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Power Couples: Kier Holmes Shares Her Favorite Plant Pairings


Power Couples: Kier Holmes Shares Her Favorite Plant Pairings

June 7, 2022

If you’re a gardening enthusiast, chances are you’ve encountered an article written by Kier Holmes: She’s contributed to Martha Stewart Living, Sunset, Sonoma Magazine—and, of course, Gardenista, where she’s been our stalwart California correspondent since 2016. A landscape designer and educator (she formerly taught garden science at an elementary school and the public library in Mill Valley, where she resides), her sweet spot is sharing her copious love for plants. And now with her new book, The Garden Refresh: How to Give Your Yard Big Impact on a Small Budget (Timber Press), out today, you can tap into her botanical wisdom all in one place.

We knew we wanted to cover her book on our site but we had a hard time choosing which of the many useful landscape design topics she covers in the book—what to plant on hillsides, how to choose the right hardscaping material, which type of mulch to use, how to conserve water, etc.—to focus on. Kier, however, didn’t hesitate when we asked for her opinion: “Power Couples,” she replied, referring to the section about her favorite plant pairings. Below, an excerpt from this portion of the book.

Photography by Emily Murphy for The Garden Refresh, by Kier Holmes, courtesy of Timber Press.

Above: Kier, in her gardening uniform and her happy place—a plant nursery.

One way to quickly guarantee a dramatic or beautiful container, border, or even vegetable garden is to find two plants that make a perfect pair. The secret to this matchmaking is to focus on a plant’s color, form, or texture, and then boldly contrast but still complement that plant. It’s a simple concept but can be tricky to execute, because you also need to think about bloom times, sun or shade exposure, deer resistance, and water needs. Here is a cheat sheet with some of my favorite, easy-to-grow containers.

Plant Power Couples

The happy couples.
Above: The happy couples.

1. Happy-faced Viola ‘Irish Molly’ with contrasting tones of lettuce

2. Fern-like Cycas revoluta, multitoned Aeonium decorum ‘Sunburst’, and fan-like Chamaerops humilis

3. The chartreuse pom poms of Crassula elegans with spiny Aloe × spinosissima

4. Pink petticoat-like Echinacea purpurea and spoon-shaped Cotinus coggygria

5. Flat-topped Achillea ‘Walther Funcke’, conelike Kniphofi a ‘Alcazar’, and friendly Dahlia ‘Orange Pathfinder’

6. Rambling pink Geranium ‘Mavis Simpson’ with moody Heuchera ‘Pewter Moon’

7. Circular Rosa ‘Harlow Carr’ and stately Salvia nemorosa ‘Amethyst’

8. Delicately flowered Achillea ‘Feuerland’ with generously bold Hemerocallis ‘Stafford’

9. Salvia and phormium with echoing vibrant coral tones

Above: Garlic chives with brassicas.

For more of Kier’s gardening tips, see:

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