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Made for each other: Alan Titchmarsh on perfect plant pairs

In shade I love the ethereal quality of the shuttlecock or ostrich-plume fern, matteuccia, mixed with bolder-leafed hostas. Contrasts are always eye-catching, and these plants enjoy moist soil and shade, yet their appearance is so different as to be dramatic when they are positioned alongside one another. If you are having problems with slugs and snails attacking your hostas, try relatively-new Slug Gone, pelleted wool waste which, when spread around plants and wet, makes a thick mat which the molluscs seem reluctant to cross.

Allium is coming into its own, but the foliage is not a pretty sight. Plant the bulbs through a mixture of astrantia, though, and the sad leaves are hidden, with just the drumsticks of flower stems pushing up among the decorative carpet. White, pink and crimson astrantia can be mixed to form a knee-high rug that will keep on blooming, on and off, right through the summer.

Of course, you’ll find combinations that don’t always work, but when they do succeed you’ll have the satisfaction of having invented them yourself. The pioneering instinct often does pay off. 

Don’t miss Alan’s gardening column today and every day in the Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit

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