Simple yet Sophisticated

IMG_2855I planted up this little container for a demonstration during my one of my Spring Container Workshops last week. It’s a lesson in balancing abundance and restraint.

Size Matters

The rustic brown clay pot is just 12″ square so the temptation would be to fill it with lots of 4″ plants. Had I done that, however, the overall composition may have looked too busy. Instead I opted to use three gallon (6″) sized plants to really fill out the space with leafy goodness, adding just one 4″ and one 2″ accent plants.

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Foliage Stars

The feature plant is the cream/green variegated Angyo Star Fatshedera, one of the Sunset Western Garden Plant Collection beauties. This will need to be staked as it grows taller but I may just let it tumble and mingle to a degree; we’ll see! The glossy leaves suggest a tropical look but I’ve used it here in a more naturalistic design where it’s resemblance to ivy works well.

Playing off the creamy yellow tones I added the grass-like Everillo Carex to introduce fine strappy texture. The bright golden foliage works well with this informal container.

The third ‘big’ plant was Sweet Tea Heucherella, a favorite for its over-sized copper leaves and distinctive purple veins. Spires of fluffy white flowers are a bonus.

Final Details

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It was love at first sight when I saw these 4″ pots of Sparks Will Fly begonias; look at those black leaves! The orange flowers echoed the color of the Heucherella foliage and played off the warm sunset color scheme. Perfect to tuck into the corner of the container.

Purple Heart was tucked in a corner near the golden grass

Purple Heart was tucked in a corner near the golden grass

Also added but not visible in these photos  is a 2″ pot of Purple Heart wandering Jew (Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart’ syn. Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’). The iridescent purple leaves picks up the vein color of the Heucherella and adds contrast to the golden grass.

Design Details

By using just five plants (three of them BIG) and by restricting the number of colors (gold, copper-orange and purple-black) this little container lives large. It has a full, lush look thanks to the foliage; no waiting for it to ‘grow in’ before being ready for its close up.

The three main foliage plants are all evergreen so can be kept in the container or transferred to the garden.

This combination will thrive in shade or partial shade all summer with average water.

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If you could only choose ONE plant….

……what would it be? Christina would stamp her feet and insist on at least two; Heuchera and Euphorbia. I’m rather more pragmatic because my choice has to survive fickle weather, burrowing rabbits, hungry deer, drought, clay soil – and be cheap. But of course those are just the boring practicalities. I also want low maintenance, longevity, stunning foliage and maybe some flowers as well. Yes I am my toughest client! Here’s my answer though;

Spirea.

While many of my trees are still leafing out the spirea can be relied upon for adding lots of color to the May border

While many of my trees are still leafing out the spirea can be relied upon for adding lots of color to the May border

I wrote about this amazing group of deciduous shrubs three years ago on my personal  blog but my collection and appreciation has grown since then and I think it’s time to share the love with my Fine Foliage friends too.

As certain conifers, weigela and even some barberries have  succumbed to weather or wildlife in my garden the spirea have continued not only to survive but to thrive. These are the ones I am currently growing and am thrilled with.

Gold Fountain bridal wreath (Spiraea x vanhouttei ‘Gold Fountain’).

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Even though this is still a young plant it is developing a beautiful shape.

This is a more colorful version of the  old fashioned bridal wreath spirea since its spring foliage is a vivid lime green . By May (seen here) the leaves soften to a more muted gold – a color that persists through fall when it adds more vibrant yellow and orange notes to the display.

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Give this shrub some room to stretch into a loose weeping fountain 5′ tall and wide. In May the branches are weighed down by festoons of white flowers – a stunning display to look forward to each spring.

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Hardy in zones 3-8 and happy in full sun or partial shade although the color will be brightest in sun.

Double Play Blue Kazoo spirea (Spiraea media ‘SMSMBK’)

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Blue Kazoo is worth the treasure hunt

This is a new introduction so you may have to hunt for this one but it is worth seeking out. The leaves are larger than many spirea and quickly mature to a beautiful blue-green with a soft rose blush – an invaluable color in the garden to break up higher contrast plantings. Flat clusters of fuzzy white flowers cover the mounding shrub in mid-spring and are a magnet for bees and butterflies! In fall the foliage assumes red and burgundy tints.

I featured this shrub as an ideal specimen to grow in a container in the March 2015 issue of Country Gardens – it’s that good!

Hardy in zones 3-9 in full sun or part shade.

Mellow Yellow spirea, Ogon spirea (Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’)

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Ogon spirea has a wonderful feathery texture – quite different from the other species

For a completely different look consider this larger shrub. Ogon grows to 5′ tall and wide, is fabulous planted en masse or as a single specimen and is one of the first shrubs to get leaves in spring in my garden.

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Long arching branches of golden willow-like leaves move in the breeze and cascade to form an informal mound. Small white flowers dot the branches in early spring but aren’t as decorative as those on other spirea.

Fall color is a blend of rust and orange so situate this shrub near trees or shrubs that have contrasting autumnal color such as the red maples (Acer rubrum).

Hardy in zones 5-8 in full sun or part shade but the color is brightest in full sun.

Glow Girl birchleaf spirea (Spiraea betulifolia ‘Tor Gold’)

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I wasn’t expecting much from Glow Girl when I received it as a trial plant a few years ago. I figured it would just be another spirea that started out lime green, faded to yellow and had nice fall color. In fact it really does stand out from the spirea crowd in my garden. The lobed leaves are well defined and have tints of red on the margins and stems. Rather than pink flowers this variety has pure white blooms that bring a fresh look to the spring border.

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Glow Girl adds sparkle to a mixed (deer resistant) border with bronze astilbe, Rainbow leucothoe and a purple barberry.

 

I am growing this in full sun as well as an area that receives afternoon shade and both shrubs do equally well. The foliage doesn’t scorch and remains bright through fall when it turns yellow.

Hardy in zones 3-9. the growers predict an ultimate size of 3-4′ tall and wide. After two years my 4″ baby plant is now 18″ tall and wide.

Double Play Artist spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Galen’)

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When you need an easy care ‘filler’ shrub for the border consider this option. The foliage of Artist opens a soft burgundy/muted purple before maturing to a nice mid green. Fat clusters of fuzzy fuchsia-pink flowers in spring contrast well with the leaves.

This variety seems to be more compact than other mounded forms, maturing to 30″ tall and wide. It is hardy in zones 3-9.

Double Play Gold spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Gold’)

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Double Play Gold warms up the May garden alongside a Blue Star juniper, flowering viburnum and a Thunderhead pine

This is one of the key shrubs in my main border. I have two groups of five shrubs and they are truly stunning for three seasons of the year.

The foliage of Double Play Gold opens in shades of copper, matures to gold and softens to yellow in fall. New growth is constantly appearing and is a lovely rosy color. Flat clusters of pink flowers cover the bushes in summer and with just an occasional trimming will continue to bloom until fall.

Although the growers state this as reaching 2-3′ tall and wide mine are already 3-4′ after three years so allow enough space when planting.

I love these next to blue foliage such as Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’). Watch out for a very special combo called Sassitude in our new book next year featuring these together with other great foliage and flowers.

Goldmound spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Goldmound’)

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Rhododendrons need colorful shrubs nearby; Goldmound spirea is perfect

There were several of these large shrubs in the garden when we moved here. They thrive despite being ignored, squashed by other plants, in sun and shade, in wet soil and dry. .Again the growers seem to suggest these are ‘compact’ yet one of mine is well over 4′ tall and wide and still growing!

Hardy in zones 4-8 in sun or part shade.

General characteristics

  • Deer resistant (deer may nibble flowers but have never damaged the shrubs – and I love the new foliage color caused by their inadvertant deadheading!!)
  • Drought tolerant
  • Will tolerate wet and/or clay soils
  • Sun or part shade
  • No pruning needed
  • Low maintenance
  • Great fall color
  • Attracts bees and butterflies plus some short sighted hummingbirds

What’s your ‘must have’ group of plants for the garden? Leave us a comment or tell us on Facebook!

 

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The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Team Fine Foliage is in full blown garden design and planting time for spring. This means that our fans get to revel in even MORE juicy photos while we are out in the leaves and out from behind the computer!

This week we take a look at the multitude of ways you might choose to highlight spheres in your garden with foliage. Pairing all manner of spheres and round objects from planted to recycled to ceramic and metal with amazing foliage makes them stand out and shows off YOUR art in the garden. Enjoy some of the collected photos from my photo library that feature some incredible foliage AND unique art in the round. :-)

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Design by Heather Little Bradley

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Dale Chihuly at the Columbus Conservatory

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Design by JJ DeSousa

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Design by Linda Ernst

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

In the garden named Floramagoria, Portland Oregon

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Floramagoria, Portland Oregon

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Linda Ernst Garden

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Mitch Evans Garden

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Joanne White Garden

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Eppings Garden

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Bella Madrona Garden, Portland, Oregon

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Bella Madrona Garden, Portland, Oregon

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

Unknown artist at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball The Belle of the Foliage Garden Ball

 

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Spring Container Inspiration

Walking into a nursery in spring is like meeting old friends. There’s that gorgeous coleus you used last year – and yes the stunning fuchsia with variegated leaves is back! Memories of last years containers play through our mind as we deliberate on this years color scheme and plant combinations.

Do you want to use your old favorites but in new ways? Would you like to incorporate something different but don’t know where to start? That’s where we come in; welcome to spring container inspiration 2015.

Canna with a Twist

IMG_4193Who doesn’t love big tropical Canna with their bold leaves and bright flowers? Do you find yourself always heading for the orange striped Canna Tropicanna to use as a centerpiece then layering in other plants around it?

The freshly planted design above features Tropicanna Gold but those luscious gold striped leaves are playing a supporting role to the Orange Rocket barberry shrub rather than being the star. This works well because the barberry can be left in year round and adds instant height while the Canna is just getting started.

Balancing these two key plants is a Cyclops Aeonium at the front. Its multi-hued rosette marries the colors of the Canna and barberry together while bringing the eye down.

An assortment of  flower and foliage favorites round out the design including Angelina sedum, pheasant tail grass, African daisies and million bells.

Try a new color scheme

IMG_5778This design was driven by the oval purple pot. I’ve always liked purple and orange together but rather than reaching for chartreuse as the third color I opted for silver and white.

Blue Hawaii Colocasia provides the height, its large translucent leaves showcasing purple veins and stems to re-enforce the color of the pot. Purple basil and Purple Queen (Setcresea pallida ‘Purple Queen’) also echo the theme while Sedona coleus adds a wonderful splash of contrasting orange. Silver bush (Convolvulus cneorum) and white trailing geraniums add sparkle.

Spikes with a difference

IMG_4785 - revisedDo you find yourself reaching for the ubiquitous  ‘spikes’ for a thriller, red geranium as a filler and white bacopa as a spiller? Dare to be different!

In this shade design while the cordyline adds height it is the perennial Siberian bugloss that takes center stage with its large heart shaped leaves each overlaid with an intricate network of silver veins. Maybe you have one in your garden you can dig up? A lime green heuchera and humble dusty miller round out the foliage framework. For color and fun the chenille plant (Acalypha hispida) is used as a trailer at the front of the pot (look for it with the houseplants) and a rex begonia adds nice color contrast. This is definitely not your grandmothers design!

Sophisticated Succulents

IMG_5772With so many exciting succulents available now we all want to play with them! Try some unexpected companions such as the the tall feathery foliage of perennial Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii) shown here. It will turn orange in fall. Silver icicle plant repeats the color of the tender panda plant while two black sweet potato vines add depth and a contemporary note.

Excited to get planting? If you live in the Seattle area you may be interested in signing up for one of my spring container workshops in May where I’ll have lots of fun plants for us to work with. You can read the details here.

So what are you planning to do differently this year? Leave us a comment or post to our Facebook page because YOU inspire US too!

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Design Magic as Easy as One, Two, Three!

Does the container determine the design first or does the inspiration plant? Sometimes it can be both! But, in the case of this example let’s say that it is this incredible, iridescent container with delicate dimples that inspires this foliage based combination for summer.
Design Magic as Easy as One, Two, ThreeSitting on this stone pedestal, the container is a focal point in this partially shaded area of the garden and we are going to make it a standout by choosing plants as easy as one, two, three!
Now to choose the plants….

Design Magic Easy as One, Two, Three (Fuchsia 'Tom West') How about this playful ‘Tom West’ hardy fuchsia about to bust into bloom with showy purple and red dangling flowers that will last all summer and likely well into fall too? The crazy off-white and silver toned variegation is just the right foliage for this space where there is only a little light. It will keep the container from feeling too heavy and add a some excitement to a quiet area.
Now to adda another element….
Design Magic Made Easy as One, Two, Three (Coleus 'Black Prince')You didn’t see THIS coming after the talk about adding light in the shade did you?! :-) Sometimes when you have a strong pattern like the one in the fuchsia, you need a bold, larger leaf contrast and this coleus is just the right element. The light green margin on the ‘Black Prince’ coleus offers the right contrast, even though it is dark, all of the other light elements will be the perfect contradiction.
Now to add that last perfect touch….
Design Magic Made Easy as One, Two, Three (Japanese Painted Fern) The Japanese Painted Fern is just the right textural addition to this combination for the partial shade. Pulling color details from the fern such as the purple and violet notes complete this combination perfectly! It’s all in the details as Team Fine Foliage loves to tell you over and over, because those are the things that make a good design work as easy as ONE, TWO, THREE!

Would you try this elegant combination? What would you choose for this container?
Let us know- leave us a comment!

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Beyond Ivy….Fresh Ideas for Evergreen Trailers

Golden creeping Kenny festoons over the edge of this elevated container. A perfectly balanced design by our friends Peggy and Al Shelley

Golden creeping Jenny festoons over the edge of this elevated container while a young strawberry plant also gets ready to send out runners. A perfectly balanced design by our friends Peggy and Al Shelley

We see it all the time. Gardeners spend hours deliberating which plants to combine in their containers for gorgeous leafy lusciousness adding a flowering accent or two for extra color before looking for a trailing element to finish it off. And what do they choose? IVY?! Trust us there are plenty more exciting options to spill out of that container.

One of the biggest problems with ivy is that the roots are so vigorous they quickly take over a container making the plant very difficult to remove. If you are looking for an evergreen trailing plant consider one of these instead, most of which can be found in the groundcover section of your local nursery

Creeping Bramble (Rubus calycinoides)

Lovely structure to this groundcover turned container star. Photo credit; North Creek Nurseries http://www.northcreeknurseries.com/plantName/Rubus-calycinoides-

Lovely structure to this groundcover turned container star. Photo credit; North Creek Nurseries http://www.northcreeknurseries.com/plantName/Rubus-calycinoides-

Deep green, coarse textured, lobed leaves on creeping stems form a very dense mat when grown as a groundcover – or trail beautifully at the edge of containers. Some leaves turn bronze or red in winter for added interest. Thrives in part shade to full sun, is deer resistant, needs regular water and is hardy in zones 7-9

Ornamental Beach Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis)

The native beach strawberry is sometimes recommended as a water-wise lawn substitute. http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/312--fragaria-chiloensis

The native beach strawberry is sometimes recommended as a water-wise lawn substitute. http://www.laspilitas.com/nature-of-california/plants/312–fragaria-chiloensis

A Pacific Northwest native this is one of my favorites for pots since the long red runners dangle so perfectly over tall pots, the suspended, glossy green leaves often tinting red in cold weather.

Lipstick beach strawberry. Photo credit; Monrovia

Lipstick beach strawberry. Photo credit; Monrovia

Small white  flowers in spring are followed by tiny red edible berries. If you prefer hot pink flowers seek out Lipstick (Fragaria x ananassa).

Does well in poor sandy soil, full sun or part shade and is hardy in zones 3-9

Kinnikinnick, Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

"Arctostaphylos-uva-ursi" by Sten Porse - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arctostaphylos-uva-ursi.JPG#/media/File:Arctostaphylos-uva-ursi.JPG

“Arctostaphylos-uva-ursi” by Sten Porse – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arctostaphylos-uva-ursi.JPG#/media/File:Arctostaphylos-uva-ursi.JPG

Taking a ubiquitous, native groundcover and add it to a pot and suddenly it  is transformed from mundane to magnificent. Evergreen glossy green foliage on red stems, fragrant bell-shaped white flowers in spring, deer resistant, drought tolerant…..what more do you need?! Hardy in zones 2-7 this will trail to 3′ in full sun or part shade.

Bearberry Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster dammeri)

Big pots need big trailers - and this cotoneaster can be pruned to suit

Big pots need big trailers – and this cotoneaster can be pruned to suit

Stiff, densely clothed branches will trail for several feet. In a container environment it needs seasonal pruning to keep it in proportion but the semi-evergreen dark green leaves and red winter berries make it worthwhile. This does best in full sun but will also grow in part shade in zones 5-8. This is drought tolerant once established

Periwinkle (Vinca species)

A splash of color from this periwinkle adds interest and repeats the bright note of the Ascot Rainbow spurge

A splash of color from this periwinkle adds interest and repeats the bright note of the Ascot Rainbow spurge

If it’s the variegated leaves that you are after then periwinkle may be the perfect ivy-substitute. Wojo’s Gem and Illumination both have distinctive gold and green leaves while larger leaved varieties have two-tone green or green and creamy white foliage as well as flowers in white, blue, lavender or burgundy. Hardiness varies but all do best in shade – part sun.

Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’)

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Bring sparkle to the shade with this glowing round leaves that may be chartreuse or more yellow depending on lighting. In winter they may be semi-evergreen and often aquire a purple cast to the translucent leaves. Hardy in zones 4-8 this likes moist soil and shade or part shade. (It may burn in full sun)

Maroon Beauty Saxifrage, Strawberry Begonia (Saxifraga stolonifera ‘Maroon Beauty’)

Echo the silver veins by pairing with dusty miller and white variegated euonymus

Echo the silver veins by pairing with dusty miller and white variegated euonymus

This remarkable groundcover looks tender yet it is hardy in zones 7-10 (and semi-evergreen in my zone 6b garden). Named for its slender strawberry-like red runners this colonizing saxifrage adds pizzazz to the shade garden with  evergreen rosettes of scalloped gray-green leaves covered in a fuzz of silver hairs and etched with silvery veins. A haze of wispy pink-tinged white flowers adds to the display in spring.

What’s your favorite evergreen trailing plant? Leave us a comment or join us on Facebook

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Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

‘Plum Crazy’ Oxalis from our beloved Hort Couture paired with Celosia.

Whether you are looking for what wine would be best suited for your favorite foods or which type of chocolate to have after your superb meal, pairings are a natural idea that we all gravitate toward. Team Fine Foliage obviously gets to play with all kinds of amazing foliage and we love to figure out new and exciting ways to create new pairings.

There are no pairing rules, but we prefer that you begin with some kind of a superior leafy plant to get your design juices flowing and then springboard from there! In this post, we’re giving you the spring and summer edition. At the end of this post, if we have inspired you, leave us a note with a description of YOUR perfect pairing and you may see it in a future post. :-)

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

‘Blue Dune’ Lyme grass paired with Weigela ‘My Monet’

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

Phormium ‘Sundowner’ paired with Variegated Wallflower.

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

Yellow Gaillardia paired with Black Twig Dogwood.

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’ paired with Leucothoe ‘Rainbow’

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

Variegated Bluebeard paired with Blue Oat Grass

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’ paired with Pieris ‘Flaming Silver’

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

Purple Sage paired with Limonium.

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

‘Coppertina’ Ninebark paired with Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ and orange Nemesia.

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

‘Delta Dawn’ Heuchera paired with ‘Lawson’s’ Cypress

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple paired with Choisya ‘Sundance’

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

Variegated summer Phlox paired with unknown Heuchera.

Spring and Summer Perfect Pairings

Variegated summer Phlox paired with Hypericum ‘Ignite Scarlet’

All right now it’s YOUR turn, we will be waiting for your amazing ideas so that we can try to re-create some and post them later. Now, get going you have some designing to do! :-)


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Celebrate the Spring Foliage Fashion Show

Red barrenwort - also known as Bishop's hat in the UK

Red barrenwort (Epimedium x rubrum) also known as Bishop’s hat in the UK

I can’t help it – my heart skips a beat when I walk into a nursery at this time of year. I find myself reaching out to touch herbs, smell viburnums…and swoon at the sight of barrenwort  (Epimedium). It’s a sad affliction really but there is something about these wonderfully old fashioned perennials that makes me smile. Memories of my gardens in England perhaps or the relief that after winter we can once again enjoy the simple pleasures of reliable, colorful old friends that just get bigger and better every year.

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Frohnleiten barrenwort (Epimedium × perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’); marbled foliage and sulfur yellow flowers

So what’s so special about barrenwort?

  • The new heart shaped foliage is outstanding, usually at least tinged with red but often intensely colored
  • Dainty flowers dance high above the leaves in early spring
  • Many are evergreen
  • Drought tolerant
  • Deer resistant
  • Rabbit resistant
  • Spreads slowly to form a groundcover
  • Smaller plants work well in containers
  • Tolerates dry shade

Combination ideas

IMG_3324Dainty orange and yellow spidery flowers of Amber Queen barrenwort (Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’) dance above the golden Tom Thumb spruce (Picea orientalis ‘Tom Thumb’). The semi-evergreen elongated leaves of the barrenwort promise an exciting display very soon as burgundy mottling is already developing.

IMG_3333For additional color blend blue hostas and black mondo grass into this scene.

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Create a carpet under deciduous trees. Frohnleiten barrenwort is seen above with smoky purple hellebores adding depth and a large mugo pine offering year round structure.

IMG_3338For a seasonal garden moment you can’t do much better than capturing the brief relationship between the purple foliage of Gerald Derby iris and lavender flowers of Lilafee barrenwort (Epimedium x grandiflorum ‘Lilafee’). Each plant is more striking for its relationship with the other but this distinctive color is only for a very brief time. Be ready to party!

Cultural info

Barrenwort are generally hardy in zones 5-8 and prefer partial shade or full shade in average-dry soil.

Divide in autumn or after blooming

Design credit throughout; Mitch Evans, Redmond WA

 

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A Must-Have Tree for Spring Foliage

Weeping Larch in Spring

If you have a large sweeping landscape with acreage and views that extend far past what you can see from the house or if you have a San Francisco style property like mine with more of a courtyard style landscape, the Weeping Larch (Larix decidua ‘Pendula’) is a tree that will add drama no matter the season.

You may not be familiar with deciduous conifers like the family of Larch, but this is the one you might want to invest some time to look into it for your garden. It would likely become one of your favorites. It sure has become one of mine!

This family of trees and shrubs have needles, cones and when they lose their needles in autumn, the color is incredible. There are 12-15 different species to choose from, but today we’re just looking at the weeping version.

Thumbnail of Weeping Larch in Spring

Super-soft green needles spiral around branches and look like flowers when emerging in spring.

Late summer for the Weeping Larch

Peeking over the side gate in late summer at the Weeping Larch, just before it begins changing color.

Fall color on Weeping Larch

In fall, needles turn gold, orange & brown before dropping. The small cones are very decorative, sitting erectly atop branches for winter interest. And this tree gets HUGE bonus points for being deer resistant too!!

Now that you are all hopped up on juicy photos of a gorgeous little tree that you NEED for your landscape, go forth and shop. Ask you local Independent Garden Center if they have this wonderful tree for you.

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Great Foliage for Flower Gardens

 

Yes there are lots of flowers - but look at the layers of foliage that ties them together

Yes there are lots of flowers – but look at the layers of foliage that ties them together

Living in England for over thirty years, I am well acquainted with the chocolate box images of an English cottage garden. Memories of towering delphiniums against a weathered stone wall, the heady fragrance of old fashioned roses on a warm summers day with a froth of lady’s mantle at their feet still linger and make me smile. I designed my gardens in England in that style as well as some of my earlier gardens here in the Pacific Northwest and have been asked to re-create this romantic style for several clients in recent years.

However these days I make sure to include some gorgeous foliage plants to frame those flowers and keep the garden looking fresh and colorful even when things aren’t in full bloom. This is a hard sell for some clients who struggle to accept this means a few less flowers but when executed well this mixed design approach results in a far lovelier garden than could have been achieved otherwise.

To ease the mental shift I try to include especially pretty shrubs, some of which also have blooms. I also look for looser shapes rather than stiff forms. These are a few of my favorites which look at home mingling with the flowers.

Weigela

Midnight Wine weigela adds depth to Rozanne geranium and echoes the color of the dark stamens

Midnight Wine weigela adds depth to Rozanne geranium and echoes the color of the dark stamens

Available in heights ranging from 2′ to 8′ and foliage in shades of green, bronze, black or variegated with cream,white or pink, this shrub certainly gives you options. Tubular flowers in spring attract hummingbirds and bees and may be pink or white according to the variety.

These are woody, deciduous shrubs that take full sun or partial shade, are drought tolerant once established if the soil is  moisture retentive and reasonably deer resistant. (Deer may browse new tips but rarely damage the plant entirely).

Magical Fantasy has the palest pink flowers and looks beautiful planted with whirling butterflies (Gaura)

Magical Fantasy has the palest pink flowers and looks beautiful planted with whirling butterflies (Gaura)

Varieties I have grown include My Monet (dwarf, variegated pink, green and white), Midnight Wine (short, dark leaf), Magical Fantasy (mid-sized green/white variegated leaf) and the regular variegated form which is more of a creamy-yellow variegation.

Smoke bushes

A purple and chartreuse smoke bush flank this bench in the lovely garden of Carol Ager, Woodinville WA

A purple and chartreuse smoke bush flank this bench in the lovely garden of Carol Ager, Woodinville WA

I can’t imagine a garden without these and love that I now have enough space for quite a few. These are typically back of the border shrubs, especially some of the older varieties which can grow to 10′ or more. There are a few that are closer to 6′ but I have found that soil and light conditions has a considerable impact on mature height as of course does pruning.

For the largest leaves – but a the expense of the ‘smoke’, cut down the shrub by two thirds in spring as new growth is showing (but after danger of a severe freeze is past). This technique is called coppicing and results in a better shaped, fuller shrub with outstanding foliage.

Old Fashioned smoke bush seems to blend with any other color in the garden

Old Fashioned smoke bush seems to blend with any other color in the garden

Currently growing in my own garden are Grace (dusky purple), Royal Purple (smaller leaves that are very dark purple), Golden Spirit (mid size shrub with chartreuse leaves) and Old Fashioned (teal foliage on a mid-sized shrub).

Spirea

Double Play Gold has fabulous spring color!

Double Play Gold has fabulous spring color!

With seasonal color changes, pretty flowers, drought tolerance and an easy attitude these should be in your garden! There are several species and many named varieties available so you can have flowers and foliage from spring until late summer with fall color a late highlight.

Ogon has a much softer foliage

Ogon has a much softer foliage

In my garden I have several Ogon (sometimes called Mellow Yellow; Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon) which grow 5′ tall and wide. The finely textured golden leaves emerge as early as late January and the branches are studded with white flowers in early spring.

Also blooming in spring is a golden form of Vanhoutte’s spirea which sparkles in front of a dark green Hinoki cypress.

I've yet to get the 'perfect picture' of this combo but you can see it has promise!

I’ve yet to get the ‘perfect picture’ of this combo but you can see it has promise!

Planted en masse are a couple of groups of Double Play Gold  spirea whose foliage opens copper and rose, matures to gold and has flat clusters of pink flowers in summer (if the deer don’t eat the buds).

Others dotted round are Glow Girl, Blue Kazoo, Goldflame and probably a few more I’ve forgotten about!

Other foliage plants I love to work with include elderberries, the new dwarf, sterile butterfly bushes and ninebarks.

What do you like to add to your flower gardens?

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