Sunday, August 11, 2013

Companion Plants for Roses at Berkeley Botanical Gardens

We went to Berkeley Botanical Gardens this weekend. It is a long drive for us, which is why we don't go as often as I would like.

A spectacular grouping of salvia confertiflora. I was so impressed I bought a plant on my previous visit, but it  is not frost-hardy in my Sunset Zone 15 garden, so I lost it to winter.

On the other hand, the gardens have not become too familiar and there is always a surprise discovery or two.

I am pretty sure these masses of zinnia peruviana all throughout the cacti collection are new. Otherwise I am sure I would have noticed them before :)

 I never seem to leave their propagation shop empty-handed either.

This time, Marshall's Memory oregano went home with me. To the best of my knowledge, I now have all varieties of ornamental oreganos in my garden.

 My plan was to start at the rose garden and work my way back.

Marchesa Boccella

 It was a good plan but it didn't amount to anything because I never left the roses.

They were almost all in bloom and so were hundreds and hundreds of companion plants.

I knew then what this blog post would be about :).

 I spent hours going around the garden carefully looking at the plantings and trying to take as many pictures as I could.

Mme. Berkeley


Many tags were either too far away to read or missing altogether, and there is practically no information on this particular collection provided by the Botanical Gardens.

Cornelia with Cupid's Dart and coreopsis

 With all these caveats, here is the best I came up with.

Graham Thomas and hollyhock

 This year the garden seemed to feature more perennials, and some spectacular annual flowers I was looking forward to seeing were missing (cleomes were most conspicuously absent).

But there was still a profusion of cosmos flowers

 Vertical accents were left almost entirely to hollihocks and foxgloves...

Graham Thomas

...with a few taller verbenas scattered here and there.

La Marne with purple verbena bonariensis and hollyhocks.

 I grow all of these companion plants in my garden, and they seem to do well in the same cultural conditions that are necessary for roses.

More Graham Thomas

Most impressive (and at peak bloom) were the low-gowing perennials and herbs.

From left, a heliotrope, an ornamental oregano (most likely Marshall's Memory or Hopley's Purple), English lavender (lavandula angustifolia) and brown-eyed susan (rudbeckia triloba).

They look wonderful with roses, but of the ones I grow, lavender and ornamental oregano especially cannot tolerate the amount of water that many roses require to bloom.

In this garden, roses are on drip irrigation, and hoses are laid to keep water away from less thirsty plants.

Tea roses with a border of lavender

A planting of the blue heliotrope (heliotropium amplexicaule) and several petunias vining enthusiastically through the heliotrope and into the roses was so exuberant it stopped me in my tracks.

I don't grow either of them: petunias look ragged with overhead irrigation and require vigilant applications of snail bait. The particular species of heliotrope planted in this garden seemed to spread everywhere making me wonder if it was perhaps invasive. I do not remember seeing it in nurseries.

Lots of heliotrope (with coreopsis 'Moonbeam')

Most of my garden has sprinkler irrigation, so not all these companion plants would work for me.

Large clumps of Cupid's Dart (catanache caerulea 'Amor Blue'). Mine grows well in the drier parts of the garden.

 However, I came away determined to plant more coreopsis. Despite its bright colors, drifts of these small cheerful flowers create a soothing, painting-like effect of broad bold brushstokes.

And panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay to crown it all. Who could wish for more?


  1. the images like fine paintings

  2. Masha, beautiful pictures of the plants in Berkeley Botanical Gardens. I agree, the view of San Francisco bay is just sensational.

  3. Lovely. I read with interest to see which companion plants you discovered. I have one type of coreopsis but haven't tried many others - they can be a deadheading nightmare if you try to keep them tidy, though I guess many keep blooming even without deadheading. It's easy to keep planting low and fluffy cranesbill geraniums near my roses, I guess. I have daylilies planted in front of some roses, which works well since the daylilies bloom while the roses are taking a break. I also have catmint, lilyturf and bellflower as underplantings.

  4. No I cannot wish more, your photos are amazing. The panoramic view is great with the roses in the front. All are nice but the Graham Thomas together with the hollyhock are of an outstanding beauty.

  5. You really have a way with layering in your photographs, Masha--waves and waves of color and texture. Lovely! Too bad about the Cleomes--they are missing from my garden this year, too, and I regret it. For the first time in many years, my Hollyhocks did not return, so I think last year's drought ruined them. I'll have to start over because I love them. And I can see how Hollyhocks and Foxgloves would be perfect companion plants with Roses. How true about the Coreopsis!

  6. Masha, some of your photos remind me the paintings of impressionists, as Monet. Wonderful! I love the composition of roses and lavender or Malva or heliotrope. I grow roses with cineraria and lysimachia.
    Have a nice week!

  7. A great post with lovely photos. In my garden I love the combination with geranium Rozanne and rose Grace and Lysimachia clethroidesg with rose Leonardo da Vinci.
    Have a great day!

  8. Thank you for the comments, especially for the mention of so many other companion plants. I need to do more research (and shopping) :)

  9. Przepiekny blog pełen kwiecia ,super .Pozdrawiam

  10. To cudowny ogród i położony w ślicznym miejscu. Widać to na ostatnim zdjęciu. Oregano, które kupiłaś ma cudowne kwiatuszki. Z pewnością miło było spacerować po ogrodzie i patrzeć na kwiaty i brać pomysły do swojego ogrodu. Pozdrawiam serdecznie.
    It's a wonderful garden and situated in a lovely location. You can see it in the last photo. Oregano, which bought a lovely flowers. Certainly, it was nice to walk around the garden and look at the flowers and take ideas for your garden. Yours sincerely.

  11. these pictures are amazing....

  12. What a beautiful series. Great job! :-)

    Greetings from the Netherlands,


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