Plant Combo for Sun with Fab Foliage and Summer Flowers

This combination highlights foliage but integrates long-blooming perennials for a vibrant summer display. As spring unfolds, you will appreciate the Spanish lavender's charming purple caps—not just for their beauty but also for their delightful fragrance. Around the same time, or shortly thereafter, the lavender is accompanied by the whorls of yellow phlomis blooms, adding architectural interest. These uniquely shaped flowers maintain their allure with attractive dried seed heads post-bloom. Next in queue, the coneflower will begin their long progression of blooms. All of these flowering perennials are beloved by pollinators.

Our native vine maple (Acer circinatum) anchors this plant combination, providing reliability as a small tree in Pacific Northwest gardens with bright green spring foliage and stunning fall colors.

The dark foliage of the dwarf barberry (Berberis 'Admiration') and smokebush (Cotinus Winecraft Black) adds a striking color accent from spring to fall, creating contrast with the silver and gray foliage of other plants in the ensemble. The dwarf smokebush, aptly named, dons frothy tufts of pink in summer, particularly captivating when backlit. While both maintain a steady deep red throughout summer, their colors intensify in fall, adopting multiple shades, including orange and yellow.

The fuzzy gray foliage of Stachys 'Helene von Stein' serves as a reliable, easy-to-grow ground cover, forming a weed-smothering carpet on the ground plane. This gray foliage complements the red foliage of the barberry.

The grass's tall, upright form provides a vertical lift to the scene, catching the breeze and adding a sense of animated movement and flow when in flower.

In winter, the basal foliage of Phlomis and Stachys is present but not flashy. To enhance winter appeal, consider keeping the dormant foliage and flowers of coneflower (echinacea), phlomis, and switch grass (Panicum) as winter treats for birds and insects. Covered with a hint of frost or light snow, they create a picturesque scene.

Consider situating this combination where winter interest isn't a top priority; beyond that, it delivers a very solid performance for three seasons, from early spring to late fall. Picea pungens 'Montgomery' contributes wonderful winter structure, but otherwise, this plant combination may seem a bit subdued in the depths of winter.

Ideal for full sun in USDA zones 7 and 8, it might also thrive in Zone 9 with careful placement away from intense, dry, reflected heat. Once established, this combination is highly waterwise, requiring only occasional watering to maintain its appeal.

Coming soon: detailed planting plans that will help you to incorporate this plant combination in your garden.

Growing Conditions

Zone: 7, 8
Exposure: Afternoon Sun, Full Sun
Water Needs: Drought-tolerant, Low, Occasional

Design Considerations

Style: Naturalistic, Northwest Eclectic, Waterwise, Wildlife Friendly
Features: Attracts Pollinator, Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Fabulous Foliage, Fall Color, Flower Fest, Varied Foliage, Texture, and Form, Wildlife Friendly
Focus: Hellstrip / Parking Strip, Mixed Border, Pleasing Seasonal Flow, Saving Water
Seasons of Interest: Late Spring / Early Summer, Late Summer / Early Fall, Pleasing Seasonal Changes, Summer, Three Seasons of Interest

Care and Maintenance

Maintenance Level: medium
Maintenance Tasks: Deadheading, Divide Plants to Rejuvenate

Plants In this Combo