Garden Design: Combining Plants

  • 01 of 05

    Using Nepeta in Garden Design

    Nepeta siberica (Siberian Catmint)
    Combining Plants for Different Effects Nepeta siberica (Siberian Catmint). Marie Iannotti

    One Plant Three Ways

    Gardeners can get into a rut when designing. We become familiar with certain plants used certain ways. But sometimes the most mundane plants can be exactly what we need. We just need to see them with a new perspective.

    Even the most overlooked plants can be key players in garden design. It all depends on how you use them.

    Nepeta, or catmint, is a versatile, hardy perennial that doesn't really get the respect it deserves in the garden. It comes in shades of vibrant bluish purple, like this Siberian catmint, as well as soft pinks and whites. The grey foliage is attractive and deer resistant. Cut the whole plant back after flowering and it will grow back and rebloom. In many cooler climates, Nepeta is recommended as a substitute for lavender. But Nepeta has its own merits and can be grown most anywhere, whether the winters are cold and snowy or the climate stays hot and dry.

    And, as we'll see, Nepeta combines beautifully with other garden plants. You can achieve the effect you desire by choosing the right combinations.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Nepeta - Texture and Color

    Using Nepeta in the Garden Border
    A Staple of the Perennial Border Using Nepeta in the Garden Border. Marie Iannotti

    Nepeta doesn't need an excuse to be included in the flower border. It is a great performing perennial that adds vivid long lasting color. Nepeta also features tall, spiky flower heads and soft, gray leaves, giving you the trifecta of garden design: color, form and texture.

    Here Nepeta is used subtly as a spot of color and a counterpoint to the pointed leaves of the grass.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05


    Roses underplanted with Nepeta
    Using Nepeta to Hide Rose Knees Roses underplanted with Nepeta. Marie Iannotti

    A classic use for Nepeta is in underplanting roses. Many roses get tall and gangly, exposing ugly knees. Nepeta covers the knees without covering the rose blooms. Nepeta's small, gray foliage generally gets lost in a blur, with just the complementary blue flower spikes in view, to blend with the rose flowers.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Nepeta in a Natural Garden

    Nepeta in the Rock Garden
    Nepeta in the Rock Garden. Marie Iannotti

    Nepetas spread slowly and although they can provide a sprawling look, tend to remain in clumps. Here a rock garden is liberally sprinkled with small clumps of a lower growing nepeta. You wouldn't normally think of Nepeta as an alpine plant, but since it is so adaptable and drought tolerant, it is quite at home here. It almost looks like a creeping Phlox and behaves somewhat like a sedum. But its fuzzy pastel nature works wonderfully with the natural stone and softens what might otherwise have been an austere garden.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Formality with Repetition

    Nepeta Used as Edging
    Nepeta Used as Edging. Marie Iannotti

    Straight, geometric lines lend formality to garden design. This archway is edged with Nepeta and both the straight line of the walkway and the use of a single plant as edging say formality. Yet Nepeta isn't naturally a formal plant, and so as in the rock garden, it tends to add its own softness to the scene. The formality remains, but it's less imposing than a clipped hedge of boxwood and perhaps more inviting.