Complement the different shapes and forms of plants with counterparts that will enhance the appearance within your garden. When mixing textures and styles, some striking combinations can be achieved. With the beauty of foliage to help you, the pairings in your garden can have a wonderful impact. So, here are some plant combinations for structure and shape in your garden…  

Black and white

Bring bright white to your garden with the white brambles of Rubus cockburnianus (white-stemmed bramble) that provide structure all year round, joined by purple flowers in summer.

  • Flowers in summer
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows up to 4m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Exposed or sheltered
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Combine the white stems with the dark tones of Ophiopogon planiscapus (mondo grass) [Black Beard] that has lovely arching, evergreen leaves that grows up to 50cm, making it a wonderful contrast at the base of the white brambles.

  • Evergreen foliage
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 50cm tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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Evergreens and acers

Acers are such an asset to any garden, no matter what size space you have because they can grow well in containers too. Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) ‘Kinshi’ has a fluffy appearance with its deeply lobed foliage. When trying to achieve structure and shape, consider using different shades of the same colour to tie the elements together.

  • Interesting foliage
  • Fully hardy
  • Can grow up to 4m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Sheltered
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At the base of this tree, choose a dark and bold evergreen that will emphasise the shapes and shades in the space. Hosta (plantain lily) ‘Royal Standard’ has heart-shaped glossy foliage that will contrast with the feathery appearance of the maple. The foliage is joined by fragrant white flowers in summer.

  • Evergreen foliage
  • Fully hardy
  • Can grow up to 1m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Sheltered
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Terrific textures

Combine soft foliage with spikes, or fleshy succulent leaves with hairy ones. The fuzzy foliage of Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ear) has a magical impact in the garden, and is a great addition to a sensory garden, especially if you complement it with another fascinating texture.

  • Evergreen foliage and flowers in summer
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows up to 50cm tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Exposed
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A spiky plant like Echeveria elegans (Mexican snow ball) has similar colouring but a different texture as this has rosettes of succulent leaves. Needing well-drained soil, this plant is tender, but can tolerate low temperatures, so it can still make an impact in your garden.

  • Evergreen foliage
  • Tolerates low temperatures but can’t survive being frozen
  • Grows up to 10cm tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Sheltered
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Shape shifting

Another way of creating interesting form in your garden is to combine different shapes of plants. Think about the final form of the plant, is it pyramid-shaped, rounded, or creeping ground cover? Whether you want clear cut shapes from topiary, or want a more informal style, add something different to the mix to pack a punch.

Cupressus sempervirens (Italian cypress) is an elegant evergreen that has a narrow and columnar habit, and can tower up to 12m tall. It’ll add height and shape to the space, having a big impact. Either choose plants with a similar habit to create a collective, or opt for different shapes to emphasise the different elements.

  • Evergreen foliage
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 12m tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Sheltered
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If you want to stick with similar habits, you can introduce different types of plants to create cohesion whilst still introducing new elements. The sunset colours of Eremurus (foxtail lilies) bloom in summer, where their upright growth brings a burst of vibrancy.

  • Flowers in summer
  • Hardy
  • Can grow up to 2.5m tall
  • Well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Sheltered or exposed
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Create shape and structure in your garden by combining plants cleverly. Either choose plants with similar growing habits with different textures and colours or opt for different shapes that can be drawn together by their colouring. Let me know your favourite plant combinations in the comments.

Find out more about adding texture to your garden:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas:

Adding texture
Adding texture
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