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Companion plants for roses: Top English rosarian's A-to-V list of options

David Austin's deep pink English rose 'Gertrude Jekyll' shown with blue Nepeta (catmint) and tall maroon-throated white Digitalis 'Pam's Choice' (foxglove). 'Gertrude Jekyll,' a fragrant, repeat blooming shrub rose, grows to 5 feet tall and 3-1/2 feet wide.What to plant with roses.

It is a quandary familiar to many rose-loving gardeners, and answers can be found in the life's work of English rosarian Michael Marriott. 

As a garden designer, his life has been a literal bed of roses. He has designed rose-filled private and public gardens including the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park

Marriott, senior rosarian for David Austin Roses in Albrighton, England, is known for his formal and informal planting of dense borders and beds of purely roses or roses mixed with perennials.

“The joy is in pairing flowers that play off one another, when seen side by side in full bloom," he says in a written release for David Austin English Roses. "The goal is to heighten peak bloom experiences."

As one might expect, Marriott loves roses. He delights in creating mixed borders with plant partners that enhance roses in bloom. He most often prefers sweeps of color – both complementary and contrasting – to create movement and lead the eye.

Marriott, whose suggested list of companion plants for roses follows, admits to a special fondness for the romantic informality of English roses, which he enhances by pairing them with cottage garden favorites and small-flowered plants with the look of wildflowers. His border designs feature massed plantings of like-with-like for impact and an overall calming effect.

As an organic gardener, he incorporates plants that are attractive to beneficial insects likely to devour aphids and other pests.

Below, Marriott shares his list of favorite perennials, biennials and annuals for planting with English roses.

“What you’ll find are plant partners that are fairly easy to grow and are likely to bloom when English roses do, either exactly or with close overlap," he says. "Some bloom with English roses earlier in the season, some later. Others have exceedingly long bloom seasons or may rebloom later as the roses rebloom,” says Marriott.

Marriott has played an important role in developing and popularizing English roses, and he has intimate knowledge of all of the 200 plus varieties bred and introduced by David Austin Roses, with which he has worked more than 30 years. David Austin shrub roses have flower colors that are rich but generally soft, and so they tend not to clash with other garden colors. In shape and dimensions, the rose bushes can be upright, but  typically more informal and shrubby. Thus they can fill in large spaces and pair well with other plants. Depending on the variety chosen, the climate and how they are pruned, English roses can grow from 3- to 6-feet tall. Additionally, English rose climbers can grow 8 to more than 12 feet tall. Repeat-blooming ramblers are bred to grow to manageable sizes of 8 to 10 feet.

Marriott includes companion plants of varied heights. Because English roses tend to bloom from the ground up, their large flowers are literally held at all heights, top to bottom. Thus opportunities for companionable bloom happen at many levels.

Still, asked to name which companion heights he feels work best, he puts the “sweet spot” at two feet to four feet tall. "This zone is where most partnering action occurs," he says.

Where two-foot plants provide a nice understory for roses; three- to four-foot plants fill in with blocks of color; while four-foot and taller companions are more architectural, thus marvelous as vertical accents among English Roses. Other companions contribute beautiful foliage.

Gardeners should consider their local growing conditions and garden style. Some plants will re-seed: a trait that may be charming in one garden and unwelcome in another.

Over decades of experimentation, he’s found fairly universal appeal in certain mixes. Asked to describe a sure crowd pleaser, he immediately suggests, "nearly any English Rose with blue flowers."

David Austin English Roses are available locally at Williams Nursery in Westfield, and by mail-order from

Michael Marriott’s long list of English Rose companions

'Winchester Cathedral' is underplanted a low-clipped boxwood hedge and Alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle) whose sprays of chartreuse blossoms complement the pure white roses.Achillea (yarrow) Delightful yarrow options are available in white, cream, pale or bright yellow, pink, mauve, reddish-purple, red and bi-colors. This cottage garden favorite with  distinctive flat-topped flowers is excellent for introducing a contrasting shape to borders. Benefits from cutbacks and control.  Perennial. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Blooms June-September. Full sun. Best in lean, dry to medium soil. Attracts butterflies. USDA Zones 3-9.

Agastache (giant hyssop) Choose long-blooming hybrids for showier flowers and better winter hardiness. A superb choice to add a vertical accent with spikes of fluffy purple or blue florets. Highly attractive to beneficial insects and butterflies.  Perennial. Grows 3 feet tall. Flower color is typically blue or purple but hybrids may be red, orange, pink, yellow or white. Consider A. ‘Blue Boa’ or A. ‘Black Adder’. Blooms July-September. Full sun. USDA Zones 5-9.

Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) A short, clumping perennial with an outsized presence in the early summer garden. Stands 18 inches tall, ideal for the front of borders. Its light green leaves are topped by dense clusters of tiny, frothy chartreuse flowers. But, pay heed as it can quickly overwhelm neighboring plants. Cut back hard after flowering to encourage fresh growth. Perennial. Grows 18 inches tall. Chartreuse flowers. Blooms in June. Prefers partial shade, handles full sun. USDA Zones 3-8.

Allium (ornamental onion) Plant allium bulbs in fall, with magnificent choices in different heights and shades of purple, lavender, silvery-blue, lilac and more. Consider: A. christophii with silvery-lavender 10-inch airy globes; A. ‘Ambassador’ with dense, rich purple 6-inch globes; A. ‘Purple Sensation’ with brighter purple globes 4 inches across. Perennial. Blooms May-June. Full Sun. USDA Zones 4-8.

Allium sphaerocephalon (drumstick allium) This later-blooming allium with a different look and style has small, dense, ball-shaped flowerheads in deep maroon and green. Perennial. Grows 2 feet tall. Blooms June-July. Full sun. USDA Zones 4-8.

Anchusa (Italian bugloss) Thrives in hot, dry settings it is marvelous for its long bloom season and blue flowers on dark hairy stems. Does not like humidity. Choose a hybrid for compact 4 foot height and bigger flowers. Consider A. ‘Dropmore (deep blue) or A. ‘Loddon Royalist’ (vivid blue).  Short-lived biennial. Grows 3 to 5 feet tall. Blue flowers. Blooms May-August. Full sun. USDA Zones 3-8.

Anemone x hybrida (Japanese anemone) Autumn-blooming, open-faced, single white or pink flowers are held on tall, willowy stems for an elegant presence. Perennial. Grows 2 to 4 feet tall. Blooms August-October. USDA Zones 4-8.

Anthemis tinctoria ‘E.C. Buxton’ and ‘Sauce Hollandaise’ (camomile) An early summer bloomer that’s perfectly in synch with many English Roses, these aromatic, bushy plants have yellow-centered, pale lemon daisy-like flowers that are pert and upward-facing. Deadhead to extend bloom season. Perennial. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Pale yellow flowers. Blooms June-August. USDA Zones 3-7.

Aquilegia (columbine) A classic cottage garden plant with nodding flowers in numerous varieties and many colors. Self-seeds in a way that’s charming and informal, not thuggish. Cut back to the ground mid-summer. Short-lived perennial. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Bi-color flowers in white, blue, pink, yellow purple, maroon or red. Blooms April-June. Full sun to part shade, loves dappled light. USDA Zones 3-9.

Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ (wormwood) An excellent rose companion that forms a broad, dense mound of feathery, fern-like foliage with consistently silver-gray coloring. A contrast plant for both texture and color, it is extremely useful for adding depth of field in a mixed border. Aromatic too. Perennial. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Silvery foliage. Full sun. USDA Zones 6-9.

Aster (aster) In varying colors that bloom in autumn as English Roses rebloom. All are very attractive to insects. A particular favorite is A. frikartii ‘Mönch’. Perennial. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Blooms June-September. Full sun to part shade. Does not thrive in overly wet winter soil. Attracts butterflies. USDA Zones 5-10.

Also consider the Aster ericoides hybrids including A. ‘Little Carlow’ (up to 24-inches tall) plus the Wood’s aster series (up to 18 inches tall) that bloom August-September in full sun, both USDA Zones 4-8. The popular New England (A. novae-angliae) hybrids grow to 3 to 6 feet tall, thus are better suited to planting with English Rose varieties expected to reach 5 feet in height or more.

Astrantia (masterwort) This longtime cottage garden favorite is a long-blooming rose companion with an elegant, airy look that also a ttracts beneficial insects. Variously silver, white, rose or rosy-red flowers. Perennial. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Blooms May-July. Full sun to part shade. Medium to wet soil. USDA Zones 4-7.

Campanula (bellflower) Many are pure blue – others are periwinkle, pale pink, lavender and white. All are lovely with roses. While some reseeding and weediness can occur, most are not aggressive and are well worth having. Cut back after bloom for a shot at rebloom later as your roses rebloom. A beauty to consider: late-blooming C. lactiflora ‘Pritchard’s Variety’ with deep violet-blue flowers, grows 3 to 4 feet tall, hardy in USDA Zones 5-8. Perennial. Multiple options in height and color. Bloom times are typically June-July, with some earlier, some later. Different types are hardy to USDA Zones 3-7, 4-8 and 5-7.

Centaurea (cornflower) A broad-faced flower in bright blue that attracts birds and butterflies. Reseeds in a fairly genteel manner. Annual. Grows 3 feet tall. Blooms May-July. Full Sun.

Cirsium rivulare atropurpureum (plume thistle) Fabulous and airy, tall leafless stems topped by plump thistles with bee-attracting flowers deep red. Cut back after flowering to encourage a second flush of blooms. Perennial. Grows 4 feet tall. Blooms July-September. Best in full sun, tolerates light shade.  USDA Zones 4b-9.

Clematis (clematis) Grow clematis on trellises or arches, intertwined with climbing roses or on their own. Flowers in white, pink, purple, blue, reddish-orange and more. Small-flowered varieties are especially appealing as companions for large-flowered English Roses. Mid to late-flowering bloomers to consider: deep purple C. ‘Etoile Violette’, white C. Alba Luxurians, and lipstick pink C. 'Etoile Rose'.  Semi-woody deciduous vine. Variously, bloom June, June-July, September or June-September. Full sun to part shade. Variously, USDA Zones 3-9.

Cosmos (cosmos) A particularly valuable rose partner, as it blooms for such a very long time with an informal wildflower look. Plant seeds several times – early, middle and late in season – for an ongoing display of tall, daisy-like blooms in red, white, pink, fuchsia, yellow. Annual. Options grow 2 to 5 feet tall. Blooms June till frost. Full sun.

Crocosmia (montbretia) Bulbous plants form clumps of upright sword-shaped leaves from which rise arching scapes of colorful flowers in red, orange, burnt orange or yellow. Wonderful planted en masse. Consider C. ‘Emberglow (burnt orange). Options grow 2 to 4 feet tall. Plant the bulbs in spring. Perennial. Blooms June-August. Full sun to part shade. USDA Zones 6b-9.

Rose bushes are complemented by the visual contrast of floral spires. Here, 'Gertrude Jekyll' grows with deep blue Delphinium and Salvia nemorosa 'Amethyst.'Delphinium (delphinium) Many are blue, but also white, pink, violet or purple. They provide excellent contrast in color and shape, being tall and spiky. Best options grow 3 to 5 feet tall. Perennial. Blooms June-July. Full sun. USDA Zones 3-7.

Digitalis (foxglove). Consider D. purpurea (white, purple, rose-pink) or D. ferruginea (creamy yellow with a darker throat) tall spiky flowers with a dramatic wildflower look amidst informal English roses. Prized for its towering spires with pendulous, funnel-shaped flowers. Self-seeding biennial or perennial, depending on species. Grows 2 to 5 feet tall. Blooms May-June. Full sun or part shade. USDA Zones 4-8.

Echium (viper’s bugloss) Tall exotic members of the borage family topped by 20-inch flower spires covered with blue, purple, white or red florets with reddish stamens. Typically over-sized, not winter hardy and especially attractive to beneficial insects. Fabulous options include blue-flowered E. pininana which can grow 6 feet to 12 feet tall; purple-flowered E. candicans which tops out at 5 feet to 6 feet tall; and blue-violet E. ‘Pride of Madeira’ at 3 feet to 6 feet tall. The short, red-flowered Echium russicum, native to Russia, grows only 3 feet tall and is remarkably winter hardy (Zones 3- 10). Plant Echium by seed. In cooler areas, protect plants indoors overwinter or re-start each year. Biennial.  Blooms June-August. Full sun. USDA Zones 9-11.

Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican fleabane or Santa Barbara daisy) A low-growing gem that produces masses of bright daisy-like flowers in white or pink. The small flowers are particularly attractive to bees and beneficial insects. Blooms spring through fall is excellent for spreading in front of roses. Lovely for a wildflower, cottage garden look. Perennial. Grows 6 inches tall. Full sun. USDA Zones 7-11.

Eryngium planum (sea holly) Violet-blue, pale-blue or steel blue thistle-like flowers rise on sturdy, violet-blue stems from foliage with a coarse, otherworldly look. This is the shorter choice, a dramatic accent plant, scaled in better proportion to English roses. Very attractive to beneficial insects. Consider longer blooming, more winter hardy Eryngium gigantea ‘Miss Wilmot’s Ghost’. Perennial. Grows 3 feet tall. Blooms June-August with flower heads lasting into fall. Full sun. USDA Zones 5-9.

Euphorbia characias subsp wulfenii (spurge) Euphorbia are spectacular chums for English Roses. But  Marriott’s favorite, by far, is this one that hits the mark across the board. It has presence. It is more upright and also shorter than most. Plus, its flowers are greenish-yellow, with hints of purple. Perennial. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Blooms May-June. Full sun to part shade. USDA Zones 6-8.

Gaura lindheimeri (gaura) The growth is loose and lovely, with delicate white or pink flowers that bloom for very long time and resemble butterflies. Very attractive to beneficial insects. Perennial. Grows 3 to 5 feet. Blooms variously May-September or August-October. Full sun. USDA Zones 5-9.

Geranium (hardy geraniums) You want the perennials, of course, not the Pelargonium of front planter fame. But choose carefully as the varieties vary hugely in size and color. Flower options include blue, violet-blue, pink, white and purple-pink. Consider: G. ‘Rozanne’, G. sanguineum, G. macrorrhizum and G. macrorrhizum 'Album', G. ‘Johnson’s Blue’, G. psilostemon, G. ‘Anne Folkard’, G. phaeum, G. 'Kashmir Blue', G. magnificum. Perennial. Bloom May-July, some June-September. Full sun to partial shade. USDA Zones 4-8.

Geum (avens) There’s excitement in this category of low-growing perennials, with many new hybrids, including beauties introduced by Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf. Look for May-July bloomers in delicious colors: orange, red-orange, yellow and blends. Deadhead immediately after first bloom, for repeat bloom with your roses. Consider G. ‘Lady Stratheden’, G. ‘Princess Juliana’. Perennial. Grows 2 feet tall.  Bloom May-September. Sun to partial shade. USDA Zones 3-7, 5-7, 5-9.

'Lady of Shalott,' with mixed salmon pink and golden-yellow flowers, brings color among boxwoods and ornamental grasses. Other companion plants shown include the deep purple Sedum Purple Emperor' in the foreground, along with apricot-yellow Potentilla x tonguei (Trailing Cinquefoil); and Astrantia 'Claret'. Grasses (ornamental) offering many perennial choices, both small and large. Two to consider: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Japanese forest grass), a low-growing clump with yellow-green foliage.  Blooms July-August. Sun to part shade, USDA Zones 5-9; and towering Stipa gigantea (giant feather grass) with elegant, cascading sprays topped by oat-like flowers. Though up to 5 feet or more in height, its airy sprays combine beautifully with English Roses.  Silvery-purple blooms in late spring-early summer. Golden brown dry seed heads last into autumn, catching sunlight. Full sun. USDA Zones 6-10.

Heuchera (coral bells) Today, there are sophisticated color choices not even imaginable 20 years ago. Really, just spin the wheel, you can hardly go wrong. Most are well under 3-feet tall, which makes them  companions in mixed borders. But it’s the foliage you’re after, with the flowers quite interesting but secondary. Perennial. Grows to 30 inches tall. Blooms June-July. Full sun to part shade. USDA Zones 4-8.

Knautia macedonica (knautia) A broad, bushy plant that produces hundreds of ball-shaped, red flowers on wiry stems over its long bloom season. After bloom, the dried seed heads add further interest. Birds love them, too. Can become quite large if left untended – thus good to cut back older stems mid-season to let newer stems provide ongoing bloom. Formerly known as Scabiosa rumelica. Perennial. Options grow 2 to 4 feet tall or more. Flower is wine red. Blooms July-September. Full sun. USDA Zones 5-9.

Linum perenne (blue flax) Blooms with exuberance for up to 8 weeks in early season to coincide nicely with English Roses. Each sky blue flower lasts only a day. Re-seeds but not aggressively. Short-lived perennial. Grows 1- to 2-feet tall.  Blooms May-July. Full sun. USDA Zones 5-9.

Lupinus (lupine) Gorgeous hybrid lupines produce sturdy spikes of rich color, magnificent with the early bloom of English Roses. recommends Sundial lupine wth blue, pea-like flowers rising from dark green leaves on elongated stems, blooming April-July. A wildlife-friendly perennial, it is a host plant to butterfly and moth larvae (caterpillars), including Frosted Elfin, Elf, Wild Indigo Duskywing and Persius Duskywing (Erynnis persius). It is the only known host for larvae of the Karner Blue butterfly, which is nearly extinct over much of its range.  It also is a valuable nectar and pollen source for hummingbirds and native bees. Its dried seeds are enjoyed by birds.  Plant Sundial lupine in full sun.

Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba ‘(rose campion) a clump-forming perennial with delightful, pure white flowers. The long, wooly, silver-gray leaves are equally appealing and lovely backdrop to set off yellow, apricot and pink roses beautifully. Re-seeds nicely. If more than you like, nip off faded flowerheads to minimize. Biennial perennial. Grows 30 inches tall. Blooms June-September. White. Full sun. USDA Zones 4-8.

Nepeta (catmint) most catmint are 2 to 3 feet, forming broad, scented mounds of small blue flowers. Nepeta is useful as a soft surround for roses, set upfront in the mixed border. Cut back early in season to control later floppiness. Very attractive to insects. Some varieties can be overly vigorous and overwhelm their neighbors. One sprawler to avoid with English Roses is N. ‘Six Hills Giant’. Consider: Nepeta x faassenii 'Kitkat' and Nepeta siberica – both more compact and less floppy than others. Perennial. Blooms May/June-September. Sun to partial shade. USDA Zones 4-8.

Nicotiana mutabilis (flowering tobacco) an exotic, long-legged Brazilian beauty with a very long bloom season. Towering plants that produce bright green foliage and masses of pink, trumpet-shaped flowers. Each flower opens in palest blush pink, then steadily darkens over time to deeper pinks. The multi-colored effect is charming. Self-seeds nicely. Annual. Grows to 5 feet tall (taller in hottest zones). Blooms June/July till frost. Full sun.

Nigella (love in a mist) wonderful for its blue flowers borne on slender stems, framed by fine lacey green foliage. Hot summer weather knocks them back. But don’t cut back too early as the follow-up seed heads are a treat. Consider heirloom Nigella ‘Miss Jekyll Blue’ which grows to 18 inches tall with sky blue flowers. Annual. Grows to 1 to 2 feet tall. Flowers are most often blue, sometimes purple, rose, white. Blooms June-August. Full sun.

Papaver orientale (Oriental poppy) one of the more magnificent English Rose partners, this stunner with color-infused flowers combines beautifully with English Roses. Two leading ladies, one stage – no clashes. Perennial. Grows, variously, 2-3 feet tall. Flowers are often blue, sometimes purple, rose, or white. Blooms June-August. Full Sun. USDA Zones 3-7. Full Sun. USDA Zones 3-7.

'The Mayflower,' an award-winning early, repeat-bloom rose, and penstemon 'Stapleford Gem' Penstemon digitalis (beardtongue) are very good with roses as often blue or lilac but other colors, too. Flowers over a very long period. Consider P. ‘Husker Red’ with white flowers, maroon stems and dark, maroon-flushed leaves. Perennial. Grows 2 to 4 feet tall. Blooms May-July. Flowers are blue, purple, violet, white, red, pink, yellow, or bi-color. Full sun. USDA Zones 3-8. Perennial.

Persicaria amplexicaulis (mountain fleece) these delightfully fluffy, upright flowers present themselves like bottle cleaners held aloft (think Dame Edna with her gladioli!). Plant en masse for best effect. Perennial. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall. Flowers are red or pink. Blooms June-October. Full sun to partial shade. USDA Zones 4-7.

Perovskia (Russian sage) for a long bloom season, mid-summer through fall, with distinctive swaths of blue spikes and gray-hued, aromatic foliage. Performs best in full sun, tends to flop in partial shade. Perennial. Grows 3 to 5 feet tall. Flowers are pale blue to lavender blue. Blooms July-October. Full sun. USDA Zones 4-9.

Phacelia tanacetifolia (lacy phacella or blue tansy) a very useful annual in the rose garden for attracting bees and beneficial insects. Plant the seeds in batches for ongoing bloom. The lacy foliage and spikes of blue-violet flowers add interest in a mixed border. The exceedingly long stamens are rather coquettish. Very easy to grow. Thrives in most settings, even dry desert locations. Self-seeds in a charming manner. If unwanted, snip off faded flower heads or easily pull out seedlings. Annual. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Blue-violet. Blooms June-September. Full sun.

Phlox paniculata (garden phlox) a cottage garden favorite that delivers a long season of bloom to add color, fragrance and a vertical presence to the border. Highly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Perennial. Grows 2 to 4 feet tall. Colors options include white, pink, red, lavender, rose, bi-colors. Blooms July-September. Full sun to part shade. USDA Zones 3/4-8.

Polemonium caeruleum (Jacob’s ladder) a terrific rich blue option for shadier locations with staggered fernlike leaves. Does not thrive in heavy heat and humidity. Perennial. Grows 2 feet tall. Flowers are deep blue. Blooms April-May. Part shade to full shade. USDA Zones 4-8.

Rudbeckia fulgida (orange coneflower) offers excellent choices for adding yellow companions. Most are very free flowering, bloom for a very long time and are attractive to beneficial insects. The perennial R. fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ is always excellent. Perennial. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Yellow flowers with a black center. Blooms June-October. Full sun. USDA Zones 3-9.

Salvia (sage) extremely useful and attractive as a blue companion to English Roses. Consider: S. sylvestris ‘May Night’ ('Mainacht'), S. nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, S. nemorosa ‘Amethyst’, S. verticillata ‘Purple Rain’. Good range of blues and purples and very free flowering, very attractive to beneficials and hummingbirds. Perennial. Grows 1 to 2 feet tall or taller. Colors options include blue, blue-violet, purple, purple-violet. Blooms variously May-June or June-September. Full sun. USDA Zones 4-8.

Sanguisorba officinalis (great burnet) an elegant companion plant that carries its tight spikes of deep burgundy florets on thin sturdy stalks. Perennial. Grows up to 3 feet tall. Full sun. Blooms May-June. Full sun. USDA Zones 4-8.

Sedum (stonecrop) an easy-care succulent plant that keeps a low-key presence all summer then shouts out in fall. Typically with soft pink flowers and green or deep red stems and leaves. Consider S. ‘Matrona’, S. ‘Ruby Glow’ and S. spectabile. Perennial. Grows 1 to 2 feet tall. Flower colors include pink, dusty-pink, maroon, red and white. Blooms August – October. Full sun. USDA Zones 3-9.

Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ear) has irresistible leaves – thick, velvety and fun to pet! The silver-gray foliage provides a useful color contrast in the border. If pertinent, choose hybrids selected to handle damp and humidity. Perennial. Grows 1 to 2 feet tall. Full sun. USDA Zones 4-8.

Thalictrum (meadow rue) a wonderful background plant with tiny purple-toned flowers. Plant en masse. Consider Thalictrum delavayi 'Hewitt's Double' with double mauve-lilac flowers and yellow centers on tall stems held high above the foliage. Perennial. Grows 4 feet tall or taller. Flowers are lilac, mauve or blue. Blooms August-September. Part shade. USDA Zones 4-7.

Verbena bonariensis (tall vervain or verbena) has airy purple flower heads carried on tall, upright, wiry stems. Marriott finds them especially effective for creating a see-through haze of color. Tender perennial. Grows 4 to 6 feet tall. Flower is lilac or purple. Blooms June-frost. Full sun to partial shade. USDA Zones 7-10. Warning per MBG: can be invasive, especially in Deep South may spread itself indiscriminately into native or wetland areas. Best to choose a non-seed-setting hybrid.

Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Fascination’ (Culver’s root) has fabulous spiky flowers that excel as accent plants among English Roses in mixed borders.The stems are usually fasciated, with a flattened look that’s interesting. Perennial. Grows 4 to 6 feet tall. Flowers are soft pink/lavender. Blooms July-August. Full sun. USDA Zones 3-8.

Viola cornuta (horned pansy) plant these cheery blooms densely for a low-growing sea of color. They are perfect planted up front at the base of roses, where they attract butterflies. Typically blue, purple or white. As hybrids, violas are also found in yellow, magenta, deep purple, orange, red, mauve, cream, bi-colors. Less successful is Viola tricolor (Johnny jump-ups) which re-seeds wildly. Perennial. Grows up to 1 foot tall. Bloom May-June. Select hybrids bloom May-September. Full sun to partial shade. USDA Zones 6-9, hybrids 4-9.

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