Suppose they made a garden…and someone came: Companions For Plants

I don’t know why it is but I often seem to like things not for the thing itself, but for the thing that goes with it.

Like certain types of food, I only like because of the condiments that go with it: curry – you get to have chutney, fried bread (yes! ancient English tradition!) – you get to have HP sauce, artichokes – you get to have hollandaise sauce, egg rolls – you get to have plum sauce, pate – you get to have red currant jelly. And on and on. Some of these things I couldn’t possibly eat unless I had the condiment to go with it. An egg roll without plum sauce would just be an unpalatable greasy weird thing. It’s the condiments I really want, baby! Yeah!

How does this relate to gardening? Well, let me tell you. I find over the last few years my plant choices are related to the side effect, or “what goes with” the plants I want to buy. A couple of years ago I started buying lots of red flowers. Do I really like red flowers the best? Not really. But I’m buying them because I want to attract hummingbirds, which is what I really want.

And now I’m making a list of bee-attracting plants. Do I love the look of Agastache? No, but I have a huge clump of it, because it attracts bees. Do I love white petunias? Not really in love with them, but I’ll buy them because of their evening fragrance. Do I love the look of heliotrope? No, again, I’m buying it for the fragrance.

Sometimes the thing you want (fragrance) is equal to the thing that brings it to you: like Cupani’s Sweet Peas, which is a beautiful plant, and the most fragrant sweet pea I’ve ever encountered. But more and more often, I’m looking past the thing itself to the other sometimes more intangible thing that will come along with it.

After being at the garden centre the other day and seeing a fat bumblebee dive into a lone snapdragon in a mixed planter, I instantly put snapdragons on my mental list of annuals to grow this year. I’ve always liked snapdragons, but haven’t bothered with them for a few years. Now I see – bees go for them, so snapdragons it is!

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