Is that too wordy a title?
It's the question I, as a gardener, get most from people who want to garden. After ten years of active gardening, seven of them on our current property, I finally feel like I know what the hell I'm doing and like I can actually answer that question intelligently. So here are some of my favorite combos of plants, planted for both the reasons noted above: they look good together, and they bloom at (approximately) the same time.
Iris, Nepeta and Alliums
These three are made for each other. I have Allium "Globemaster" (which you can find at any garden center, or google to find online for fall planting) paired up with Iris "Immortality" (also easily found). I like "Immortality" because they are very fragrant but also because they are a re-blooming variety, so you get the bonus of another flush of flowers in the fall.
Nepeta, or catmint, is a terrific investment, poor man's lavender. It's el cheapo, grows beautifully at the base of iris or practically any other tall flower, and its purple blooms last a long time. When the blooms are spent and the plant is getting leggy, gather it all up in one hand and shear it off with the other. I mean shear it. Hard. To the ground. It loves it. It will regroup and bloom again for you, then you shear it again, and repeat all through the season. It will also drop seedlings that you can transplant elsewhere, so you really get a lot of bang for your buck.
Together in spring they look terrific:
I also have a gorgeous blue iris called "Batik" which I don't see much in catalogues anymore but you can google around and find it on a few websites. I I had the idea that since I have colored alliums near white iris, I should plant white alliums near my colored iris. These "Mount Everest" ones would look amazing next to Batik.
Lady's Mantle and Geranium
I have Lady's Mantle everywhere, it is my favorite filler flower in the world. The little yellow-chartreuse blooms look good next to anything both in the border and in the vase. I especially like clumps of them planted with any kind of perennial geranium. You really get a great show of color and foliage. Lady's Mantle looks great at the base of irises, too.
Foliage and Shade Plants Combos
I love this shady section of my lower stone wall. There's not much flower action going on, other than a couple of rogue, purple columbines. Everything else is foliage plants: ferns, hosta, lady's mantle, bronze fennel and hellebores. It's a study in brown and green, but I love how it looks with all the different leaf shapes and textures. The hellebore, center bottom of the picture below, is not a true Lenten Rose, but what's called a "Stinking Hellebore". It's a less expensive variety with bunches of chartreuse, cup-shaped flowers. I've really grown to love them, especially since they are amazing re-seeders so from a few plants I've been able to have them everywhere in my gardens, plus share them with friends.
Speaking of columbines, talk about bang for your buck. These are prolific little suckers and if you just let them alone after they flower, they will drop seedlings anywhere and everywhere. Then you just let them grow there, or scoop them up and plant them somewhere else. I love huge drifts of them like this:
My liberal bleeding hearts are out of control. I grow the old-fashioned kind and the newer "Golden Heart" breed with the chartreuse leaves. I combine them with hostas and forget-me-nots.
Next installment of PTLGTBST will feature Siberian Iris, Poppies, Baptisia and Peonies. They're next in line to bloom.