A Sonoma design-build landscaper, Details Landscape Art specializing in the creation of beautiful, exciting gardens. It is not accidental that our gardens look so amazing. And it’s not so much the plants that we choose as it is the plant groupings we select. A good Sonoma design-build landscaper knows how to put together a plant palette.

The key is contrast. Obviously color contrast is important, but there are other characteristics that make plant combinations dramatic. There’s the contrast of texture. There’s spiky versus chunky. There’s soft and graceful juxtaposed against bright and bold. We believe an interesting plant palette mixes heights, textures and bloom seasons. We often like mass plantings of a few plants, but sometimes favor mixing a few plants in a grouping. Following are some thoughts with photos of types of plant combinations:

Mass planting-The photo below shows a mass planting of a single rose type. The single mass color is dramatic.

Mass planting of red roses


Here we show a striking color and texture combination of a Red Dragon Japanese maple, a white iceberg rose, and spiky silver-green society garlic.

simple garden design

Here we have a burgundy Japanese barberry with a pink striation in the leaf and a silver green succulent in the foreground. Simple but effective.

This is a full sun hillside planting where the color and contrast is in the flowers. The spring bloom consists of Leptospermum’Ruby Glow’, Spanish lavender, pink rockrose and coleonema ‘Gold Sunset.’ Since it’s all flowers, when the blooms are spent there’s less drama.

Hillside landscaping with color

Hillside landscaping with color

Grass can be part of the equation too! Here we have a Tamukeyama Japanese maple next to a group of pittosporum ’Wheeler’s Dwarf’, society garlic across the way, nandina ‘Gulf Stream’ in the foreground, and a large expanse of bright green fescue. All color in the foliage all year long.

A lush sweeping front yard lawn with colorful foliage plants

The next photo includes several groupings. On the left we have Coleonema ‘Gold Sunset’ under a maroon colored ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple and a burgundy Japanese barberry. We love the color contrast of the deep red against the gold foliage. On the right we see ‘Blue Wonder’ nepeta (Catmint) in front of a darker green euonymus, with a dwarf westringia in the foreground. The white flowering ‘Akebono’ ornamental cherry tree is literally the ‘cherry on top’.Back yard garden with japanese maples and blossoming trees

The photo below is of a shade garden that contrasts the foliage of a lime green ‘Butterfly’ Japanese maple, and the burgundy of both an upright ‘Atropurpurea’ and a Crimson Queen’ maple with the spring bloom of pieris japonica ‘Temple Bells’, azaleas, and camellia japonicas.

Springtime explosion of color adds curb appeal to a custom home

Here we have a Mediterranean style garden featuring ornamental grasses in the dry creek bed, spiky phormiums (New Zealand flax), lavender provence, iceberg roses (not yet blooming in photo), and coleonema ‘Gold Sunset’ in the background. What a dramatic combination of texture and color!Dry Creek Bed

Plants are not the only source of interest when it comes to creating contrast. Moss-covered boulders, interesting textured stamped concrete and flagstone, and wood structures add other colors and texture to the garden.

A good Sonoma design-build landscaper considers plant groupings as part of the big picture rather than focusing on individual plants.