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Not your grandmother's hen and chicks

A simple combination of plants draws attention to itself.

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COLORFUL COMBO: In Dorset, England, 'Bronze Pastel' Sempervivum is a standout in the garden when planted with other succulents.

David McDonald

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Sometimes it’s the simple things that look so stunning. Witness this little vista of succulents at the Snape Cottage Garden in Dorset, England.

Owners Angela and Ian Whinfield have fashioned a half-acre garden on a south-facing slope with an underground spring (gorgeous views, by the way), making it an ideal site for their collection of thousands of rare perennials and bulbs.

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Their snowdrops (Galanthus) are especially well regarded, as are their white-flowering shrubs.

But hand it to the English – even with their misty clime – to give the rest of us ideas on how to garden with desert plants.

In this photo, the 'Bronze Pastel' Sempervivum bookends the smaller, fiery-red succulent that flows streamlike between them, coupled with the contrasting green but red-tipped version.

It definitely makes this arrangement aspire to a loftier aesthetic than your usual hens-and-chicks conglomeration.

Although these plants are all very similar, their subtle differences are heightened by the red drift’s seeming “movement,” cascading into an exposed bed of grit and gravel.

Yes, the stone is functional – it’s necessary for the Sempervivum’s drainage and survival in a damp climate. Yet its warm color, and the simple fact that it is teasingly exposed, give this understated garden composition character and panache.

(Note: This article is one of an occasional series of  Colorful Combos, which look at delightful combinations of plants that might do well in your yard, too.)