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GARDENING: The perfect BEDfellows; Blooms that look perfect planted side-by-side.

Byline: ADRIENNE WILD

TRY a new way of choosing plants this summer - look for those that team up in harmonious shades and forms. With a clever use of these "plant pals" you'll be guaranteed some great displays...

Allium & astrantia

THERE'S nothing more impressive at this time of year than having the bold pompom blooms of allium purple sensation poking through the new season's flowers and foliage. Grow them in bold drifts for maximum impact - and team them with ground-hugging varieties like astrantia roma, which produces branched heads of pincushion flowers surrounded by greenish wine-red bracts.

EXPERT TIP: Astrantia make a good ground cover plant in moisture-retentive soil and will self-seed freely. Cut back the blooms before they run to seed to get a second flush.

Plant the allium bulbs in autumn.

HOW MUCH? Astrantia pounds 6.95 (www.crocus.co.uk, 0870 787 1413); allium bulbs pounds 10.99 for 20 (www.gardeningexpress.co.uk, 0800 033 6161).

Red-hot poker & pampas grass

THE flower heads of kniphofia, or red-hot pokers, will stoke the embers of a flagging border in late summer. They command more attention when planted against the silky white flower plumes of the dwarf pampas grass, cortaderia pumilla.

EXPERT TIP:Pampas will tolerate everything from poor, dry, sandy soils to heavy, damp clays. It will also grow in full sun and partial shade.

HOW MUCH? Kniphofia pounds 4.40 (www.binny plants.co.uk, 01506 858931); pampas pounds 5.99 (www.potandgrass.co.uk, 01206 382861).

Foxgloves & monarda

VERTICALS and horizontals make a striking combination - so poking a few plants with elegant, candle-like flower spikes, such as those of the golden- brown foxglove digitalis ferruginea, through a drift of the crown-like blooms of monarda gardenview scarlet (bergamot) will turn heads.

EXPERT TIP: A spot with a little bit of shade will keep the foxglove happy enough to self-seed. Moist, well-draining soil and mulching in early spring will bring out the best in both plants.

HOW MUCH? Monarda pounds 3.50 (www.west countrylupins.co.uk, 01237 431111); foxglove pounds 5.45 (www.crocus.co.uk, 0870 787 1413).

Dusty miller & verbena

THE jagged, silver foliage of dusty miller provides a great foil for purple and magenta flowers. In particular, the fragrant flowers of verbenas look impressive when planted with them.

EXPERT TIP: You can raise verbenas and dusty millers easily from seeds, or buy reasonably-priced young plants, making them a cheap and effective way to add colour and smother weeds.

HOW MUCH? Ready-grown summer bedding from around pounds 2.95 for six at garden centres.

Euphorbia & montbretia

YELLOW is at its vibrant best when combined with red. For a modern take, try the greeny-yellow euphorbia palustris alongside crocosmia lucifer (montbretia), which has paprika red blooms.

EXPERT TIP: These vibrant blooms also combine well with dahlias and cannas to give an exotic look to a border. They both grow well in cold districts and the euphorbia, unlike most of its family, will grow in moist soil, so it is a good choice for a bog garden.

HOW MUCH? Crocosmia pounds 5.95 (www.gardening express.co.uk, 0800 033 6161); Euphorbia pounds 3.95 (www.penlanperennials.co.uk, 01239 851244).

Verbena & reed grass

WHEN backlit by late summer sunshine, verbena bonariensis is a sight to behold when planted against a backcloth of the evergreen Korean feather reed grass. A rival to buddleja for attracting butterflies, verbena is a must-have for prairie style planting and creates a peep-through veil of colour among other flowering perennials.

EXPERT TIP: The verbena is a short-lived perennial - and may also be lost to winter frosts. It is fairly promiscuous though, and will self-seed freely, so go careful with the hoe.

HOW MUCH? Three verbenas pounds 14; reed grass pounds 6.95 (www.crocus.co.uk, 0870 787 1413).

Salvia & stipa

GRASSES are natural companions for many summer-flowering plants. The spikes of indigoblue flowers produced by the ever-popular salvia mainacht look especially stunning when allowed to weave their way through the pale, wispy, yellow green leaves of stipa tenuifolia (pheasant grass).

EXPERT TIP:This reliable pair thrive in well-drained soil and full sun. The grass is perfect for adding movement into a planting scheme and the salvia is a magnet to butterflies.

HOW MUCH? Salvias pounds 5.95 (www.crocus.co.uk, 0870 787 1413 ) ; stipa pounds 6.05 (www.gardeningexpress.co.uk, 0800 033 6161).

CAPTION(S):

Allium & astrantia Purple pompoms of allium are perfect with astrantia roma's small red flowers; Red-hot poker & pampas grass; Foxgloves & monarda; Dusty miller & verbena; Euphorbia & montbretia; Verbena & reed grass; Salvia & stipa
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 11, 2008
Words:763
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