Heavy Metal in the Shade Garden

You might guess that Team Fine Foliage is NOT talking about heavy metal music. But, just in case this headline threw you off and you were Googling something on an altogether different topic, be warned that the heavy metal we’re referring to here is foliage. :-)
The classy hues that bronze, copper and silver bring to the garden, unlike screaming heavy metal music, are subtle, rich and diverse. Whether foliage in these tones are used in sun or in shade, there are a million and one design uses. This time we focus on a combination in the shade on a container design that is on the smaller side, sitting on a side table for up-close viewing of the amazing textures represented.
Heavy Metal in the Shade Garden
This bromeliad or Vriesea fosteriana rubra is the anchor plant for the combination giving a backbone of stiff upright foliage for the other more soft and cascading plants to sit around. The nice thing about using a tough plant like this for a tabletop combination is that this shallow dish of plants won’t need a lot of pampering. The other bonus that you get when using this admittedly pricy collectors plant is that it makes a wonderful houseplant at the end of the season if you wish to winter over your investment for next year.
The feature colors here are the metallics, such as bronze, copper and silvery whites, which may seem much too subtle for a spot where there is low light. But, it works when paired with the crisp whites, fresh green as well as rose tones.
Heavy Metal in the Shade GardenThe next layer is the crinkled, texturally abundant Pilea spruceana which is another houseplant used outside in this combination and it worked beautifully! These plants are super easy and gratifying to grow as they also need very little love. Take note of how the metallic tones along with the shades of rose work in perfect unison with the Bromeliad here! Same tones, totally different textures, but the similar needs in the way of light and water.
Heavy Metal in the Shade Garden

This is what happens when you truly look at ALL the varied departments in the nursery for your summer container design choices. Sometimes a combination of colors, forms and textures meet on your cart and work as if you planned it! At least that’s what this designer is claiming if anyone asks. :-)
Heavy Metal in the ShadeNow to re-enforce with flower color! YES- flowers indeed! Have you seen this one before? It’s one trailing shade, part sun flowering annual that I can’t live without. Its called Mimulus or Monkey Flower and comes in a wide variety of colors that include intense yellow, orange, reds, white and other shades too. This particular cultivar is just one of the “Magic Spring Blossoms Mix” of Mimulus cousins, so be sure to ask for it at your local independent garden center.
The rose color in this particular plant works brilliantly well here! You can also see the wispy Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ here as well as a crisp contrast to the rest of the subtle and muted tones.
Heavy Metal in the Shade Garden

TA-DA!!! You can clearly see how it all came together here with the addition of the very crisp white Lobelia ‘Techno-Heat’ white as well as the leafy green asparagus fern. What do you think? Did I do these plants justice?

Use heavy metal in YOUR garden and let us know what foliage plants YOU chose and how they all work together. Share your images on our Fine Foliage Facebook page.

 

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Foundation Foliage With Attitude!

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NOT your typical plant combination – which is why I love it! Plant ID’s in next photo

I had the opportunity to visit the Portland garden of Loree Bohl a few days ago. Loree is known in the garden writing community for her popular blog Danger Garden where she indulges her love of spiky plants, saying “Nice plants are boring – my love is for plants that can hurt you. Agave, yucca, anything with a spike or spur!”

With my traveling first aid kit fully stocked I bravely ventured forth! While one could write an entire  book on Loree’s garden, covering her considerable collections (you can see her plant list here) , her fabulous contemporary containers of all shapes, sizes and colors and her impressive shade structure I was especially excited to discover this little vignette right by her front door. This area is often referred to as ‘foundation planting’ since the aim is to hide the lower part of the house walls. In Seattle the chances are it will include a rhododendron and a juniper – not terribly exciting or ambitious so this extravagant combo had me grabbing my camera!

Stylist Extraordinaire

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BACK ROW left-right; cactus in pot ( Opuntia species), Amsonia hubrichtii, Caesalpinia gilliesii (tiny leaves next to Canna), Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’. Rhamnus frangula ‘Ron Williams’. FRONT ROW left-right; Euphorbia rigida, Daphne x houtteana, Agave ovatifolia ‘Frosty Blue’, more Euphorbia rigida

This combination blends dry desert plants (agave, yucca and cactus) with bold tropical-esque canna and  with the fine feathery Arkansas blue star perennial that would look equally at home in a mixed border in England – WOW! So many distinct styles yet they all meld together so well thanks to a tight color palette and great textures

Spikes and More

In true Danger Garden style there are plenty of wicked looking plants but these are tempered with softer textures of Fine Line buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula ‘Ron Williams’) and Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrichtii), the wonderfully geometric succulent foliage of gopher spurge (Euphorbia rigida) and the over-sized bold Australia canna (Canna ‘Australia’) leaves.

Cool, Contemporary Colors

This foliage feast offers cooling shades of silvery-blue and green accented with burgundy and black, all set off by the rich charcoal siding of the home, acid-green front door and crisp white trim.

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Look at how perfectly the house colors set off these plants.

Attention to detail is evident as colors and shapes are repeated and a lime green hanging Hover planter by Pot Inc continues the theme.

Loree overwinters tender plants indoors (although all those planted in the ground are ‘technically hardy”) and hand waters in summer to make sure each plant gets just the right amount of moisture for it to thrive. While most of these are drought tolerant, the canna appreciates more regular water and as she pointed out to me, she waters the agave in summer to make them GROW!

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Planted in soil but with a gravel mulch many of these plants survive the zone 8b winters. Others get looked after indoors

Clearly Loree is a true Foliage Fashionista who isn’t afraid to experiment.

While this plant palette or look may not be for everyone it is inspiring to be reminded to push the boundaries occasionally.

Have you incorporated a few unexpected fashion-forward foliage plants into your more predictable  combinations lately? Tell us about them or post a photo on our Facebook page! (And while you’re there be sure to ‘like’ the Danger Garden facebook page too!)

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A Perfect 10 – Foliage Plants for August Refreshment

August of 2015 has been a continuation of an epic drought for much of the country. When the landscape is looking much more BROWN than normal in the dog days of summer, finding cool and refreshing foliage sounds pretty darn great!

Gold Caryopteris is a wonderful contrast to this vibrant Liatris.

Gold Caryopteris is a wonderful contrast to this vibrant Liatris.

A simple post this week that demonstrates ALL photos taken in the heat of August, and featuring lemon-fresh, cool foliage combination ideas for you to consider in your landscape. Some for sun, some for shade, but many that are easy to create in your own garden.

Hopefully these ideas are both inspiring and refreshing at the same time! 

Deep red barberry with a wonderfully defined gold ring around the edge is fab sitting out over the 'Lemon-Fizz' Santolina underneath.

Deep red barberry with a wonderfully defined gold ring around the edge is fab sitting out over the ‘Lemon-Fizz’ Santolina underneath.

Spirea 'Ogon' is a knock-out next to this dramatic black Actea.

Spirea ‘Ogon’ is a knock-out next to this dramatic black Actea.

How PERFECT is this dramatic black entry flanked by golden arborvitae?

How PERFECT is this dramatic black entry flanked by golden arborvitae?

Yucca 'Bright Star' positively glows against this blue container with sparkly blue gravel top-dressing.

Yucca ‘Bright Star’ positively glows against this blue container with sparkly blue gravel top-dressing.

Even this small speck of Sedum 'Angelina' makes a huge statement when next to the royal purple of simple lobelia.

Even this small speck of Sedum ‘Angelina’ makes a huge statement when next to the royal purple of simple lobelia.

Uplighting this collectors Japanese maple, a dwarf Ginkgo is THE feature element in a container with the bright chartreuse color.

Uplighting this collectors Japanese maple, a dwarf Ginkgo is THE feature element in a container with the bright chartreuse color.

 

Gold Spike Moss can be finicky about finding its happy spot, but when you do...... :-)

Gold Spike Moss can be finicky about finding its happy spot, but when you do…… :-)

Gold Carex grass is a perfect companion for this garden art.

Gold Carex grass is a perfect companion for this garden art.

Gold Mexican Orange is epic placed next to the blooms of the Dwarf Russian Sage.

Gold Mexican Orange is epic placed next to the blooms of the Dwarf Russian Sage.

So what looks refreshing as a lemonade stand on a hot summer day in your garden right now?  Tell us about it in the comments below or post a photo to our Facebook page; we’d love to hear your news.

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Winning With Silver

What's the buzz in your garden today?

What’s the buzz in your garden today?

It’s hot, too hot for most of my Seattle garden to handle. Fried astilbe, sunburned hosta and crispy ferns are just a few of my casualties while a semi-naked katsura tree also tells the sad story. I garden on 5 acres without an irrigation system, relying on the inherent drought tolerant properties of plants and occasional watering of selected plants by hand. Being on well water may save us on utility bills but there is a high probability that our well will go dry this year so every drop counts.

Feeling frustrated and disheartened I headed out into the garden with my camera, determined to find something that looked good despite drought and record breaking temperatures. A camera helps me narrow my focus and reduces distractions. Sure enough there are a few things to celebrate.

The overall winners were all my plants with silver leaves.

Licorice plant

Licorice plant

That’s not really surprising. Silver leaves reflect light and heat. You may notice that many of them are covered with fine hairs such as the licorice plant above. These are an adaptation to water conservation by reflecting light away from the plant. Hairs on the underside of the leaf raise the humidity of the surrounding air and slow down the movement of the air so that water is carried away more slowly. Cardoon leaves have that feature.

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We all love lavender for the fragrant flowers as well as the foliage which can be silver, green or variegated

Have you noticed how many of these silver leaved plants are also aromatic? Lavender, catmint, Russian sage, culinary sage to name just a few. Interestingly these volatile oils increase the air density and reduce evaporation.

To conserve water loss, plants with smaller leaves also do better in a drought since the surface area is significantly reduced.

These are just a few examples from my own garden this year but you will soon see how they exemplify one or more of these survivor traits. By understanding what has done well I hope to make wise choices going forward since meteorologists tell us this pattern may hold for three or four more years.

 Silver Falls dichondra (Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’)

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Although just a fun annual for me I was thrilled to see Silver Falls dichondra as a tough, vigorous groundcover when we visited  San Diego earlier this year. I love to grow this trailing over the edges of brightly colored containers or hanging baskets. Like strands of exquisite shimmery beads this will bring a touch of class to the simplest design. For me it does equally well in full sun as it does in part shade.

Silver Brocade wormwood (Artemisia stelleriana ‘Silver Brocade’)

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I do love the silver foliage of so many wormwood including Valerie Finnis and Silver Mound but have only marginal success overwintering them. My heavy clay soils just don’t drain quickly enough. So after several years of replacing Silver Mound I decided to just buy a few inexpensive 2″ basket stuffers of Silver Brocade. For many this will be a reliable perennial but I’m considering it an annual. However knowing that they would spread really quickly I didn’t mind investing a few dollars for some serious summer sizzle.

I tucked the little plugs in with some white alyssum (either seedlings I’d grown or more 2″ basket stuffers) and have been thrilled with the results. They have only been watered once a week yet have spread at least 2′ in every direction, their felted fern-like foliage adding a bold carpet under its neighbors.

Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare)

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I’m not generally a fan of growing groundcovers as their presence makes it difficult to add soil amendments such as compost and can even make weeding more awkward. However in the summer I have come to rely on the silver licorice plant to disguise the gaps between young plants, add a silver uplight to darker colors and be a seriously drought-tolerant groundcover from May until late September. I allow a certain amount of free-form scrambling over small shrubs and encourage them to weave between perennials such as black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’). One little 4″ plant can spread 3-4′ so that’s a good return on a couple of dollars.

Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus)

Mature cardoon foliage (at a local nursery)

Mature cardoon foliage (photo taken at a local nursery)

Drama? Check. Scale? Check. Pollinator caviar? Double check

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My intention was just to show you the huge, coarse, deeply dissected silver foliage of this monster perennial but how could I possibly ignore the blooms, especially when there was a pollinator orgy going on in my garden?! Thistle-like flowers are being produced with complete disregard for drought conditions. Like many plants these cardoon are a little shorter this year due to lack of regular water but that’s OK as they still offer such great architecture to the garden border – and pollen for the bees.

Weeping silver-leaf pear (Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’)

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Metallic silver, willow-like foliage is remarkably eye-catching in a mixed border; even more so when on a weeping small tree. It creates a focal point yet highlights other plants from bold conifers to finely textured grasses. It goes well with deep jewel tones and adds a soft touch of romance to pastels.

In its youth the weeping silver-leaf pear can be rather gangly but give it a few years to step beyond adolescence and you will be well rewarded.

White flowers in spring are followed by inedible pear-like fruit but this ornamental small tree or large shrub is all about the foliage. This is one of my favorite plants in the garden.

Catmint (Nepeta species)

Walker's Low two weeks after being sheared to the ground

Walker’s Low two weeks after being sheared to the ground

I have both Walker’s Low and Little Trudy catmint in this garden and have grown the classic Six Hills Giant previously. I love them all for their fragrant foliage, blue flowers, easy attitude and superior drought tolerance. After blooming I unceremoniously hack them down to a few inches and this is my reward; more flowers and fresh foliage despite no water or fertilizer.

Sea Heart Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Sea Heart’)

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I don’t have a lot of shade in my garden but where I do you won’t be surprised to learn that it is fairly dry shade. Siberian bugloss seems undaunted by such conditions. Jack Frost does extremely well but  Sea Heart is even more remarkable not least of all because of the much larger size of its leaves. Rough to the touch this heart shaped foliage has an intricate overlay of silver on green. Forget-me-not blue flowers appear in spring. This is holding its own under a golden locust tree and is thriving.

Quicksilver hebe (Hebe pimeleoides ‘Quicksilver’)

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Just a few miles from here in Christina’s garden Quicksilver hebe is hardy but in my cold, sticky, heavy clay soils I’m happy to use it as an annual or short term semi-evergreen shrub. The color and texture are easy to blend with bolder, brighter offerings in the landscape and I know this can take both the heat and low water. I’ve been especially glad of it this year although its color leans more towards a pale teal than true silver

Elsewhere in the garden are assorted lavender, Silver Shadow astelia and the new Bella Grigio lambs ears; all thriving in our crazy summer.

As a bonus all the plants listed here have proven deer resistant in my deer-ravaged garden

Take a few moments to look at your own garden and assess what looks good right now despite your particular gardening challenges. Tell us about it in the comments below or post a photo to our Facebook page; we’d love to hear your news.

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Late Summers Groovy Grasses

Late Summers Groovy GrassesWhether your intention is to create a nod to the meadows of grasses and flowers designed by the legendary Piet Oudolf  or to simply add some soft billowy texture to the landscape, adding a little zing with grasses is gratifying and much easier than most people believe.

Chanticleer
You have hundreds of amazing options no matter what your design goals. Some gardeners may just want a little textural difference from the standard variety of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and the low maintenance benefits of ornamental grasses are hard to resist.

Late Summer's Groovy GrassesRefined and elegant, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ has a thin white margin on the center of the blade giving it the advantage over other more plain grasses and where you may want a lighter color to a space. Topping out at only 5ft. tall it also has a quite narrow base so that getting other plants right in up close in tight spaces is not difficult as you can see above.

Late Summers Groovy Grasses

Certain grasses are out and showing off long before the first week of August, but many are just beginning to hit their stride for the late months of the gardening year. This week, we’re focusing  on those later grasses.

Above is a VERY fun grass with and equally fun name to say- Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blond Ambition’,  which is airy and light and needs to be either mass planted or to have a nice bold leaf to set against and be able to shine as a specimen.

Late Summers Groovy Grasses
The award-winning Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is a designers dream as it tall and narrow so it can be used not only in tight spaces, but in repetition in rows and give a modern, elegant look as well as above in a casual easy breezy way. The wheat-like blooms are both sturdy and showy from a distance.

LAte Summers Groovy GrassesStipa tenuissima ‘Mexican Feather Grass’ is a lovely option for a small growth habit in a grass, and one that has a fun personality. It comes out a fresh spring green and then in summer it begins to turn a sandy light beige. Team Fine Foliage is aware that in some locations across the count try it can be invasive, so be sure to check with your local independent garden center or horticulturist if this is one you should be avoiding. But if it’s one for you, you will have a hard time not petting it and feeling the silky softness as you walk by it.

Late Summers Groovy GrassesPennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ is a fountain grass and if low maintenance is your thing, try it with an amazing lavender with impeccable performance like Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ and you will see this combo check off many of your design boxes. This is a very tough grass that can be quite drought tolerant once established. It blooms with these “bunny-tail” blooms that are delightful to touch and when paired with the lavender blooms that come on earlier the duo it showy for months on end. In fall the grass will take on some elegant golden and apricot highlights and hold tight without falling apart for the majority of winter. It gets cut back in spring and you are off the races again.

Late Summers Groovy Grasses
As the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Angel Blush’ or ‘Tardiva’ change to their deeper rose tones in late summer and autumn, you can rely on Eulalia grass or Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’  for a taller, elegant option for pairing up with this large-scale shrub. The glittering blooms on this grass shine in the sunlight and give sparkle to whatever they are near.

For more information, garden writer Nancy Ondra wrote a beautiful book on grasses and designing with them, I highly recommend it! She is a masterful designer and it was my first go-to resource on grasses in my own hort-library.

What groovy grasses have you planted this summer? Leave us a comment below or tell us on Facebook!

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Beautify Your Edibles

Add flowers - and fun to liven up your edibles

Add flowers – and fun to liven up your edibles (Fruit from http://www.awpottery.com)

We’ve been seeing some truly beautiful vegetable gardens this summer. Word has clearly got out that many of our favorite edibles have highly ornamental foliage that don’t need to be hidden away. Not only that but by looking for fun color echoes and contrasts you can create some striking vignettes and combinations.

Golden creeping Jenny 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. A perfectly balanced design by our friends Peggy and Al Shelley

Our new book will showcase a few ideas but we thought you’d like a peek into our photo library to see what happens when you build a design by putting foliage FIRST – even if you’re going to eat it later – and add other colorful leaves, flowers and accessories.

Surprising Color Inspiration

Turn beans into a dazzling wall of color by planting tall lilies next to them

Turn beans into a dazzling wall of color by planting tall lilies next to them

Beans and peas are a summer staple and quickly smother a trellis with lush  leaves and dangling pods. Some varieties of bean have golden leaves, a few have colorful flowers and there are some exciting colored beans to choose from too but what do you do when yours are just ordinary green-leaved green-beans?

The design above was the mastermind of Whidbey Island, WA gardener/designer Elaine Michaelides as she selected lilies that echo the color of the structure behind it. These tall lilies grow  as tall as the beans bringing color just where you need it. Stunning.

Look around – do you have a colorful chair, container or cushion you can use as a springboard?

Keep it Simple

Swiss chard and Shenandoah switch grass - perfect partners

Swiss chard and Shenandoah switch grass – perfect partners

This easy combo was part of a street-side planting in Langley on Whidbey Island, WA.

What about yellow chard with golden grasses?  Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’) would be pretty in a partially shaded setting.

Or  the finely green and white variegated Overdam feather reed grass (Calamgrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’) with white chard for full or part sun.

A movable feast

Sunny yellows brighten bold silver-grey leaves

Sunny yellows brighten bold silver-grey leaves; Epcot 2014

Artichokes are undeniably one of the most exciting, architectural vegetables in the garden with wide deeply serrated silver foliage and tall stems that bear blue thistle-like flowers followed by the edible artichoke itself.

Silver can read rather ‘grey’ in the garden, however, unless you brighten it with something fun like sunny yellow as the gardeners at Epcot did last year. They planted the artichoke in a vivid yellow wheelbarrow and surrounded it with yellow daisies – fabulous! Trailing bronze sweet potato vine tumbling from the wheelbarrow adds a finishing touch and ties visually to the nearby purple chair (and the color of the soon to follow artichoke blooms). Genius.

Small Space Solutions

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Pallet gardens at Epcot

Even if you only have tiny planting pockets such as these pallet gardens, you can still get a designer look. Notice how the edible foliage textures and colors vary yet order is achieved by planting just one variety per row. A bright yellow chair and a few strips of cheery annuals makes sure the pollinators come to visit as well creating as a visual feast for us.

Escape route!

Break out of the vegetable garden!

Break out of the vegetable garden.

This pumpkin mingles happily with golden hyssop, coral bells and abelia in a street-side planting in Langley, WA – and why not? Big, bold leaves and sunny yellow flowers as well as attractive fruit make this every bit as ornamental as neighboring shrubs.

Rhubarb and rhodies

Rhubarb and rhodies

I do something similar with my rhubarb and grow it in front of rhododendrons. The deer don’t eat it so there’s no reason for me to take up space in my fenced vegetable garden and I love the ornamental value it adds to the border.

What good ideas have you seen this summer? Leave us a comment below or tell us on Facebook!

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Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageSummer is no time to be timid with your landscape design. We only have a short window for this garden magnificence and TEAM Fine Foliage says that you need to GO FOR IT! Whether in container or more large-scale, your garden should be a place that fills you with joy and excitement.
The color bonanza above is a BOLD over-the-top example and obviously not all of us can do this but please, this post BEGS you to imagine your world beyond the typical and everyday plants. Get crazy, think out of the box, try new things!
Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageOur post is LOADED this week with tropical feeling inspiration to shake you up a bit and get your design juices flowing with ideas that YOU can try. You can take these ideas and translate them from the idea of color schemes, textural ideas, scale, etc. The point is to study what brings you inspiration to try something NEW!
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Cool colors are your thing? Easy-peasy! This bromeliad sports quite the handsome lavender glow in the pot where a simple variegated ivy snuggles up the base of the plant and acts like an uplight. What could you use in place of this giant collectors plant that might be hardy in your garden?
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Do you yearn for a feminine esthetic? Citrus colors mixed with pale pink in this scene are not only soft and refined, but BOLD! 
Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageIf you simply MUST have your geraniums, then why not pair them with euphorbia ‘Fire Sticks’ and Carex ‘Cappuccino’ to mix it up a bit and try something unexpected.

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

The wow factor of these colors together is undeniable. Both subtle AND kind of savage at the same time! Acalypha and dracaena make fine friends in a container that compliments them with so much style!
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Could this dracaena BE any more well named? ‘Colorama’! Paired here in a captivating graphic combination with ‘Saffron-Spike’ Aphelandra they are a designers dream for inspiring new ideas! I know that your brain is just zooming with ideas isn’t it? This is how we come up with new ideas and plant combinations, we take fantasy and apply it to our own small-scale gardens and containers. What would your foliage plant combo be based on THIS photo?

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
HOLY COLOR WHEEL BATMAN! Yes, that is a LOT of color. Clear, true primary colors always work together. But here, the take away is to notice the strong, broad strappy leaves of the bromeliads give a green place for your eye to rest and cool off. So, even though this is based on flowers, it’s a foliage that saves the day!

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
The use of tasty edibles in containers is classy against the off-white stucco, but the DRAMA of the giant lemon colored schefflera in a deep blue pot adds that spark of powerful intensity. Not only that, it beautifully echoes the tile art on the wall too. 

Here is a peek at how I translated a little bit of FIERCE into a container for one of my more adventurous clients this summer.
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Have you got some tough shade but still want to have some intense combinations? Here are the couple of powerful combos that are under the shade of large trees. See? Scale, drama, texture bring this to design fruition with only a few small blooms!
Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageGetting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Here is my take on these extraordinary combinations for a shade container for that same courageous client….
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage


Now go out there and snap some photos of YOUR FIERCE Fine Foliage designs and share them with us on Facebook!

 

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Fido-Proof Foliage

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Bo (left) and Mia. Photo credit Gethyn Clothier

I have two golden retrievers with varying degrees of intelligence. Bo is big, blonde and goofy. Mia is smaller and more devious. For the most part our garden and the dogs live in harmony. The vegetable garden is fenced to keep the deer out and also serves to keep canine noses within reach of just a few strawberries and only the lowest apples.

Bo knows that  this path is off limits. Knowing and remembering, however, are two different skills

Bo knows that this path is off limits. Knowing and remembering, however, are two different skills

They know they have to keep out of certain areas that aren’t fenced but have a distinct change in tactile surface e.g. grass is OK but the wood chips path that winds through the bigger borders is off limits.

OOPS - we'd only had Bo a few days at this point so forgiveable

OOPS – we’d only had Bo a few days at this point so forgivable. Photo credit; Gethyn Clothier

The problem arises when they see deer. Or Rabbits. Or a squirrel. Or heaven help us the neighbor because at that point 85 pounds of blonde fur is likely to fly through shrubs and perennials, tail wagging with abandon.

Sound familiar? How can the garden survive such joie de vivre? I find dense planting helps (no clear pathway between them) but certain plants are tougher than others.

I look for flexible branches that will give way rather than snap, tough foliage that won’t shred under paws and multi-stemmed shrubs so that if one or two canes get damaged it’s not the end of the world.

Here are some of my favorite tromp-able foliage plants that look good enough for me and survive happy dogs.

Abelia

Kaleidoscope abelia has colorful variegated foliage

Kaleidoscope abelia has colorful variegated foliage

These evergreen or semi-evergreen shrubs work hard in the garden. Drought tolerant, deer resistant and rabbit resistant they also have fragrant flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. Kaleidoscope is one of several variegated forms. Plant this next to a purple shrub such as a smoke bush or weigela and you’ve got the makings of a top notch vignette.

David’s viburnum

Davids viburnum with river birch

Davids viburnum with river birch

This tough evergreen shrub has a bad reputation for being boring thanks to its ubiquitous use along roadsides, in shopping malls and just about anywhere else you need a low maintenance, fuss-free plant. Hang on a minute though; since when was that a bad thing? These wide spreading shrubs survive deer, rabbits, drought and DOGS. Spring flowers, fall berries and easy going; you may need to put your pride aside and look at David’s viburnum again.

Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)

Fall Foliage on Little Henry

Fall Foliage on Little Henry

I favor the compact variety Little Henry as it fits easily into modest sized gardens but this is a foliage workhorse even at full size (Henry’s Garnet). Fragrant spring flowers and stunning fall color that often persists through winter are two great attributes but this deciduous shrub also thrives in wet soil and grows by suckering. For dog owners that’s a plus as it means there are lots of soft pliable stems so some will remain unscathed after the dog-chases-rabbit rampage is over.

Blue star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

Many low growing conifers survive the odd tennis ball but the short branches and needles  together with its irregular growth habit help the Blue Star juniper easily disguise some minor trampling. Larger pine boughs would definitely be missed by comparison.

Flanked by a viburnum and spirea the blue star juniper survives bouncing tennis balls and paws

Flanked by a viburnum and spirea the blue star juniper survives bouncing tennis balls and paws

Box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida)

Lemon Beauty has an attractive lemon and lime variegation

Lemon Beauty has an attractive lemon and lime variegation

If you have a shrub that you can prune anyhow, anytime and it still looks OK then chances are good that it will be fine with dogs too. Box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida) is a sprawling semi-evergreen/evergreen shrub with several attractive varieties sporting interesting foliage colors. Lemon Beauty is one of my favorites. I allow it to grow into a wide arching shrub to disguise irrigation pipes in one area of the garden but prune it more closely for shape in another.

Plants to avoid – at least initially

Dogs love to eat grass – especially the expensive ones like Japanese forest grass and mondo so wait a while on adding those if you’re training a puppy. Taller grasses can also quickly be ravaged by boisterous dogs.

Western sword ferns may not be the most delicate - but that is why they survive dog play

Western sword ferns may not be the most delicate – but that is why they survive dog play

Soft, delicate ferns are likely to get torn to shreds (e.g. western maidenhair fern) but the tougher more leathery varieties will cope better e.g. western sword fern

Anything whose beauty is associated with perfect symmetry! That suggests leaving globe shaped conifers behind in favor of ones with a little more personality.

Paws for thought

I haven’t mentioned plants with thorns such as Oregon grape (Mahonia), holly or barberries. These will hurt dogs and none of us wants to do that. When your dogs are trained by all means include these great shrubs if they are suitable for your area, but perhaps set them into the border a little way. Even well behaved dogs have accidents when leaping for a tennis ball!

Share your ideas

We’d love to hear what plants you have used that have survived being torn up by paws or knocked flat by tails (or rolled onto …)

Why do I feel as though the dogs will have the last laugh??

Why do I feel as though the dogs will have the last laugh??

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High Spirit Foliage Color for the 4th

With the 4th of July fast approaching, Team Fine Foliage is dealing with a 100 year, record-setting heat wave here in our typically mild northwest climate (as I sit in front of the AC writing this post). We have surpassed records made in past hot July and August months so far and there seems to be no end in sight. Most of our time when not working on the NEW BOOK “Foliage First”, has been holding a hose or setting up sprinklers.

Karen Chapman's explosion of fireworks Brit style. :-)

Karen Chapman’s explosion of fireworks Brit style. :-)

Since the vast majority of us can’t let off fireworks here due to the heat advisory and one half of Team Fine Foliage is British anyway, we can get crazy HERE! :-) I thought it was a good time to bring you foliage ideas that are both high energy color and high impact forms. Some spiky shapes that mimic fireworks are interesting and maybe they will give your imagination some ammunition to add some explosive foliage interest to YOUR landscape.

An Acalypha that I snapped in Disneyworld, BOLD!!

An Acalypha that I snapped in Disney World, BOLD!!

Red Castor Bean is a showstopper, but can be a bit hard to find. Those giant red leaves are about 2ft. across.

Red Castor Bean is a showstopper, but can be a bit hard to find. Those giant red leaves are about 2ft. across.

I could have stuck with the good old red, white and blue for this post, but I came across SO many other fun bits of color and detail for you that I gave up on that theme. But, there is always this one that you could do in a cobalt blue pot with red and white New Guinea Impatiens right? Someone make that combo and post it for us on the Fine Foliage page!

Drama with Caladium, never fails!

Drama with Caladium, never fails!

High Spirited Foliage for the 4thRed Mandevilla, red Rex begonia and a red sphere, now THAT is some color for a partially shady nook!

Another unique Acalypha harmonizing with orange, bronze and the lavender toned Asters.

Another unique Acalypha harmonizing with orange, bronze and the lavender toned Asters.

Impatien 'Omeiana' is ALMOST like fireworks in the shade garden!

Impatiens ‘Omeiana’ is ALMOST like fireworks in the shade garden!

A reddish Bromeliad in a patriotic blue pot makes a statement!

A reddish Bromeliad in a patriotic blue pot makes a statement!

Canna makes a wonderful backdrop for airy Gamma Grass like little sparks shooting up from the pot!

Canna makes a wonderful backdrop for airy Gamma Grass like little sparks shooting up from the pot!

Now THIS is a fireworks display!!

Now THIS is a fireworks display!!

There are always blue foliage plants (for the good old Red, White and Blue) that are dramatic and stunning around, sometimes you just have to think out of the box a bit. :-)

High Spirited Foliage for the 4th

'Silver Swan' euphorbia with 'Quicksilver' Hebe.

‘Silver Swan’ Euphorbia with ‘Quicksilver’ Hebe.

Melianthus

Melianthus

White foliage can be white HOT in sun or in shade!

'Spider Web' Fatsia

‘Spider Web’ Fatsia

Creamy off-white foliage from variegated Cordyline is plenty classy on it's own in a container.

Creamy off-white foliage from variegated Cordyline is plenty classy on its own in a container.

Garden Art, soft Mexican feather grass and one lone canna leaf glowing like a burning ember make for an unexpectedly electric combo of form and colors.

Garden Art, soft Mexican feather grass and one lone canna leaf glowing like a burning ember make for an unexpectedly electric combo of form and colors.

HOLY COW Yankee Doodle look at that BIG BOLD showy foliage in white? :-)

HOLY COW Yankee Doodle look at that BIG BOLD showy foliage in white?

Look at that, it’s time for me to go out and water the landscape, we should talk succulents next time. :-)

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The Ones That Got Away

Early morning in the beautiful garden of designer Vi Kono includes being serenaded by doves

Early morning in the beautiful garden of designer Vi Kono includes being serenaded by doves

Christina and I are working hard to bring you the best of the best for our new book Foliage First (working title only), due out fall 2016 with Timber Press. The less than romantic aspects of that means staggering out of bed at unearthly hours for photo shoots then working late at night editing, critiquing and selecting only those images that we feel really tell a story. We want you to see at a glance what a fabulous foliage framework can do for a piece of art or a special flower for instance.

In the selection process we have to set aside many combinations that are gorgeous but that perhaps include a shrub that we have already featured several times. Or sometimes there are just one too many slug holes! Occasionally our photography was good – but not excellent – and we are striving for excellence.

In this post I thought I’d share of few of those images that showed great creativity on the part of the homeowner but didn’t make the cut for the book. Be inspired! Don’t consider them ‘outtakes’ but rather the ones that (almost) got away.

1. Architectural detail

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

I love the curved lines of this metal sculpture. Nestled among the stiff succulent branches of donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) and backed by a variegated juniper this is a delightful ‘garden moment’. Have you got a rock retaining wall that could use a little accessorizing?

2. New Plant!

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

Have you seen Neptune’s Gold seaholly (Eryngium) in person yet? It looks like the one above (which is Sapphire Blue) but those bracts are actually GOLD. Totally amazing. You’ll have to wait for our book to see the combination included with the new perennial. It is STUNNING!

Meanwhile enjoy this duo; a wonderful soft color echo between Sapphire Blue sea holly with the teal and gold juniper behind it.

3. Look THIS way!

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

if only this clematis flower would have been turned slightly – or I could have found a better angle. Still I know you will still appreciate the ingenuity for allowing this to grow through the columnar purple barberry Helmond’s Pillar. Why didn’t I think of that?

4. Floral extravaganza

Design by Karen Steeb

Design by Karen Steeb

This delightful combination would be perfect – for a different book! The gold variegated foliage of the Emerald and Gold wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald and Gold’) sets off the white Jupiter’s beard (Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’) ) beautifully which in turn allows the orange poppy to shine. Can’t honestly say this is a ‘foliage first‘ combo, but you have to admit that the foliage is definitely a key part in its success.

5. Fishing hole

Design by Ruth Hough

Design by Ruth Hough

A charming vignette that tells a story of the one that got away. From the artfully placed gnarled tree root to the carefully selected boulder that holds water like a pool, this scene has got the perfect Pacific Northwest vibe, using native sword ferns as well as conifers and grasses to set the scene. We had to concede that the story it didn’t tell was foliage first – and that’s OK. We love it anyway and know you will too.

Can you do something like this? I’m on the lookout for a metal fish!

Do YOU have a garden we can photograph?

IMG_4551

We still need a few more great photographs for the book. We need them to show a foliage framework then how art, flowers or berries have been strategically layered in. If this sounds like your garden and you’re within driving distance of Seattle please get in touch! Email Karen to start the conversation. And please don’t worry about weeds or a lawn that hasn’t been edged. The camera is master of illusion.

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