September Survey of Foliage

September is when I begin to think about the waning flowers and seasonal summer foliage and how I will feel when there is no luscious coleus about to accent and highlight seasonal summer foliage on shrubs, perennials and other annuals.

Coleus and MelianthusThe coleus is hanging in there for a while, but the nurseries however are clearing quickly, the sales abound, so NOW is the time to take stock and survey what you have vs. what you want for next year. The sooner you get those pieces that I call “furniture” in the garden for the cold season interest, the better off they will be come spring.

Coleus and Hypericum 'Ignite Scarlet'

Coleus

Coleus and Euphorbia 'Silver Swan'

"Under the Sea" Coleus, Heuchera 'Berry Smoothie', 'Blue Star' Juniper

"Under the Sea" Coleus, Heuchera 'Lime Rickey'
So, I plot and plan my next steps. Envisioning my nose stuck against the glass in the colder months with a hot cup of coffee in hand, I think about how I will enjoy the finer details of the late season fall and winter foliage that remains while plotting and planning at that time what I will do in spring.

Coleus and Euphorbia 'Silver Swan' What’s going to hold up in the cold and look interesting mixed with my spring and summer favorites AND have some showy FOLIAGE? Luckily, here in our mild, “Plant Mecca” climate, I have many choices. The front yard has the deer and bunnies, but the back is fully fenced and I can get more “experimental” there without losing my wallet in the process.

We won’t have the louder, showy options we have in spring and summer of course, because the cold time of the year is about more of the quiet details, more subdued colors and textural details that we admire from a closer view.

Blueberry 'Sunshine Blue' and Abelia 'Kaleidascope'
That’s not to say that we can’t have HUGE amounts of personality this time of the year! I LOVE the Blueberry foliage with Abelia ‘Kaleidascope’. With a late season grass like Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ or Pennisetum a. ‘Burgundy Bunny’ this combo could be outstanding!

Variegated Boxwood with unknown ChamaecyperisHave a yen for light and airy? The light of this variegated boxwood and chamaecyperis (unknown) together are a fine winter pairing. What would YOU add as another accent here? Possibly another dramatic grass? How about Japanese Blood grass for a shock of red for autumn?

Variegated PierisSpeaking of light and airy- how about one of my go-to must have favorites to design with plants? The Variegated Pieris is elegant, showy and the epitome of seasonal. I also have a passion for it’s cousins ‘Flaming Silver’ and ‘Little Heath’. EPIC plants for designing a garden that needs to drop a few visual pounds and lighten up.

'Little Rascal' Holly, Eupatorium 'Chocolate', Carex tesacea and Melianthus
This rich and subtle combination of ‘Little Rascal’ Holly, Orange Sedge, ‘Chocolate’ Eupatorium and Melianthus are a textural dream for the late season. That carex will get more orange, and the holly will get a bit more black just in time for Halloween! ;-)

Ilex c. 'Drops of Gold', 'Redbor' Kale, Heuchera 'Berry Smoothie' I know some designers consider it rather “pedestrian”, but I adore the tall purple ‘Redbor’ Kale for it’s fall and winter richness. And when it is paired with the berry-liscious Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’ and Ilex c. ‘Drops of Gold’- stand back!

Osmanthus 'Goshiki' and Miscanthus s. 'Morning Light'
Osmanthus 'Goshiki' Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ is also a favorite for it’s hardiness, slow growth, foliage color and personality. I frequently get clients and customers who wince at the thought of a plant like this and say “Oh no, no prickly plants in my garden!” Then I stick two hands in it and show them it doesn’t bite! Then I say, “Well, if you’re huggin it, you’re doing it wrong.” This plant is SO worth it for the seasonality!

Silver Hellebore and Spruce
Speaking of prickly but worth it! This silver Hellebore is simply striking against the backdrop of this old spruce in the background. Both with a lovely blue-green coloration they each have equally distinct and separate charisma. These two happen to be front and center on a patio, smashing in winter!

Bergenia, Molinia and HelleboreThis Bergenia is nothing fancy in the way of a cutting edge plant, BUT when paired with this Molinia and bed of Hellebore in the background, it is a fall and winter masterpiece of design! So simple, yet effective.

Miscanthus and red Japanese Maple
The subtle coloration of this Miscanthus blooms may have been lost if it were not for the backdrop of the red Japanese Maple in the background.

Euphorbia 'Silver Swan', Hebe 'Quicksilver', 'Tri-Color' Sage, Heuchera 'Green Spice'
I am forever attracted to monochromatic color schemes. I’m not quite sure why the sophistication of it appeals to me SO much! I think the interplay of layering one tone can have so many distinct identities within a small display and depending on the plant combinations, can be changed up to be more powerful or more indirect. For fall and winter though, I think that the cold brings out the drama in these kind of displays.

So, what am I wistful for in next years garden? I “think” I may take out a Ninebark to make way for one of these: Cotinus 'Young Lady' This Smokebush or Cotinus ‘Young Lady’ has captured my heart. Though I think I may hold out for one called ‘Grace’ for her utterly stunning fall foliage in a bright, rich, coral and tealy, blue-green leaves in summer.

How about you? Are you planning your next foliage focus for fall and winter yet?

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A Story of Seduction

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Foliage can be bold and brazen or sheer and sexy – it all depends on how you use it.

We’ll often talk about framing a scene with foliage to add emphasis or highlight a focal point whether that be a sculpture, water feature or even a specimen tree. However you can also use ultra-fine grasses as you would a gauzy fabric, to partially obscure.

Containers

This is especially effective when the feature waiting to be revealed has a strong, clearly defined presence such as the container seen above. This reminds me of those beaded curtains that could be swept aside with a jingling swoosh to allow you to enter a room that previously could only be glimpsed. There is tension created as we want to reach through the stiff blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) to touch the cold, hard surface of the rustic pot.

The sense of mystery is heightened by the monochromatic color scheme, the container hiding in plain sight as the colors blend together while the shadows appear to add an extra layer of intrigue.

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The example above has a different feel. Here the Sioux Blue Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans ‘Sioux Blue’)caresses the container, revealing more and blending less. The autumnal effect is softer – a warm seductress rather than a daring diva!

Statuary

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Out of reach yet so close. This statue stands within a dense Oudolf-inspired meadow planting of mixed grasses and sneezeweed (Helenium). As the breeze moves the screen we see a little more, then a little less, a constant tease.

Simple accents

IMG_6275Here the ‘magpie effect’ is at work, We are naturally drawn to shiny, sparkly things and the iridescent sphere casually placed within the caramel colored grasses (Carex sp.) easily catches our eye yet once again it is only partially revealed. Naughty but nice, subtle yet sexy.

Remember, you don’t have to reveal everything all at once. Finely textured grasses can be quite the seductress in the garden.

And the winner is……

Last week we announced our very special DOUBLE giveaway; a signed copy of our book plus a free online garden design course taught by Karen; ‘Foliage and Focal Points’. The lucky winner has now been notified.

But we have a consolation prize; a 25% discount for THIS WEEK ONLY. To claim your special price sign up from THIS LINK

 

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Elevated Edibles & Giveaway!

IMG_4948Sometimes you see a great design – and sometimes you see something that is  exceptional, especially when you begin to sift through the layers of loveliness and see why it works.

So let me take this cabbage extravaganza apart for you.

The Foliage Framework

Wonderful bold foliage of  golden yew forms a carpet

Wonderful bold foliage of golden yew forms a carpet

Paintings often benefit from a picture frame and this container is perfectly framed with sunny foliage. Overhead the golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’) rustles in the breeze while at the pedestal base a prostrate form of golden yew (Taxus cuspidata ‘Nana Aurescens’) repeats the color on stiff branches.

Connections

Cleverly linking these two are trailing strands of golden creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummelaria ‘Aurea’) cascading from the container.

Wonderful layers of color and texture

Wonderful layers of color and texture

The container itself is a feast of color and texture with the bold cabbage clearly being the focal point. Behind it Ascot Rainbow spurge (Euphorbia) explodes with a froth of flowers and foliage in shades of soft blue-green and buttery yellow accented by rose colored stems and new growth at the end of each branch, Those warm tones are what makes the rich cranberry flowers of the Choca Mocha cosmos look so perfectly at home.

The elevated edible

By placing the container on a pedestal this becomes a real showpiece and a great example of how focal points and foliage go hand in hand.

Learn more about Foliage and Focal Points – for FREE!

Now here’s an exciting offer that you can’t possibly refuse!

The British half of Team Fine Foliage (i.e. me; Karen) is launching an exciting garden design course on Craftsy called…..FOLIAGE AND FOCAL POINTS and our fabulous book is the recommended text! So to celebrate the launch AND the gold award Fine Foliage has just received we are offering one free course  plus a signed copy of our book to a lucky winner.

Click HERE to enter!

Already a Craftsy user (addictive isn’t it?!) then just follow the link and you’re set. New to Craftsy? You’ll love it! You can use the link to sign up for free then you will also be entered to win. Craftsy has all sorts of cool classes from gardening to photography and woodwork – check it out!

The lucky winner will be notified on the day my class goes LIVE – September 9th. Oh and the wonderful elevated edible combo? That’s from the class :)

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Subtle yet Powerful

Design by Brandon Vanden Eykel, Qualitree

Design by Brandon Vanden Eykel, Qualitree

Christina and I are easily excited I admit. Show us some fabulous foliage and we’re all of a twitter as we start brainstorming where to put it, what to pair it with and how we can justify buying it. Perhaps the only thing we derive (almost) as much pleasure from is teaching others foliage focused design.

I recently had the opportunity to visit two plant growers in British Columbia; Van Belle Nursery and Qualitree. You probably aren’t familiar with those names but I’m sure you’ll be familiar with their fabulous plants both in the USA and Canada. These are the nurseries that grow conifers, shrubs, perennials and more from tiny cuttings. These are then sold to the wholesale nurseries who in turn sell them to the retail nurseries where you shop.

Both these companies wanted to improve their ready-made container designs and so called me in to teach them how.

This particular design was probably my favorite out of the several dozen we created over those two days. The designer was Brendan Vanden Eykel of Qualitree and he immediately ‘got it’ when I demonstrated how to start with a great foliage plant, (our spotlight plant)  look for something to enhance it (highlight) then add the final touch – whether that be something wild and unexpected or a continuation of the theme (limelight).

In Brandon’s own words;

“I love designing planters (one of my passions) and after your presentation I see things totally different and it was right in front of me the whole time. “

Photo courtesy of Qualitree

Photo courtesy of Qualitree

That’s just it – it’s about looking at the foliage for design clues and working from there. Here’s how Brandon built the planter;

SPOTLIGHT

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Japanese painted fern; this was the starting point with the silvery grays setting off the striking burgundy veins

HIGHLIGHT

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To highlight the burgundy vein of the fern he added a small size purple smoke bush. This will quickly outgrow the pot of course but this was about teaching design principles and also creating ‘grab and go’ planters.

LIMELIGHT

Rather than adding a wild card Brendan chose to keep to this muted monochromatic color palette which I just loved. Qualitree is known for its amazing heathers, specifically Calluna. This one had soft pink flowers on dark green foliage so added a pretty floral accent,

FINISHING TOUCH

There was still bare soil showing and of course we couldn’t have that so a mix of blue-green and dusky purple succulents were added to act as a groundcover and link everything together. These succulents were grown as a mat so he literally cut pieces off to add to the planter.

Coming soon to a store near you……

ON A SEPARATE NOTE

We have a FABULOUS giveaway next week so be sure to tell all your friends about our blog for a chance to win a very special online garden design course AND a signed copy of our book! That’s all I’m telling you for now….

“Points of Distinction”- a video from Fine Foliage

Watch for an exciting contest coming soon from FINE FOLIAGE!

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We WON!!!

We told you recently that Fine Foliage received the Silver Award of Achievement from the Garden Writer’s Association. Well that was exciting enough but we were then entered into the running for GOLD and…………..we WON!!

gold logo

What does that mean?

“The gold Garden Writers Association media for Best Product recognizes the best entries in publisher/producer products including magazines, newspaper sections, books, newsletters, bulletins, brochures, calendars, electronic media and other works.”

In simple English…

Fine Foliage rocks ….and these two rookie writers together with super talented photographer Ashley DeLatour and publisher St. Lynn’s Press have impressed the garden publishing world at large by the quality of content and publishing that our book exemplified.

Christina and I are excited, humbled, overwhelmed and amazed that our book should be singled out for the Oscar of the garden writing world in this way.

What does it mean to you?

if you have already bought a copy you have an AWARD winning book in your hands! Plus now you need to buy more for your friends.

Not got a copy yet? Where have you been?! Get those fingers working today.

 

Normal programming will resume shortly….for today we are simply CELEBRATING with you!

Christina Salwitz and Karen Chapman

Rhythm, Jazz and the Blues

When we are choosing what I like to call the backbone of the color palette in the garden, I  frequently remind my clients that they need to remember to keep a few colors in repetition throughout the entire landscape to visually hold it all together. In other words, you should be able to take a passing glance across a swath of landscape or even a small vignette and your eyes should be able to hit a similar color tone like a musical beat, in regular intervals. This creates a visual rhythm, it can be all kinds of foliage that brings the musicality together, but it can also be art and accessories too.

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The ‘Lawson’s’ Cypress above is going to be spectacular in a few years as its columnar structure brings some much-needed verticality to the fat bushiness of the hydrangea’s.

I was brainstorming in the garden last night when I suddenly realized how somewhat subconsciously I had used the color blue into my foliage much more than I had really realized. I knew I had tied in the accessories, but although I adore blue foliage, I hadn’t really noticed until just then how prominent it was really becoming in my own landscape. So, I thought I would take you on a little tour of my own private “Blues and Jazz Club” here in the ‘burbs of Seattle. ;-)

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As we move across my tiny garden, you notice my accessories of a vivid turquoise blue. The umbrella and the obelisk for my container of jasmine are bright and happy even on a cloudy summer day!

20140804-CS_IMG_410520140804-CS_IMG_4106Then a small river of watery blues in tumbled glass takes your eye up to one of my beloved pedestal containers where a piece of art glass (by Barbara Sanderson of Glass Gardens NW) is part of the planted combination where blue is prominent. The chalky blue foliage of the Melianthus is striking!

20140804-CS_IMG_4112The lovely thing about blue foliage is that you can use it in shades and tones, just like greens. Some are more silvery and some lean towards more gray-green with just hints of blue.

How about the showy blue foliage of the Parahebe perfoliata with a strong purple back up singer?! (Glass flower by Glass Gardens NW)

How about the showy blue foliage of the Parahebe perfoliata with a strong purple back up singer?! (Glass flower by Glass Gardens NW)

20140804-CS_IMG_4108I think that gardeners really underestimate just how beautiful blueberries can be simply for the foliage! That blue-green foliage has so much personality. And when I can reap the berry-liscious rewards for having them so close to my back door, even better!

20140804-CS_IMG_4152The blue foliage and white margins of the Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ are lovely with the lavender Agastache, the deep green of the pine and more of my glass collection. (Bee Preserver and glass float are from Glass Gardens NW).

Euphorbia 'Rigida' has been on my list to find forever, FINALLY I got it! That foliage hits lots of my happy little OCD buttons as a Virgo. As it gets older, you will see what I mean when I post more photos. But here against the backdrop of another wonderful blue foliage in the form of Hebe 'Quicksilver' they make a fine pairing of two blue textures.

Euphorbia ‘Rigida’ has been on my list to find forever, FINALLY I got it! That foliage hits lots of my happy little OCD buttons as a Virgo. As it gets older, you will see what I mean when I post more photos. But here against the backdrop of another wonderful blue foliage in the form of Hebe ‘Quicksilver’ they make a fine pairing of two blue textures.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Blue Surprise' sits among some golds, burgundy and greens as a lone blue standout.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Blue Surprise’ sits among some golds, burgundy and greens as a lone blue standout.

20140804-CS_IMG_4131I suppose it must stand to reason that I have been using blue conifers as a VERY consistent vertical design element without really considering that I was doing it. I was just picking what I loved, which is the big “do as I say, not as I do” moment for many of my clients, right?
This particular conifer is a favorite of BOTH Karen Chapman and myself as we both have a particular affinity for this ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ false cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’). You can read more about Karen Chapman’s use of this plant here in her blog, Le Jardinet.

Even a little hint of steely, intense blue as with this Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia 'Blue Ice') are enough to draw a color combination together with other spaces in the garden.

Even a little hint of steely, intense blue as with this Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia ‘Blue Ice’) are enough to draw a color combination together with other spaces in the garden.

20140804-CS_IMG_4213Even outside my back gate, a little combination of plants that tolerate the abuse of being forgotten outside my regular view brings the blues in with an iridescent glazed pot and blue succulents.

20140804-CS_IMG_4229A new blue pine standard found a home here last week, so it sits in its temporary pot with a friendly and somewhat slow-growing Ginkgo shrub ‘Munchkin’ sitting above it make a cute little blue pairing.

20140804-CS_IMG_4196This concludes our tour of my own mini ‘House of Blues’. Who knows, next year maybe my color kick will be something completely “out of the blue”! Sorry, couldn’t resist that one. ;-)

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Leaves that Beat the Heat (and the Deer)

We expect succulents to cope with the heat but what else is there? (Design by Stacie Crooks )

We expect succulents to cope with the heat but what else is there? (Design by Stacie Crooks )

Now those of you in Texas and Florida will laugh – but it is HOT here in Seattle. And by that I mean mid-high 80’s for a few weeks now with just two days of torrential rain somewhere in the middle. I know it’s all relative but the people – and plants that live in Seattle aren’t used to such extended periods of heat and drought.

This is therefore the perfect time to assess which are the foliage workhorses in the garden. What still looks not only good but GREAT, is healthy, doesn’t need fussing with and has barely been given a drop of extra water? We expect grasses and succulents to be drought tolerant but what else is there?

Most trees and conifers are fine by virtue of their deep root system so I’ll keep this to my top shrubs, perennials and annuals that I grow for their leafy lusciousness – and deer tolerance.

Here are the awards;

Best Combo

It may look delicate but this combo is TOUGH!

It may look delicate but this combo is TOUGH!

This is an amazing trio; the perennial Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrechtii) gives height (and turns orange in fall) while two annuals – the chartreuse Lemon Fizz cotton lavender (Santolina virens ‘Lemon Fizz’) and silver licorice plant (Helichrysum ‘Petit Licorice’) form a fuzzy groundcover. I can’t reach them with a hosepipe so they are truly on their own and they look fantastic. I was a little concerned after our two day downpour which left the Arkansas bluestar flattened but 24 hours later when I ventured out with sticks and string they had picked themselves right back up and needed no help from me at all.

Best Bling

A silvery feathery puff ball

A silvery feathery puff ball

Silver Mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Nana’) is much tougher than the fine textured foliage would suggest. In fact this fluffy perennial prefers tough love and will quickly rot with too much love, water or fertilizer. It dies down in winter and can be a bit slow to reappear in spring but it’s worth waiting for. This 2′ silver mound will add some glitz to the border like no other plant can.

Best Variegated Leaf

Not your typical barberry

Not your typical barberry

I’m partial to barberries. They come in lots of different shapes, sizes and colors, are drought resistant, deer resistant and rabbit resistant. Usually.

Thankfully they are NOT invasive in the Seattle area. If they are a problem in your state I’ll forgive you for skipping over this bit.

Lime Glow barberry is the pretty little sister of Rose Glow. Marbled light green and creamy white leaves with pale peach new growth and stems makes this a rather romantic addition to the garden border. It seems to be much slower growing than Rose Glow so enjoy this in containers as well as the landscape.

I have two of these. The first one is out of reach of the hosepipe so is on a ‘do or die’ regime. It is ‘doing’. The second was unceremoniously dug up one blisteringly hot day and relocated, watered a couple of times then forgotten about. Much to my surprise it is not only still alive it still has all its leaves. Pretty impressive as well as pretty.

Best Native

A bronze beauty - Northern bush honeysuckle

A bronze beauty – Northern bush honeysuckle

If you thought native plants were boring this one will change your mind. Northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) grows in sun or shade, wet soil or dry, has fragrant blooms and beautiful fall color. I have one in sun and one in shade. The shaded one is mostly green but the one in full sun (above) remains bronze for much of the year which I love. Bambi has ignored both plants except for a tiny nibble on the new growth of one stem. Thankfully it wasn’t to his taste. (or he was full by then).

Best Surprise

Glossy abelia - worth a second look

Glossy abelia – worth a second look

I have a low hedge of glossy abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) at the side of our cabin. I don’t water them, fertilize them or talk to them. In fact I forget they are there until I become aware of a hummingbird frenzy in that part of the garden as the fragrant white flowers are a magnet for them it seems.

This unassuming shrub is one of the unsung heroes of my garden. It is usually evergreen, has healthy, glossy green leaves which tint red in fall and rich burgundy stems. While the flowers are white the sepals are pink giving a lovely two tone effect and the flowers last well into November.

I have not watered this for three years and the deer haven’t even tested it. I trimmed the height a bit this year but that is the extent of the care I have given it.

After this hot, dry stretch it is not only looking good it is thriving. Quite the surprise

So what foliage has earned superstar status in your garden this summer? Do tell us in the comments below or post to our Facebook page. we love to hear from you!

 

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Hot White Chic Style for Summer 2014

By now you might have noticed that I have a certain affinity for shade plants. Maybe it’s because I don’t have that much shade in my own yard to play in that it grabs my focus SO much. Maybe it is also because I love the challenge of finding new and different ways to bring light and airiness to dark places.

Spider Web Fatsia container in a shady nook.

Spider Web Fatsia container in a shady nook.

On a recent tour of gardens with 80 other garden bloggers in Portland Oregon, I noticed a hot trend among some of the designers that I took note of in particular. The use of this amazing new Fatsia ‘Spider Web’ or ‘Speckled Fatsia’. It brings a light bit of a tropical feeling to some darker corners. See the link for more details on this amazing and slightly rare plant.

'Yakushimanum' Rhododendron paired with the icy cool 'Spider Web' Fatsia.

‘Yakushimanum’ Rhododendron paired with the icy cool ‘Spider Web’ Fatsia brings a slightly masculine flair.

I was ceaselessly impressed by the drama these leaves could impart to almost any low-light location with the large palmate leaves and the elegant white Chanel-esque presence it brings to what could be a drab vignette.

A more feminine combination with the pink Lacecap Hydrangea.

A more feminine combination with the pink Lacecap Hydrangea.

If you live in a climate where you can’t grow this Fatsia outdoors, I’m told that it makes an exceptional houseplant. However you come to use this elegant and highly fashionable plant, it will serve you well and you just might become one of the many obsessed over designing with Fine Foliage in the shade.

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The Finer Points of Interest

Foliage patterns and textures are ever fascinating. If you have never looked at some of the amazing web pages devoted to Fractals found in nature, I highly recommend you fall down the rabbit hole and go look at some, you will be mesmerized. Here is a great link to start your journey.

When you think about it, those are the tip of the leafy iceberg when it comes to falling in love with the amazing patterns, arrangements and configurations that you can discover in the stunning realm of foliage when you really take the time to look.

(Name still TBD)

(Name still TBD)

 

 

 

The subtle and sumptuous succulent above would still be gorgeous even if it never bloomed. The patterning begs you to step in to take a much closer look to appreciate the exquisite quilting of elements that mother nature dreams up.

Today I was enamored with the shapes that were cornered, spiked, arrow like or elongated and finger-like. Sometimes the variegation’s and colors play a role and other times the fascination is purely with how a single color works with the leaf shape.

Impatiens 'Omeiana'

Fractals and spikes20140610-CS_IMG_0316'Trompenberg' Japanese Maple
As you spend some lazy days with a cool drink hanging around in the garden in the dog days of summer, stop and take a long, slow gander at the shapes and coloration of certain plants as they team up in pairs and trios. Are you noticing stripes, polka dots, contrasting veins, a woven pattern, or a framework of colors together that you may not have noticed before?
Agave 'Shiro No Ito'What patterns of foliage textures and shapes draw YOU in for a closer look? Tell us about it and join the conversation with Fine Foliage!

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