Garden Photo of the Day

Inspired Plant Combinations

Artist and gardener Syd shares more of her beautiful designs

We’ve visited Syd Carpenter’s beautiful Philadelphia garden several times, and I’m always happy to go back and be inspired by her sharp sense of design and beautiful plant combinations.

Here, a small-leaved coleus cultivar dominates in a dramatic container. Around the base of the container is a planting of Epimedium (barrenwort, Zones 5–9). Epimediums have beautiful, delicate foliage, and often the new growth is flushed with bronze. Here, the reddish tones in the new leaves contrast beautifully with the lush green of the more mature foliage. In the foreground, betony (Stachys officinalis, Zones 4–8) puts up spires of pink flowers that complement rather than obscure the scene behind them.

Ferns and hostas are perfect companions; both thrive in the same conditions but give contrasting textures to the garden. Here they are both complemented by a piece of garden art.

Hypericum androsaemum (shrubby St. John’s wort, Zones 5–8) has colorful berries that have been popular in the cut flower industry but are just as great to use in the garden. Here it is surrounded by Japanese forest grass (Hokonechloa macra, Zones 5–9).

White caladiums (Caladium hybrid, Zones 9–11 or as annual or tender bulb) are a great way to brighten up a dark, shady area.

Diverse foliage textures set the stage, highlighted by pockets of flowers. The flowers are all shades of pink to purple, which ties the whole space together.

This peony (Paeonia hybrid, Zones 3–8) and petunia (Petunia ‘Pretty Much Picasso’, annual) have very different flowers, but both share almost exactly the same shade of magenta in their petals, helping them work together visually.

A gold-leafed bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’, Zones 3–9) is the star here, the brilliant leaves glowing all the brighter for being surrounded by dark greens and purple flowers.


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View Comments


  1. gardeningisfine 04/12/2019

    What a beautiful garden!

  2. nwphillygardener 04/12/2019

    I admire the way Syd adds robust annuals in bursts: As with the Coleus or Calibrichoa in dramatic overflowing pots. OR the jumbo papery white leaves of Caladium inserted into the bank besides more modest white-flowering Wax Begonias. They are there to add some animation to zones where the perennials alone are not adding the sparks that fly throughout these garden beds that are so stimulating.

    1. sydneyleigh 04/14/2019

      Thanks for alerting me, I would never have known they added another posting of the garden

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 04/12/2019

    Syd, your garden seems to be one of endless delights that invites repeat visits. Your choice of plants and artistic ornamentation have such a wonderful how the texture dots on the container give extra emphasis to the coloration pattern on the coleus. It's really quite inspired.

    1. sydneyleigh 04/14/2019

      Thanks for noticing little details

  4. User avater
    user-7007816 04/12/2019

    Syd, I thoroughly enjoyed the way you mix different leaf textures and introduce color. Also, very nice job of photography.

    1. sydneyleigh 04/14/2019

      After the garden is ready for its closeup, I really enjoy finding those special “moments” with the camera.

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 04/12/2019

    My word - that caladium are bleeding heart is to die for! As usual, everything is gorgeous.

    1. sydneyleigh 04/14/2019 part sun garden depends on them...along with coleus.

  6. btucker9675 04/12/2019

    What a stunningly beautiful garden - what a perfect sense of color, texture, light and dark.

    1. sydneyleigh 04/14/2019

      The garden is my second studio. At this time of year, I can’t wait to see what new ideas and projects I can get going

  7. Cenepk10 04/12/2019

    Pretty Much Picasso Petunia is sending me over the edge. Stunningly gorgeous combo with the Peonies. Everything is beautiful.... I just love petunias... Recognizing I really need to broaden my horizons....

    1. sydneyleigh 04/14/2019

      All the different varieties of petunias.....they are so hard working and can liven up a dull spot instantly as long as they get enough light

  8. User avater
    simplesue 04/13/2019

    Fabulous! Something exciting to look at everywhere, yet it gives such a feeling of calmness at the same time! Oh I can't wait until my new garden looks like yours!!!

    1. sydneyleigh 04/14/2019

      Mine is always changing so every year I feel like I have a new garden. And zi never really know How it will turn out

  9. User avater
    BenjaminShaw 04/15/2019

    Very nice!

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