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Complementary Contrasts from Plant Combination

This article was first published on 18 May 2016.

Rosa helenae partnered up with Sedum spectabile 'Herbstfreude' (Autumn Joy).

Rosa helenae partnered up with Sedum spectabile 'Herbstfreude' (Autumn Joy).

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

Autumn is when many of the old fashioned roses produce attractive, colorful fruit referred to as hips.  Varying in size and color, hips can be bright red and tomato-styled, through to small, orange clusters.

Hips make a great autumn display, especially when planted beside other plant species.  A combination that works particularly well at this time of year is Rosa helenae partnered up withSedum spectabile 'Herbstfreude' (Autumn Joy)This powerful grouping is demonstrated at Dunedin Botanic Garden in the rose garden’s species bed.

Rosa helenae is a species rose that can be grown as a climber.  In early summer it is covered in clusters of fragrant, small, creamy white flowers, following up with the display of orange hips hanging gracefully from the branches.

Planted in front of the rose is the hardy and versatile Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.  Autumn is, in fact, prime time for this perennial as the tight, green flower loosens and eases into an open flower head.  Over time, its colour changes from a rich pink, turning to salmon and later deepening to coppery red, a wonderful contrast with the foliage.

As the seed heads dry, they look stunning on a frosty morning or even covered with a dash of snow.

At the start of the next growing season fleshy, grey foliage emerges from the ground and develops into a large, clump-forming plant up to a height of 90 centimetres.  In mid-summer broccoli-like buds sprout and eventually become the large, beautiful flower heads, now starring.  

Linda Hellyer is curator of the rose garden at Dunedin Botanic Garden.