Creating Good Plant Combinations, by Amanda Patton

Amanda Patton

On one of the coldest nights of the year so far Grayshott Gardeners were treated to an inspiring zoom lecture by Amanda Patton – without having to step outside into the cold night air.

Amanda has a background in archaeological drawing and illustration.  Her early career did not involve gardens at all, until the fateful day she was invited to see the garden a friend had created.  It took her breath away, and her first thought was “I want to learn how to do that”.  And learn she did, now running a successful design practice of her own in West Sussex.

One of Amanda’s garden designs

Amanda brings an artist’s vision and ability to critique to the world of garden design.  She showed us many examples of gardens where the design was excellent, but also examples where the design did not work.  Whilst most of us can see and feel the difference between these two extremes, it can be really difficult to pinpoint what is working and what is not.  Amanda tried to unpick the elements for us following four key rules:

  1. One thing the same
    Try to link plants to their immediate neighbours by having one characteristic in common e.g. both could have the same green leaves, but in different leaf shapes, or pair up the same leaf shapes but in different colours.
  2. Rhythm and Repetition
    Rhythms can be used in different ways to create a calming or dynamic feel, and having a theme that you develop through a border will make all the difference.
  3. Layers
    Give your borders layers – vertical, horizontal and seasonal – to give cohesion and avoid a random collection of plants.
  4. Colour and Value
    Use the colour wheel to create harmonious or complementary combinations. And remember that colours have tones (value) too, so shades and tints can be used to great effect.

Amanda gave us many practical hints to take away too.  Make your borders as large as you can; note where your garden catches the sun and plant in front of it, to make the most of light illuminating key plants; and take pictures of your garden in black and white – removing the colour can help you see where you have form, and where it needs to be introduced.

It was a fascinating talk, that gave us much food for thought.   And whilst not all of us will be able to embark on wholesale redesign of our plots, at least next time we come home from the Garden Centre with that inevitable impulse buy, we now have tools to work out where to position it for maximum effect.