Growing Companions


Nasturtiums are good companion plants
Photograph by: Ji-Elle
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Companion planting is not a new concept. I first encountered the idea when I read a book on the subject many years ago. Trying to recall the original title, I googled “companion planting” and was overwhelmed by how many books there were on the subject now.

Essentially, for those who’ve not encountered the notion, companion planting means planting species adjacent to each other for the benefit of one or both plants. Planting marigolds with tomatoes for example, was said to attract more bees for pollination, repel nematodes on tomato roots,  although some experts would dispute this particular companionship.

Beloved Australian writer and gardener extraordinaire, Jackie French, writes hilariously:

It was love at first sight – just like the books explained – the ones that tell you how parsnips hate celery, and celery like cabbages. He was tall, green and handsome, the perfect basil plant, and she was a blushing tomato, a country girl at heart.

He swept her off her feet (well, shook her to the roots anyway) and they produced prolifically all season, and were buried in the same compost heap that winter. (Yes, I know that’s not romantic but we do need a bit of realism here).

Her dose of realism is: what works in other regions may not be the case in Australia which has different species of pests and diseases. In fact, she claims thriving plants may have more to do with conscientious gardeners than companion planting ground rules.


An example of companion planting – growing the marigolds amongst crops of carrots, tomatoes, leeks etc.
Photograph by: Airelle
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

I find some truth in this. Despite my careful coupling of plants according to the companion planting guidelines, some have failed. But equally, others have done well.

Just like human relationships really.

I’ve found it’s not necessarily the species/personality types involved, nor what I might gain from them, or they from me, but the effort put into making it work for the good of both that matters.

My dose of realism is there is always some personal gain from working on relationships, although we may not like to admit anything quite so base. Even in the most altruistic relationships the giver also receives, be it validation, gratitude, satisfaction, love; these are not small rewards.

On a larger scale, as a social species, the gains from such relationships can be thought of as diasporic, fanning out like ripples on a pond across disparate societies to the benefit of all.

So easy to conceive, so difficult to achieve.





28 responses to “Growing Companions

  1. Such an excellent analogy, and expressed so simply. I’m so impressed by the consistency of your blog. Sure, we enjoy the occasional aberration but you nearly always open a window from your garden to a refreshing philosophical thought. Thank you for this, Robyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this, Robyn! I listened to a TED talk recently that suggested that giving love/care produces more benefits to the giver than the receiver. The ability to receive nurture and love is an even greater predictor of future health than how much love you have been given in life. Relationships do need nurturing; some are more worth the nurturing than others. Like with gardening, careful observation and life experience helps us to recognise which ones are worth the work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ali. I agree wholeheartedly. The ability to tell the difference between relationships is not easily learned. A wise person once told me to treat myself with the same compassion I would offer to others. Good advice I think


  3. That was a very neat segue from the garden to relationships, Robyn. We should always try our best to work at relationships even though it’s sometimes not easy, with our friends and family or in the garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful idea, the “fanning out like ripples.” I want to believe, I do believe, but I keep remembering how often I have thrown stones and seen the effect. Thank you for the encouragement . And I realize thats our ponds can have edges where reeds, sand, even mud banks quietly absorb the stone-thrown ripples. Hopeful!


  5. Is there anything that nature can not make better? Robyn this is a perfect analogy! I have heard of this type of planting, tried it myself, but never heard it called this. Now if only that pine tree will keep those stinkin’ Japanese beetles off of my roses…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Plants love being with complimentary species. They work together encouraging vitality and growth and discourage harm.
    Human beings are not dissimilar. Like minded people stay together for obvious reasons.
    Love your posts and blog Robyn. Have a peaceful day!

    Liked by 1 person

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