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?

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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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Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Is your zeal for gardening hampered by the heat of summer sizzling your foliage?  We’re not even at the “Dog Days” of summer yet when “real” heat can set in and yet you may already be tired of hauling the watering can and hose around to pamper certain plants.
This week, let’s take a look at foliage that won’t shrivel when the thermometer gets a fever.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Pinterest has taken the popularity of succulents and all of the vast array of plants that behave like succulents to a whole new level of intrigue. There are as many types of succulents to fall in love with as there are ways to design with them.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Chanticleer
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Agave, Aloe, Sedum, Sempervivum, the collection possibilities are endless when you start looking for ways to have a sophisticated and water saving garden. Shopping for textures that go together, or setting your garden art about to accentuate your plants is much more fun that fussing with that hose anyway!

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

The drought tolerant landscape can be contemporary and architectural but, it can also be a soft and casual garden as well. The sky’s the limit when designing to save water and beat the heat.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
You may have to put tender things in containers in your climate and have a plan for keeping them warm in winter, but for many collectors, it’s worth it.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
If you are going to keep little containers of low maintenance foliage around, why not use them as focal points on the patio table rather than flowers that only bloom a short amount of time and need ALL of that H20?

Colorful drought tolerant plants that you can pair with succulents are a never-ending source of design inspiration.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageWither-Proof Hot weather Foliage
Blue Elymus grass can take the high temperatures with ease, so can the ‘Black Pearl’ Pepper and they look great with the ‘Blue Chalk Fingers’ succulent.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageSages and Salvia’s are a drought tolerant dream. Paired here with Limonium in a matching purple hue, you have color from the voluminous blooms and a water saving pairing.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
Parahebe (like the one above) and Hebe are tough and heat loving small shrubs.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
Euphorbia like ‘Glacier Blue’ with ‘Quicksilver’ Hebe and ‘Tri-Color’ Sage makes a lovely combination for tough and drought tolerant plants. The Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ is a bonus foliage that will need a wee little more water.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage
Silver foliage is almost certainly a great choice is you are looking for ways to save water in the garden. Artemisia is a family of plants with LOTS of choices and styles to choose from. But, there is a plethora of silver foliage to choose from for tough and dry conditions.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageG
lowing silver Astelia is a sophisticated option for a drought tolerant grass.

Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageZauchneria is not only great fun to say, but it blooms with bright orange flowers that hummingbirds begin turf wars over.
Wither-Proof Hot Weather FoliageBlue conifers of all types can be quite drought tolerant once established in the garden.

The bottom line is that there are FAR FAR too many drought tolerant and water saving options available to you these days to not try at least a few new ones every year. Your foliage palette will thank you and so will your water bill!

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Potted Inspiration

Remember this luscious pairing? Great bromeliad-pot combo at Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco

Remember this luscious pairing? Great bromeliad-pot combo at Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco

A couple of year ago we brought you color inspiration from our trip to Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco as we shared the dramatic ways they had taken the  color of a container as a springboard for the foliage planted in it. You can enjoy it again here

Well we decided it was time for an update so here for your potted pleasure is a smorgasbord of fabulous containers and foliage divas that were simply meant to be together.

Unexpected Companions

Rustic meets contemporary thanks to the skill of Graham Smyth, Victoria BC

Rustic meets contemporary thanks to the skill of Graham Smyth, Victoria BC

Putting succulents in a rustic container would have been fun and matching the shade of the teal foliage to the patina of the pot would have been clever. Adding fossils? Now that’s genius! They add to the sense of antiquity, bring the paler color of the house stucco into the pot and introduce a new texture.

Plan ahead

Consider the four season color palette when adding plants to a pot

Consider the four season color palette when adding plants to a pot

Clearly the Pomegranate Punch million bells play a key role in echoing the pot color of this summer design but there’s more! Black mondo grass is evergreen and accents the faded detail around the container rim year round. The key plant; Tiger Eyes Sumac will display shades of orange, gold and red in fall and when the leaves eventually drop the remaining fuzzy branches will be a shade of dusky rose, the warm note continuing to enhance the container and vice versa.

Pull a Vignette Together

Use the container to link the colors and style of the surroundings to the pot design

Use the container to link the colors and style of the surroundings to the pot design

This bold orange pot works as a focal point in the loose meadow-like planting, defining the color scheme and connecting the backdrop to the potted pheasant tail grass and berried wintergreen

When Procrastination Works

Serendipity and artistry combine in this pairing by designer Stacie Crooks of Crooks Garden Design

Serendipity and artistry combine in this pairing by designer Stacie Crooks of Crooks Garden Design

Designer Stacie Crooks never quite got around to cutting off the dead flowers of this donkey tail spurge – and aren’t we glad?! The succulent-like foliage of the spurge echo the rustic teal pot while the faded flowers relate to the brick detail on the pathway. Tufts of black mondo grass add color and texture contrast.

Aqua Shades

Contemporary wizardry by Todd Holloway of Pot Inc

Contemporary wizardry by Todd Holloway of Pot Inc

From shallow hanging planters to narrow trapezoid containers and a low bowl the shades of silver-grey and aquamarine set the color palette while the contemporary shapes suggest plants with ‘personality’ are a must. Todd used assorted succulents and other drought tolerant plants to get the look. You can read more here.

What are your pots telling you? Post a photo on our Facebook page – we love to see your ideas! Or leave us a comment below.

 

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Vibrant Color, Bold Design

Vibrant Color, Bold Design

Want vibrant colors in cool shady locations? If you’re focusing on the flowers first, it can be hard to come by. But I would defy anyone to try to tell me that it’s not possible to create BOLD and colorful combinations when you begin with foliage in lower light conditions. Though you need to fully understand the particular quality of light or lack of light you have in your situation, you CAN find options for foliage combinations in the shade in both containers and landscapes.

Morning shade has an entirely different light quality than afternoon shade. Dappled light all day is going to be a totally different challenge as would full deep shade. So, watch what your light does at different times of the day, as well as how many hours you have total and that will go a long way to helping you understand what your options are for plant choices. One tip: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. You would be shocked at how many people don’t think about where the light on their property actually comes from. :-)

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
(In this combination: Coleus ‘Sedona’, Heuchera ‘Spellbound’, ‘Gartenmeister’ Fuchsia, Oxalis ‘Iron Cross’, Golden Feverfew, Fuchsia ‘Autumnale’, ‘Purple Heart’ Setcresea, Blue Anagalis, Blue ‘Techno Heat’ Lobelia, Violet New Guinea Impatien.)
The combination above sits in a cool location on the north side of the house where it gets bright morning light for a few hours, then a little bit of bright light for a bit right before sundown. It has a cool side that features the mainstay foliage and then a warm side that features the flowers. This container was newly planted not long ago and is just now powering up for the summer color show.

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
Vibrant Color, Bold Design

This portion of the container combination is in bright but very indirect light on the west side of the house where it is blocked by large hedges and trees from the warmth of the afternoon. This triad of foliage is exciting in its level of detail and texture as it stands on the side of other more fine textured foliage. (Rex begonia, Persian Shield, Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’).

Vibrant Color, Bold Design

This container rests on a mostly shaded, covered patio, although it’s not terribly bright it is very warm and dry. The warmth allows for a little bit of play with certain plants that typically want more sun, so we’re capitalizing on that in less light. Pictured here: Cordyline fruticosa, ‘Black Heart’ Potato Vine, Coleus, Persian Shield, Rex begonia, Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’.

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
This foliage based shade combination has few flowers, but boasts some BOLD elements in a dappled light location. High contrast colors and textures, not to mention unusual plant selections make for a fun and architectural container design. This one is also newly planted and will “fluff out” quite a bit as summer progresses. Pictured here: Cordyline fruticosa, African Mask Alocasia, Stachys ‘Bella Grigio’, bright pink Bromeliad, Pink ‘Non-Stop’ Begonia, Golden Pothos.

As you have now witnessed, you CAN have amazing, mouth-watering color and texture from foliage in shade. If you can dream it, you can do it! Think out of the box, try shopping in the houseplant section, ground covers, etc. and for heaven’s sake, get to know your shade conditions first!! Now get out there and do some designing!

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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

IMG_2852

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’).

IMG_2567

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’)

IMG_2992

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.

IMG_2595

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’)

IMG_2606

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’)

IMG_2580

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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