Dazzling plant combos

A review of "Designer Plant Combinations: 105 Stunning Gardens Using Six Plants or Fewer," by Scott Calhoun.

As an experienced gardener, I'm confident in my growing skills but am not so confident in the design department. I always figure I can get anything to grow – at least, until proven otherwise – but I often wonder what to plant with a new grass or perennial so that both look great together.

So I turned to a new book, "Designer Plant Combinations: 105 Stunning Gar­dens Using Six Plants or Fewer," by Scott Calhoun (Storey Publishing, $18.95).

Mr. Calhoun, a garden designer, doesn't overwhelm the reader with large lists of plants. Instead, he focuses on small, attractive groupings that each contain only a handful of plants. Sections are divided by type of plant – perennial partners, masses of grasses, annual acquaintances, accent plant associates, ground cover groupies, and buddies for woodies (trees and shrubs).

I especially liked globe thistle interwoven with a variegated ornamental grass. But actually, I was charmed by almost every garden vignette – there are photos of more than 100 combinations. Some I know I can't grow. Some I know I won't grow. But I admire them all because they worked.

So if, like me, you sometimes have trouble visualizing what plants will work well together, steal a few ideas from "Designer Plant Combinations." Your garden will be livelier for it.

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