Cover Some Ground with Fine Foliage

Cover Some Ground with Fine FoliageGround covers are a fun and easy way to get a full garden look with great foliage plants. You can try small pots of plants that you might not have considered before with little investment. Or go all out with swaths of one plant en masse. Even container designs offer options for testing out ground covers that might appeal to you.

This week, Team Fine Foliage wants you to take a look at what amazing ground cover can do for your garden with showy foliage for many exposures and types of locations through the entire year. Whether your style leans to naturalistic, formal or eclectic, there are ground cover options that will help you make your garden more low maintenance, colorful and full of texture.

The 'Purple Haze' Acaena MAKES this combination!

The ‘Purple Haze’ Acaena MAKES this combination!

When we design garden or landscape it can be a little like furnishing a room. You need to understand the scale of your garden room, then you can choose the right sized “furnishings”, like your trees, shrubs and larger perennials. Then it’s time to “accessorize” with perennials that bring on the flower show, containers of showy mixtures and maybe some garden art or furniture to add the final touches.

Colorful Heath's and Heathers are fantastically showy options for year round ground covers.

Colorful Heath’s and Heathers are fantastically showy options for year round ground covers.

But, what about the garden floor? Adding in the ground cover is the touch that truly makes the picture complete, fills in the gaps and odd corners, softens the hard edges and often brings the intangible that completes a design.

Take a stroll through some lovely ground cover options and see if you don’t agree that adding the final element of ground cover makes a BIG difference in the big picture for your designs.

Trillium, Cyclamen and Sweet Woodruff combine elegantly to make a textural and interesting mix of ground cover.

Trillium, Cyclamen and Sweet Woodruff combine elegantly to make a textural and interesting mix of ground cover in a shady nook.

Cover Some Ground with Fine Foliage

Sedum hybrida ‘Immergrunchen’ creates a golden uplight under this ‘Kamagata’ Japanese maple.

Black Mondo grass creates a solid frame for garden art in this bed.

Black Mondo grass creates a solid frame for garden art in this bed.

Bergenia mingles at this spring party with black leaved Ajuga and Forget-Me-Nots on this little slope to make a sweet and hardy little spring vignette at this party.

Bergenia mingles at this spring party with black leaved Ajuga and Forget-Me-Nots on this little slope to make a sweet and hardy little spring vignette at this party.

Lysimachia 'Persian Carpet' makes a dramatic paring contrasted with silver euphorbia 'Rigida' foliage on this tropical feeling island garden.

Lysimachia ‘Persian Carpet’ makes a dramatic pairing contrasted with silver euphorbia ‘Rigida’ foliage on this tropical feeling island garden.

Sarcococca is a hardy evergreen groundcover that has divine fragrance is early spring!

Sarcococca is a hardy evergreen groundcover that has divine fragrance is early spring!

From spring to winter there is a Fine Foliage ground cover that suits every design style and location. What are your favorite ground covers?

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Foliage for your Spring Floozies

 

From the Gold Medal winning garden by West Seattle Nursery - Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2015

From the Gold Medal winning garden by West Seattle Nursery – Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2015

Gardeners are easily seduced. We understand – sometimes that flirty petal just calls to you but if you don’t give it the right foliage partner it will be a fizzled floozy in no time.

Spring bulbs and pansies leap onto our shopping carts at this time of year don’t they? While you’re at the nursery be sure to select some foliage beauties to create the necessary framework to make them shine and fill the beauty gap when the blooms are less than bountiful.

Here are a few of our favorite foliage+floozy options to try.

Pansies 

IMG_8686Who can resist the cute pansy faces? Whiskers, bold colors, frills – these are the flowers of our childhood.

Choose accompanying foliage plants to echo the colors. I have found that the fine strappy blades of grasses offer great contrast to the chubby faces as can be seen above where the golden variegated Japanese sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) accents the golden moment.

IMG_0514Or look for something more subtle. Here variegated box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’) repeats the yellow eye in the blue and purple pansy.

In either case there is a visual color connection between the flower and foliage.

JH pansyThis simple combination has  color repetition between the yellow of the pansy and Angelina sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’) but the most striking theme is the connection of fine pansy ‘whiskers’ and the strongly vertical lines of the common rush; a green grass-like foliage plant  (Juncus).

Tulips

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Big, bold and beautiful – marry these extravagant blooms with equally sassy foliage. Princess Irene tulip is planted here with the similarly colored Peach Flambe heuchera while the chartreuse conifer Goldcrest Monterey cypress adds contrast.

IMG_0909Or go for moody drama with rich purple tulips against black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’). Emerald green ferns and Rainbow leucothoe (Leucothoe f. ‘Rainbow’) add lighter notes, the variegated shrub even hinting at burgundy-purple tints.

Floozy Frenzy!

IMG_2006Hellebore, hyacinth, candytuft – yes there’s a lot of floral action going on but it’s all held together with foliage. Silver Queen euonymus establishes the soft color scheme and adds strength to the combination of looser structures. The large purple foliage of Spellbound heuchera adds drama while a simple cotoneaster groundcover trails over the edge of the stone urn. All the foliage plants are evergreen, allowing the flowers to come and go without compromising the design.

Remember flowers are fleeting so enjoy their ephemeral beauty and seduction – but be sure to have great foliage tucked in alongside them for real drama that lasts.

 

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The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

TEAM Fine Foliage is having a crazy busy spring week right now. We are both speaking at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show this week as well as running our own business’, writing our new book, traveling, making videos, having a kitchen makeover and on and on and on….So I thought it would be entertaining to post a whole bunch of juicy photos that illustrate some of the amazing foliage and bare winter branches that I have seen recently. Some of them are everyday plants used in unique ways and some are “Holy Cow” plant moments where you exclaim, I NEEEEEEEEED that!

Since Valentines Day is this week, you will find some Fine Foliage Valentines at the end of the post too! Enjoy and share this post with YOUR sweetie this week if you can’t be at the show to say “Hi” to both of us!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

The blue toned foliage of this Euphorbia paired with the blue fronds of the yucca make a fine textural contrast. The orange toned euphorbia blooms will be stunning!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Gardeners frequently underestimate the power color in evergreen trees this time of the year. Here Cryptomeria japonica and Gold Cypress make a handsome pair on a sunny late winter morning.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Another spectacular euphorbia! This Euphorbia ‘rigida’ is expertly paired with ‘Lemon Wave’ Phormium and boxwood as seen outside Pomarius nursery in Portland, Oregon.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Mahonia gracilipes in its beautiful late winter red, gracefully arches over Black Mondo grass.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Gold willows are woven artistically and draw the attention away from the concrete slab below. Seen at McMenamin’s Edgefield outside of Portland, Oregon.

The Hottest Looks Foliage February 2015

Bamboo stems are a colorful art piece for the wide variety of colors that look so dramatic against a white wall.

The Hottest Looks Foliage February 2015

‘Ebony Pearl’ Rhododendron is not even in bloom and it’s a fashionista just for the amazing foliage!!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Two conifers showing off complimentary winter colors make a great pair! ‘Rheingold’ arborvitae and ‘Golden Fernspray’ cypress.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Now THIS is some RED just in time for Valentine Day. A Red Twig Dogwood shrub is the one that takes a backseat in this couples duo with native mahonia aquifolium in some outstanding winter color.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Team Fine Foliage affectionately calls him “MR. Wissel” around here (we have no idea why, but it fits) for ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ cypress, a BIG favorite of ours. He definitely takes center stage as the star that he is in this vignette.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Daphniphyllum macropodum as of yet has no common name but whatever you want to call it, I call it spectacular!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Variegated Daphniphyllum….sigh…..want!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Metapanex delavayi is a stunner here as the centerpiece of this bed. Sharing the limelight are Hellebore that echoes that incredible foliage color.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

A Valentine Day buffet of Heuchera foliage colors!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

A 14ft. tall succulent Valentine is the PERFECT idea for your sweetie! Created by Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens.

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Winter Survivors and Thrivers

This is a good time to review those winter containers and see what has thrived despite extreme temperature swings, inconsiderate deer and neglect. Let’s face it, January is not the finest hour for most gardens but if we can keep a few containers looking stellar in the ‘off season’ it’s easier to ignore those iffy garden corners.

After several years observation I have found these plants to be reliable performers with little or no winter damage in my zone 6b/7 garden. Although Christina and I only live about 45′ away from one another my garden is much colder and I have to deal with deer so like some of you I have plant envy at times!

So take this foliage selection as a little winter pick-me-up. You can totally justify a trip to the nurseries to find one or more of these – just tell them Team Fine Foliage sent you.

Curly Red drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe axillaris ‘Curly Red’)

IMG_1134Evergreen, leathery twisted and puckered leaves take on rich burgundy tones in cold weather deepening to purple in winter. This dwarf shrub  grows slowly to about 16″ tall and wide as a tidy mound so is perfect for a container but also works well in the landscape, perhaps planted as a mass groundcover or as a compact specimen to accent more delicate foliage.

IMG_8698It makes a stunning contrast with golden conifers such as the Forever Goldie golden arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’) shown above.

IMG_8117In summer the foliage is mostly green, the younger leaves being a lovely fresh shade.

Color ideas

I’m thinking of planting a group in my woodland near a stand of Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’), autumn ferns (Drypoteris erythrosora), dwarf green spruce and yellow  cowslips. To one side is a young Rhode Island Red Japanese maple (Acer p. ‘Rhode Island Red’) and the whole group is in the dappled shade of a golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’). Mmmm.

Cultivation notes

  • Well drained soil in partial shade, partial sun
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Somewhat drought tolerant when established
  • Hardy in zones 6-9

Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

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The winter color is deeper

 

I have many different conifers in my garden from towering 60′ Douglas fir to dwarf spruce  with colors from darkest green to bright gold. Each has earned its place and is loved for different reasons but if I could only pick one and it had to be tough as nails, had never shown any winter burn, had great color, didn’t need pruning, was disease resistant, drought tolerant and was ignored by deer the humble Blue Star juniper would be my pick. We featured it on the cover of our book Fine Foliage and we have some breathtaking combinations using this conifer in our next book (still busy writing that one….). It’s inexpensive, easy to find…. Have I convinced you yet?

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The foliage is a duskier blue-green in summer

Use this low growing conifer to edge a border, add to a container, soften a stone wall or snuggle up to a large boulder.

Color Ideas

Take a leaf out of our book (pun intended – couldn’t resist) and pair it with Berry Smoothie coral bells for year round color

Let our book inspire you! Blue Star juniper is seen in spring with pink and gold companions

Let our book inspire you! Blue Star juniper is seen here in spring with pink and gold companions

Looks equally fabulous with bold orange and hot red; think dark leaved barberries or weigela in an orange container with black mondo grass….

We have a multi-trunked Himalayan white birch tree (Betula utilis var. ‘Jacquemontii’) underplanted with Blue Star junipers anchoring one end of a large border. ‘We’ (aka my long-suffering husband) has just moved my large orange pot into that area so it is now framed by the blue conifers; those colors really POP.

Cultivation notes

  • Compact 3′ x 3′ mound
  • Evergreen
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Drought tolerant once established
  • Full sun
  • Hardy in zones 4-9

Blondie coral bells (Heuchera ‘Blondie)

 

Heuchera_Blondie_2b

Photo courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.

Some heuchera do better than others depending on where you live – agreed. In fact you may find this post I wrote with breeder Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries Inc. to be helpful in helping you fine-tune your selection.

I have some I consider annuals, some that look terrible in winter but revive so well in spring that I let them stay, others that I consider short term perennials (great for 3 years – maybe 4) and just a few that I have to stand back and admire because they truly exceed my expectations.

These are neither deer nor rabbit resistant so I am limited in how I can use them but the value of a colorful, evergreen bold leaf is such that I keep a few on hand for my designs. Blondie is one of my current top picks.

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The round leaves are a soft ginger in fall (as seen here), getting deeper throughout the winter and rich mahogany in spring. Each leaf is ~ 2″ in diameter so it wont swallow neighboring plants, making it a great container plant.

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Blondie has some of the showiest flowers of all the coral bells. Fat spikes of creamy flowers on red stems bloom profusely over many weeks. These make great cut flowers or leave them for the hummingbirds to enjoy.

Color ideas

I can’t give too much away here as we have a five star combo featuring Blondie in our new book! I’ll give you a clue; the colors are deep teal, deep rose and burnt orange……

Cultivation notes

  • I keep this in a corner of my fenced vegetable garden, ready for me to add it to a container as needed. It has done equally well in that semi-landscape setting as it has in pots
  • Partial sun and partial shade are generally recommended but mine was in full sun all summer and never scorched.
  • A smaller, more compact variety than most; mine measures 10-12″ tall and wide after 2.5  years.
  • Evergreen
  • Do not over-water.
  • Hardy in zones 4-9

Winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’)

Photo courtesy of Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Photo courtesy of Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Walk into any nursery in February and get ready to swoon…………it’s the time of year when winter daphne tickles our olfactory senses – or perhaps assaults rather than tickles! Some may find the sweet and spicy fragrance cloying but I love it and have two of these semi-evergreen shrubs near our front door.

Daphne have a reputation of being rather fickle but I haven’t found that to be the case at all. I’ve grown them in containers then transplanted them without a problem. Mine are in morning shade and afternoon sun (the opposite of what many books recommend), I never water them (my soil is moisture retentive but well drained and good quality loam) and the deer have ignored them.

Photo courtesy Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Photo courtesy Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

In many areas these daphne are evergreen. In my  garden they can lose up to 75% of their gold and green variegated foliage during an extremely cold snap  but quickly leaf out again and the flowering buds never seem to be affected. I therefore consider them worthy of inclusion here!

Color ideas

Pick up on the pink and white flowers with the addition of hellebores – there are so many to choose from right now.

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Check out the last post Christina wrote on choosing hellebores for their foliage too.

Penny's Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink foliage would be a fun companion to the daphne, bringing pink and yellow color echoes. I’d soften the duo up a bit with some fine textured grasses such as the variegated moor grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Variegata’ ) which would look good even dried and bleached in winter while the very finely variegation of green and soft yellow would be pretty from spring-fall.

Cultivation

Do as I do or do as I say? Up to you! I’ve already told you how mine grows. Here’s the official line;

  • Grows to 4′ tall and 6′ wide
  • Prefers light, open or dappled shade
  • Water occasionally
  • Hardy in zones 7-9

Consider us your enablers – we’ll see you at the nursery!

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Winter Roses? It’s ALL About the LEAVES

Penny's Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink Hellebore

No matter whether you call them Winter Rose, Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, the elegant winter blooming perennial formally called helleborus or hellebore is no slouch performer in the winter garden. Prized for the stunning blooms they provide, some early cultivars begin blooming at the holidays and then later blooming options that can power on for months into early spring. Many have blooms that evolve and change color, lasting as late as May before needing to be tidied up so that other super star plants can take the stage.

However, Team Fine Foliage dares to show you the OTHER facet of the gorgeous hellebore, the FOLIAGE! The options are amazing for foliage that is mostly evergreen, tough as nails and so showy. So, grab a cup of your favorite warm winter beverage, snuggle up if you are stuck in the snow and have a long look at what unique and stunning options you have for splashy cold season leaves.

Hellebore 'Winter Moonbeam'

Hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’ has a fun speckled pattern that is fabulous when mixed with other patterned foliage. Heucherella ‘Stoplight’ showing beautiful winter color too. Note the subtle burgundy centers on this hellebore and how the two plants compliment each other with “color echoes”. 

This exciting new hybrid ‘Winter Moonbeam’ has many foliage facets depending on the particular plant and exposure. You could have some luscious variations of the creamy moon beam white color. Be sure to follow the link to see the variations!

'Winter Moonbeam' is lovely in the rain!

‘Winter Moonbeam’ is lovely in the rain!

'Winter Moonbeam' hellebore

‘Winter Moonbeam’ hellebore

Hellebore 'Silver Dollar' with a deep dark heuchera shines like only valuable silver can!

Hellebore ‘Silver Dollar’ with a deep dark heuchera shines like only valuable silver can!

The heavily toothed ‘Silver Dollar’ hellebore is small but mighty. Can you see the “color echo” here? This is one of the design tools that Team Fine Foliage likes to illustrate in our many talks. Those subtle cues that link plants together by color, we call them a “color echo”. In winter when you don’t necessarily have the bold, brash and bawdy combinations that you can take in at a glance. You have to look closely and appreciate the small details.

Hellebore 'Silver Dollar'

Hellebore ‘Silver Dollar’

THIS ‘Silver Dollar’ hellebore is showing more of a red center than the one above and the green veining on the particular plants foliage is highly contrasted with the super silvery foliage. But, when you layer this one next to the bright green Rockfoil (Saxifrage arenas) foliage, WOW, that green pops!

Hellebore 'Silver Dollar'

Hellebore ‘Silver Dollar’ in the winter sunshine lights up the garden and container.

Helleborus f. 'Wester Flisk'

Hellebore ‘Wester Flisk’

Don’t let the name of THIS gorgeous hellebore keep you away from these leaves in your garden!    The Bearsfoot or Stinking hellebore has long, narrow leaves with a toothed edge that lends great textural interest to so many wonderful garden combinations. Formally called Helleborus foetidus or Fetid Hellebore, this lovely hybrid called ‘Wester Flisk’ brings a warm red-toned detail into the garden. This particular hybrid may not be fully evergreen in some colder climates, but it will emerge and leaf out early. Check here for more details on this fabulous plant. 

Hellebore 'Gold Bullion' paired with a showy patterned Heuchera

Hellebore ‘Gold Bullion’ paired with a showy patterned Heuchera

The sensational Bearsfoot hellebore is a flexible option for foliage combinations throughout the year. But, in late winter and early spring, the bolder ‘Gold Bullion’ gives a bit of the sunny warmth of golden tones that we crave this time of the year, particularly in low light locations.

This container shines in  a shady forest location between the 'gold Bullion' hellebore and the red pot, it brings sunny warmth to the shade!

This container shines in a forested setting, between the ‘Gold Bullion’ hellebore and the red pot, it brings sunny warmth to the shade!

'Silver Lace' hellebore shines against a gray-green spruce shrub.

‘Silver Lace’ hellebore shines against a gray-green spruce shrub.

Also known as the ‘Corsican’ hellebore, this particular plant named Hellebores argutifolius ‘Silver Lace’ is one tough plant! The leathery leaves in glowing silver will reward you in late winter, early spring voluminous apple-green blooms on a plant that can grow 3ft. tall and wide. As if that weren’t enough, this one in particular is VERY deer resistant. It’s not tender and tasty enough!

The plants we’ve shown off for you this week are all listed as being shade tolerant, and mostly indestructible. But, be sure to ask a horticulturist at your local independent garden center for hellebore’s with sassy and splashy foliage that will be happy in your zone.

If you think you NEED flowers to be satisfied in the winter garden, think again!

And now for something WE think you’ll really LOVE! One half of Team Fine Foliage, Karen Chapman has created a fantastic video gardening series with Craftsy.com and now she is a FINALIST in the Craftsy Blogger Awards contest for the BEST INSTRUCTORS BLOG -FINE FOLIAGE!!!!

We would be SO honored to have your vote and if you are so inclined to share this post, we are on the last day voting! Thanks in advance for ALL of your amazing support!
Nominateme1

 

Hot New Coleus for 2015

Grab your sunglasses, think warm tropical breezes, delicious cocktails with little umbrellas in them and sand between your toes. Think SUMMER.

Ignore the snow, ice, hail, rain and bitingly cold wind and feast your eyes on these new introductions from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., Start dreaming up your summer foliage combinations now.

Coleus Hipsters™ ‘Zooey’

Coleus_Hipsters_Zooey_1bWOW! You did get your sunglasses didn’t you? This is one serious party-coleus. Zooey has a wide spreading habit (9″ h x 23″ w) and spiky yellow leaves that are splashed with crimson. What about growing this as a groundcover around tall green ferns? Shade/part shade

Coleus Wildfire™ ‘Smoky Rose’

Coleus_Wildfire_Smoky_Rose_1bShort and wide this smokin’ hot introduction is going to look stunning tumbling at the edge of a large container. It grows 8″ h x 24″ w so give it some elbow room. Deeply cut leaves really help show off the rich plum and hot pink variegation, edged with just a hint of lime. I can see this with a spiky gold grass such as Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex). Shade or part shade

Coleus Flying Carpet™ ‘Shocker’

Coleus_Flying_Carpet_Shocker_1bNo more excuses for dark and dreary shade gardens – add a carpet of Shocker and your garden visitors will be….well SHOCKED! The dark red center expands as the leaf grows to give a wonderful layered look. This big mama grows to 24″h x 28″w. Fabulous as a groundcover in shade or part shade or as a solo container plant.

Coleus Terra Nova® ‘Green Lantern’

Coleus_Green_Lantern_3bThe only lime green trailing coleus on the market, this is one you just have to try this year. Imagine this with a dark leaved Canna and bright orange Bonfire begonias….. This one is sun tolerant too although the best color is in partial shade. 10″ h x 24″ w

Coleus Flying Carpet™ ‘Zinger’

Coleus_Flying_Carpet_Zinger_1bA traditional color with a twist – literally. Love the curled end of each leaf that is reminiscent of a paisley design. Beautifully sculpted and frilled picotee edge together with a clean lime and deep red color – this is one I’m going to look out for. Zinger grows to 24 x 24 and does best in shade or part shade.

General growing tips

Coleus prefer well drained soil and like to dry out slightly between waterings. They need warmer temperatures than annuals such as geraniums – ideally wait until night temperatures are consistently 55′ or above.

So which ones are on your shopping list for 2015? Leave us a comment below or get in touch on Facebook.

All photos courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., – and no we didn’t get paid for writing about their plants!

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Boring Containers? 5 Tips for Buying the HOTTEST Pots!

"POTS" Sign at Aw PotteryTeam Fine Foliage loves to give you lots of juicy photos and information on designing with foliage in the garden and in containers. But, great containers are quite the investment aren’t they? So, this week we’re giving you tips for making the most of your container choice dollars for your future Fine Foliage designs.

BOLD Citrus Color Container Grouping

Not everyone goes for these BOLD citrus bright colors in the landscape, but you have to admit, they show off that foliage in a fun and modern way!

Many people choose to play it safe with container colors like beige, gray or even the MOST exciting option, “greige”. Sigh….a designers dream. But, I’m here to tell you that there is a whole world of options for dazzling container shapes and colors to try!

Containers for sale at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

Containers for sale at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

I speak all over the country and in Canada and one of the TOP questions I get from both individual gardening enthusiasts, professionals and even garden centers is “Where do YOU find your containers?” Luckily, these days it is getting much easier, but for many, even a simple, not that exciting container can be SO expensive due to shipping costs. Access has changed even in just the last few years to include many more options for people than used to exist. Though for lightweight and better quality fiberglass containers, the cost can be prohibitive at times. This is why thinking and planning your purchase carefully is important.

A warehouse full of container options to try out!

A warehouse full of container options to try out!

So, here is just the nudge you might need to start keeping your eyes open for new containers for your landscape. Even if you wait until the fall clearance sales, the key is to be ready to POUNCE when you find the container or multiple containers that make your heart sing. And THAT my friends is truly the key. You NEED to fall in lust with a container for your environment and design aesthetic that will make your design senses soar with nothing in the darn thing. If it sits there as an ornament in the garden or on the patio with nothing in it and you STILL love to gaze at it, then you have your winner winner, chicken dinner! :-)

More containers displayed expertly at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

More containers displayed expertly at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

I purchased a container at a local hardware store here in the NW, completely unplanned a few years ago. It was at the end of summer, the clearance sales had begun and this was a VERY random color and among a small pile of pots left.

An odd lavender colored pot that I fell in love with a few years ago!

An odd lavender colored pot that I fell in love with a few years ago!

Clearly no one wanted it because they couldn’t see what the possibilities could be with it as an odd color of lavender with reddish undertones. Honestly, I’m not quite sure I did either, but for the price, I was willing to try it on and WOW- was I glad I did!
It ended up on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens!

More "fluffy" with flowers than this designer prefers, but it worked!

More “fluffy” with flowers than this designer prefers, but it worked!

That container has ended up being one of my favorites. I have had MANY offers to sell it, but now I am in love with it and the color, as odd as it is, it has turned out to be one of the most flexible colors I have ever chosen.

This winter design is perfect for our mild winters in the NW.

This winter design is perfect for our mild winters in the NW.

The basic elements of choosing a good container for you aside from being thrilled with it without any plants in it are fairly simple, but people tend to overlook these when they are in a sea of pots. So here is a list of easy tips to remember:

1) WHERE you shop matters: Unless you have NO other option, the BIG BOX store is not where you are going to find the best selection. Neither the quality nor the styles are going to be anything very thrilling most of the time and many tend to be sub-par quality of clay. There are always the few weird exceptions, but in general, unless you know specifically what you want and you find it there. If it’s on a giant palette piled a mile high with all of the same styles, it’s not likely that you’re getting anything that your neighbors next door won’t have on their patio too. If I had a lottery ticket for every time I saw this happen!
Go to a garden center or nursery with a great reputation and you will find the buyers make a point of trying hard to bring in both quality AND style.

Blue foliage highlights these BOLD purple pots at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

Blue foliage highlights these BOLD purple pots at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

2) Express yourself! There is a deep canyon of pottery and container options between playing it “greige” safe and going for it with a colors that reflect YOUR personality. Don’t be afraid to express yourself and your personality with your container, playing it safe with colors and styles gets old very quickly!

These turquoise colored containers are a surprisingly flexible color to design around.

These turquoise colored containers are a surprisingly flexible color to design around.

3) If you need to keep it simple: Black containers are the “little black dress” of pots, always classy, always sophisticated no matter the accessories. I give beige and gray a bad time, but they DO have their place in certain design aesthetics, just make sure it’s “YOU” when you buy it and you’re not just thinking of the neighbors.

Black containers are universally easy to design with and EVERYTHING looks great in them!

Black containers are universally easy to design with and EVERYTHING looks great in them!

4) Look for a flattering figure: The shape of a container is incredibly important for the flexibility of your investment. If the opening, or “the collar” is too small, it can be hard to get plants out that have rooted laterally in the opening. To the same point, you have to be careful of the “belly” or “shoulder” of the pot as well. There is nothing more frustrating to this designer than to have a prized maple have to be “cut-out” from a pot that was chosen simply for style over function.
If it’s simply summer annuals and you don’t care about hurting them at the end of the season, then it’s no big deal, but if you like to mix it up a bit with trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers as we do, then you might want to give the shape of your container some thought. I prefer taller with somewhat straight sides. Low, wide bowls are fabulous too!

A low-wide glossy black bowl shaped container is a feast of design options all year long!

A low-wide glossy black bowl shaped container is a feast of design options all year long!

These simple bright green pots are the perfect compliment to nearly any design just as black pots would be.

These simple bright green pots are the perfect compliment to nearly any design just as black pots would be.

5) Dive in and shop! When you buy good quality containers, they will last many years with proper care. But, just as important, you don’t have to live with containers you don’t love forever. You can sell them! Garage sales, friends and family would love to take your old pots. Not to mention giving them away to charities or planting them up for auctions.
Just like clothing, pottery and container styles change over time and if you are bored with your containers, you DO have our permission to try something new and exciting. You will be amazed at what it does for your creativity. :-)
When the fall sales arrive, selection gets picked over FAST! Be ready to jump on something if you MUST have it. On the flip side, if you are lusting for a particular color, style or finish, be ready to buy at the beginning of the season at full price and be OK with that too.
Now, shop on Foliage Fans….but first….
Nominateme1
The Craftsy Blogger Awards 2015 are here and Fine Foliage wants YOUR support! Nominate your favorite gardening blog www.fine-foliage.com before January 20th to be entered to win a free Craftsy class. We are eligible for all THREE categories; content, photography (which you all seem to love ) and Craftsy instructor (aka Karen).

Click here for details and to vote http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2015/01/craftsy-blogger-awards-2015/

Thank you for your support!

Naked and Loving It!

Since we’re all about foliage it may seem rather strange to be featuring bare branches but we want it all! Yes we positively swoon when we come across a tree or shrub that looks as good fully clothed as it does in the nude. So here are a few of our  bare-bottomed favorites

1. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)

paperbark2

I suspect as soon as I mentioned colorful bark you thought about the coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’) as a great example but I want you to consider two very different maples. The first is this paperbark maple, named for its cinnamon colored bark which peels away in fine strips; visible in all seasons but especially striking in winter. The foliage opens a soft green and fall color ranges from gold to salmon. This slow growing maple needs to be in your garden!

2. Lions Mane maple (Acer shishigashira)

lions mane collage

The lions mane maple is grown for its twisted clusters of dissected leaves that have the appearance of a shaggy mane. This is a slow growing tree well suited to container culture when young. The spring and summer foliage is green but in fall the leaves turn yellow, gold or orange (mine seems to be different every year!). Yet the story doesn’t end there – notice the smooth green bark that is revealed when the last leaf has fallen silently to the ground. Beautiful

3.  Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius varieties)

Left and center; 'Coppertina'. Right; 'Diablo'

Left and center; ‘Coppertina’. Right; ‘Diablo’

While the shrub twig dogwoods are an obvious choice for a colorful winter display with bare branches in fiery shades of red, orange and gold there are other options such as the ninebarks. Depending on the variety the foliage may be gold (Dart’s Gold), bronze (Coppertina) or almost black (Diablo) and all have clusters of white flowers followed by decoratives seed heads. They also have coarsely peeling bark on the older branches giving a marked striped effect.

4. River birch (Betula nigra)

IMG_3726_1While I will always love the pristine white bark of the Himalayan white birch (Betula utilis var, jacquemontii) and have three multi-trunked specimens in my own garden, I have to concede that the river birch (Betula nigra) is often the better choice. River birch is resistant to the birch borer and those pesky sapsuckers and other woodpeckers seem to leave this species alone. We planted a cluster of three multi-trunked river birch ( the named variety Heritage) in an area that is  exceptionally wet, often with standing water in winter and they are thriving. With soft green leaves that rustle in the breeze, butter-yellow fall foliage and bark that peels away to reveal the smooth inner trunk that is….well as soft (pink) as a babies bottom – you know you’re going to like it.

Of course we have lots of other favorites and we’ll introduce you to some in our next book (Foliage First, Timber Press, 2016) but we’d love to know what your favorites are. Leave us a comment below or tell us on our Facebook page. Even better – post a photo to share. (Just make sure only the plants are naked please!!)

 

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Happy New Year’s Toast to 2015!!

Winter 2011 2012 264Team Fine Foliage has been quiet in the last few weeks as we are feverishly working on our new book due out in 2016. But, we wanted to take a moment to tell everyone how much we appreciate your support and enthusiasm for our passion for designing with foliage and sharing it with all of you!
As we embark on this new year and most of us are frozen “leaf-cicles” try to keep looking for that beautiful spot of interesting foliage that might be just under your drippy nose, even THIS time of the year. AND if you find it, let us know either here or on our Facebook page, Twitter or Pinterest. We are always excited to see the plants and combinations that make you smile where you live so that we can learn from you too. ;-)
Who knows, we may even show up on your doorstep to snap a photo for the new book!

So, we raise a glass you all of you out there with this toast of farewell to 2014;

Leaves may fade, leaves may blow,
but every year, we await the show.
The chill of winter makes us ponder,
how many leaves are over yonder?
The frozen bark, the berries, the twigs so bright,
they keep us up dreaming all through the night.
We imagine the ice, the sleet, the snow,
all melting away, it could happen ya know.
Just in time for the garden show season,
we’ll be inside and warm, with good reason.
So, be patient dear friends in the cold,
we will be working while spring unfolds.
It won’t be long, so stay snug with our book,
no sneak peeks at the new one, not even a look!

Cheers to 2015!!
Team Fine Foliage

 

Fine Festive Foliage

Some leaves are simply more ‘Holiday ready’ than others. Here’s what we look for ;

  • Doesn’t drink too much
  • Naughty or nice (but not too naughty!)
  • Looks good with bling
  • A fun party host and is good at mingling

And the winners are…..

1. ‘Rainbow’ drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’)

Rainbow Leucothoe in Winter

This glitzy lady knows how to get all gussied up. Evergreen, deer resistant (those wretched creatures are terrible gatecrashers), drought tolerant and can take center stage or be a regular party guest.

2. Angelina stonecrop (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’)

Copy of July 2011 Peace Tree Farm 211

Decked out in gold and copper this girl knows how to bring the bling. Evergreen, tea-total and great at just hanging out (or over) – be sure to have this succulent in your party pots

3. Scallywag holly (Ilex x meservae ‘MonNieves’ )

IMG_0511A cousin of Little Rascal, this holly isn’t nearly as naughty as you’d expect. Knows how to wear that little black dress and looks great with gold or silver accessories. Those party-pooping deer leave Scallywag alone too.

4. Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)

IMG_0115

 

The Queen of Elegance, dusty miller knows how to wear sexy silver lace. Have you noticed how many times her velvety outfit gets stroked? Keeps her drinking to a minimum but loves to play with others whether its a black tie gathering or something more colorful.

5. Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)

IMG_0447it’s important to have a mix of personalities at any party so this soft feathery fern is a great one to have on the invitation list. She does drink a little more than the the other guests but she handles it well and without excess. Gold and copper highlights add an olde world charm to any gathering.

The BIG Bling

silver ball

Need a little extra glitz? Save a few glass balls from the tree and tuck them into containers and window boxes together with some extra large pine cones.

IMG_8295

Maybe add a few sparkly stems and little ornaments too.

after1

For more ideas on how to dress up those containers enjoy our post from last year showcasing work from our friends around the country.

So what are your containers wearing this year? Tell us all about them and we’d love to see photos on Facebook.

 

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