When designing with plants it is usual to use groups or clumps or perhaps 3, 5 or 7 individuals to form a patchwork or colours and textures.
There is, however, a technique that can be used which utilises massed plantings of a single species punctuated by bursts of colour. This is called Matrix Planting and uses one dominant plant to hold a scheme together.
It is a very versatile technique that works on large or small scale plantings and suits both rural and urban settings.
Another variation on this is called River Planting. It works on the same principal of using a single species but is planted, as it sounds, as a river of plants running through a larger scheme.
Both styles rely on using very large numbers of the same species for overall effect.
When planning a matrix or river the choice of the body plant is critical to the overall look and feel of the scheme. Colour is also important. You either need to decide on a soft pastels or intense jewel colours. Do not mix the two as this will not work and will look uncomfortable.
The species chosen need to be tough and have the ability to form good ground cover through a long season using foliage and/or flowers.
|Epimedium x perralchicom 'Frohnleiten'|
Some suggestions for the body plant would include Nepeta ‘Kit Kat’, Thymus ‘Porlock’ or Santolina for lean soil or Amsonia tabernaemontana, Geranium 'Rozanne’ or Tellima grandiflora purpurea for loamy conditions. Epimedium 'Frohnleiten' looks great in a shady spot. Ornamental grasses also work really well. Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ gives a dramatic black carpet, Imperata cylindrical ‘Rubra’ gradually turns blood red, Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance' gives a cool green and white background and Hakonechloa macra ‘Alboaurea’ glows yellow. Slightly larger grasses such as Stipa tenuissima and Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’ can also be used but anything much taller is probably going to prove difficult as the plants that supply the bursts of colour will be hard to see.
|Carex morrowii 'Ice Dance'|
When you have chosen the body plant you then need to decide what to thread through.
|Agastache 'Black Adder'|
Strong verticals and airy dots of colour work well so consider Salvias, Verbascum, Knautia, Agastache, Cirsium, Digitalis ferruginea and Geum. Spring bulbs such as tulips, alliums and camassia will look superb delivering bursts of beautiful early colour.