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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Plant Emergencies

When disaster strikes - look for FOLIAGE!

When disaster strikes – look for FOLIAGE!

It’s that time of year when both Christina and I need to be prepared for an impromptu container photo shoot. It used to take us totally by surprise when an editor called on short notice  and had this wild notion that our pots “were bound to be fabulous” but we are a little more proactive these days in having pots that could quickly be touched up and ready for their magazine close up.

That’s not to say that we are immune to plant emergencies – far from it. I am currently trying to keep over a dozen container grown shrubs looking great for a shoot in a few weeks – and just discovered that the drip hose was no longer dripping. Then there was that bold mango New Guinea impatiens that I thought would look great mingling with the iridescent purple heart (Setcresea)  only to discover two very fat slugs snuggled up and snoozing – doubtless with a stomach ache from overeating. My two plants were nothing but shreds with a telltale silvery sheen.

So what are our ‘go to’ plants for a fast makeover? Flowers are unlikely to look established enough when you have a real time crunch so of course we cruise the foliage section of the nurseries; annuals, perennials, indoor plants, shrubs and grasses. I typically need something that looks big NOW – here’s what’s on my shopping list.

Serious sizzle factor from an oak leaf croton

Serious sizzle factor from an oak leaf croton

Oak leaf croton

Big, bold and colorful – just what I need to replace that New Guinea impatiens. Strokes of red, orange, gold and green will work with many of my color schemes. These are easy to find in a 4″ or gallon size and even the 4″ plant will look grown up and ready for action.

Carolyn Whorton caladium - reminds me of a strawberry milkshake!

Carolyn Whorton caladium – reminds me of a strawberry milkshake!

Caladium

Still in the indoor plant section these are a great choice if you need to rescue a shade pot. Typically some variation of red, white and green the large heart shaped leaves don’t look like an afterthought but rather the inspiration for the whole design.

The green striped foliage is a dracaena that definitely earns a place in my 'go to' list

The green striped foliage is a dracaena that definitely earns a place in my ‘go to’ list

Variegated dracaena

One last tropical-esqu option, this bold striped dracaena is stunning in a shade container and thrives where little esle seems to. When your key plant keels over and dies, this will save the day. Again it is usually available in 4″ or 6″

This beefsteak plant is as reliable as it is colorful

This beefsteak plant is as reliable as it is colorful

Beefsteak plant

Coleus can be relied on for a strong blast of color but it can be hard to find a good looking one later in the season. They are often pot bound by this point and whereas they will quickly recover once they are in your container, when time is of the essence, tomorrow is just too late!

I have found that the look-alike beefsteak plant (Perilla ‘Magilla’) is a great alternative. I can usually find it in both 4″ and 6″ sizes and it always seems to be well branched, full and healthy. I’ve only used it in shade designs but may see just how sun tolerant it is this year.

 

The perfect rose for a container

The perfect rose for a container

Succulents

Fat rosettes of Echeveria and Aeonium are perfect for gap filling  and come in black, blue, lilac, green and multi-colored varieties so you’re bound to find something that works. It always surprises me how small the roots are for even a  large plant but that works in our favor when you’re trying to squish something that looks ‘big’ into a small space.

Ascot Rainbow euphorbia. Photo courtesy Skagit Gardens

Ascot Rainbow euphorbia. Photo courtesy Skagit Gardens

Euphorbia

Lots of color options here too and they may be just what you need to rescue a sun container with a bald spot.

Jack Frost to the rescue

Jack Frost to the rescue

Bugbane (Brunnera varieties)

I especially like Hadspen Cream and Jack Frost but whichever you choose the large leaves will quickly disguise any shortcomings in a shade pot. These are my current favorite perennial for summer shade containers

One of the many varieties of periwinkle available

One of the many varieties of periwinkle available

Trailers

If your trailer has stopped trailing and you need a replacement fast don’t bother with the annuals – go straight to the groundcover section. Periwinkle (Vinca) is usually available nice and long and can be either variegated or plain green. Beach strawberry (Fragaria) is another great option with baby plants hanging off long threadlike stems that tumble over the edge of a container.

Of course there are many more; coral bells (Heuchera), dwarf conifers, fluffy grasses, dwarf barberries, variegated abelia have all made it into my pots at one time or another. In fact I’ll usually shop my garden first – and then hit the nurseries.

What do you do in a plant emergency?

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Going for Gold

A haze of gold wraps around these rustic metal spheres.

A golden carpet cushions these rustic metal spheres. Design credit; Claudia & Jonathan Fast/Land2c Landscape Design

There are certain plants I find myself using time and again for both containers and landscape designs – those that I’ve found reliable, winter hardy and usually inexpensive. Angelina stonecrop (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’) is one of the very best and wins my vote for a gold star.

It is hardy in zones 3-11 (not many plants we can say THAT about!), evergreen and drought tolerant. You want more? Break a piece off, throw it on the ground and it will grow. Honestly. I have big clumps of it growing in gravel near my greenhouse where I must have inadvertently brushed against a plant.

If the bright gold isn’t enough color just wait a few months. In northern areas (ie. for us) it turns orange in winter and is more of a chartreuse during the spring too. Growing to just 3-6″ tall it is ideal for containers where it will drape over the sides, or as a groundcover in the landscape.

The only disadvantage? The deer have NO sense of good design and frequently pick mine up and spit them out in other parts of the garden.

Here are some ideas on combinations to try;

Containers

Contemporary flair with foliage

Contemporary flair with foliage

Keep it simple with succulents, grasses and conifers; let the foliage textures set the style. When containers are short Angelina is perfect for softening the edges without trailing on the ground.

Color punch

Color punch

Add zing to your pots by pairing it with other bold colors such as the Bonfire begonia – a great sun tolerant annual for us.

It only needs a little

It only needs a little

You don’t need a lot – just this little splash of gold echoes the pansy and brightens the design.

For the squish factor

For the squish factor

This container is freshly planted but still looks good in its early stages thanks to all the great foliage – including Angelina which is playing off the Canna and sweet potato vine.

In the landscape

Brighten a shady path

Brighten a shady path; Design credit; Claudia & Jonathan Fast/Land2c landscape design

The bright color really catches your eye so is a great way to entice visitors to explore a side path. Although it prefers full sun Angelina will also take partial shade where it will be a little more chartreuse. There is another great landscape idea in our book on pages 54-55; Rhythm ‘n Blues where it as been used to edge a long border very effectively.

For winter interest

Copy of July 2011 Peace Tree Farm 211

Need I say more?

Well actually I will. Christina and I do have awards on our mind right now because ….

FINE FOLIAGE has been recognized by the Garden Writer’s Association with a Silver Award of Achievement.

We’re thrilled!14-silver-logo

So we know which book you consider an award winner, but which foliage plant gets your vote for gold?

Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page. We love to hear from you.

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