The trunk and branches of Aloe bainesii are like a grand piece of sculpture, the dark green foliage at their ends like green tufts of dreadlocked hair, creating an effect which is slightly surreal.
Obviously this is not a tree for an English style garden, nor for the faint hearted, but where plants of bold and sculptural form are appreciated and there is lots of sun and the soil drains well it makes a striking feature.
It looks superb among other Aloes, where it forms the focal point, just as effective as a piece of sculpture but a fraction the price. This is a style of garden that can be created in gardens by the sea and be remarkably low maintenance as well as visually stunning.
In frost free areas the very popular, light green foliaged Agave attenuata, with its gorgeous rosettes of soft, broad, pale green foliage, can be planted around and near Aloe bainesii, producing a definite wow factor. Emphasise the bold foliage of the Agave attenuata by planting in between with dark green mondo grass, which is great for textural contrast and for preventing weeds.
A similarly striking effect can be achieved by surrounding Aloe bainesii with low growing, ground covering succulents, or planting it among a big group of bronze tussock grasses which will sparkle in the sun and sway in the breeze, introducing a feeling of light and movement into the garden.
Or you can make Aloe bainesii a feature on its own by planting it on a mound and surrounding it with flat stones or with black mondo grass, Ophiopogon ‘Nigrescens’.
Native plants with unusual foliage can be used effectively with Aloe bainesii too. Those with tiny, tangled leaves such as Muehlenbeckia astonii and the dwarf kowhai Sophora prostrata are striking accompanying plants, as are those with spiky green foliage such as the Poor Knight’s Lily, Xeronema callistemon, and dwarf green flax, Phormium ‘Emerald Gem’.