length of bloom for a particularly showy plant, such as the nemesia shown below.


Landscape designer Elaine Schlegel, whose Carmel Valley, California, garden is pictured at left, completely covers the soil under her roses with flowering plants.

"My three favorites--catmint, Santa Barbara daisy, and sweet alyssum--have staying power in the heat. They look good at least nine months of the year and are very easy to grow," she explains.

For added impact, Schlegel intersperses Antique Shades pansies with catmint (pansies "look outstanding planted under apricot roses") and interplants freesias through Santa Barbara daisy and sweet alyssum; the thick ground covers help keep the freesias from falling over in rain and wind. Alyssum can be used in a variety of shades, from white to apricot to purple.

Other good choices to consider (including some with shorter bloom times) are twin-spur (Diascia rigescens); forget-me-not; Johnny-jump-up; blue, purplish, or white lobelia; nemesia; and ground cover verbenas (V. peruviana, V. pulchella gracilior).

Alyssum, forget-me-not, Johnny-jump-up, lobelia, and nemesia can be planted from seeds or seedlings (when starting from seed, all but the lobelia are best planted in fall). If sowing seeds directly, broadcast them evenly so they form a carpet under the roses.

Plant Diascia, Santa Barbara daisy, and verbena from sixpacks, 4-inch pots, or 1-gallon cans. Set plants close enough so that they grow together (to determine spacing, check plant tags or the Sunset Western Garden Book).

Water plants often enough to keep the soil moist. (You'll still need to deep-water the roses periodically.)
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Author:Swezey, Lauren Bonar
Date:Mar 1, 1994
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