Celebrate the Spring Foliage Fashion Show

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

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

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

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

So what’s so special about barrenwort?

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

Combination ideas

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

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

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

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

Cultural info

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

Divide in autumn or after blooming

Design credit throughout; Mitch Evans, Redmond WA

 

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A Must-Have Tree for Spring Foliage

Weeping Larch in Spring

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

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

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

Thumbnail of Weeping Larch in Spring

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

Late summer for the Weeping Larch

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

Fall color on Weeping Larch

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

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

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Great Foliage for Flower Gardens

 

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

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

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

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

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

Weigela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smoke bushes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spirea

Double Play Gold has fabulous spring color!

Double Play Gold has fabulous spring color!

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

Ogon has a much softer foliage

Ogon has a much softer foliage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you like to add to your flower gardens?

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Garden Designer’s TOP SECRET Plant Picks!

Garden designers REALLY don’t want just anybody to be able to do what we do. We want there to be some mystique, some fascination, some magic to what we create for our clients. But we DO have secret weapons in our design arsenal that ANYONE can try out affordably and dramatically. Ready? FERNS! Yes, you heard us FERNS!

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksFerns are often low on the shopping order of excitement for nursery customers and often overlooked because they need to utilized WELL in order for them to shine. And if they aren’t sited or paired up with the right companions, they can be down right boring. However, designers know that ferns can be THE MOST dramatic and showy plants in the entire landscape if you allow them to be the super-stars that they can be.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksWhether you are wanting evergreen or perennial ferns, the design options are incredible and this little secret is one of many in a GOOD garden designers vast arsenal of tricks. Ferns are available for every type of location from full shade to sun, dry shade to moist, from tall to ground cover, from evergreen to perennial and everything in between. And this makes them a valuable plant option for many types of locations.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

For THE absolute experts in the world of ferns, my go-to professionals are at Fancy Fronds Nursery here in the NW. The amazing ladies who own this nursery know their ferns and can provide you with everything from collectors ferns to the more common.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Designers know that a fern can often do what other plants can’t, and that is being able to play a supporting OR a string role in the display at any given time during the season. This spectacular display by designer Riz Reyes  (above) shows the important supporting actor role that ferns are playing when other plants NEED to have a starring role.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksDesigners also know that ferns are not simply one shot wonders in the fluffy summer landscape, they are critical players in the year round landscape. In the shot above, the ‘Autumn Fern’ shows off-color in early fall with a ‘Cappuccino’ Sedge.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Another way to think of using ferns to their highest and best purpose is to know that they can be both bold AND delicate depending on how you pair them. In this shot above, the trio of the ‘Maidenhair’ fern with Daphne ‘Summer Ice’ and ‘Mugho’ pine are a texture lovers dream! But, it is in quite a powerful and strong way.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

In this photo, the delicate new growth in spring has lovely blushing color and comes across as incredibly feminine and lush.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksSometimes the green on green of ferns layered together is an elegant way to fill an area with hardy and showy textures, this is a common trick that designers employ in those hard to plant low-light spots. But, WOW! Who needs more color when you have this ‘Hart’s Tongue’ fern with a carpet of ‘Oak’ fern underneath?!

Garden designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Talk about luscious green on green! WOWZA! This ‘Paris’ Polyphylla truly shines as it stands up tall over a bed of ‘Maidenhair’ fern and glossy ginger foliage.

 

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Even in a fairly bright spot you have amazing ferny options, such as the leathery, deep green ‘Tassle’ fern.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Or use the incredibly beautiful ‘Ghost’ fern as a way to up-light these white allium flowers! This is a vastly under-utilized foliage color in the fern world, there are way too many great ways for this amazingly silver foliage to light up a dark corner or give just the right zing to a darker leaved companion.

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant Picks

Used in the foreground of this larger blue-green hosta in the rear, who needs more? The purplish-black stems are an incredibly lovely contrast to the ‘Ghost’ fern’s silver luminescence. But, if you wanted to play up those dark stems even more, pair this combination with the glossy bronze foliage of Beesia (see the photo below for Beesia in action) where it’s heart shaped leaves and white fairy-wand type flowers would bring even more wow-factor to this combination!

Obviously there are so many more ferns than we have room to show off here in one blog post, like the ever-present ‘Sword’ fern that is like a mascot in the NW garden, other than slugs possibly. :-) But, even a seemingly pedestrian plant like a ‘Sword’ fern shines with the right plants around it. So, the main take-away this week is that, we designers have this little design secret that may seem to many gardeners like a ho-hum addition to the landscape, but if you know the secret handshake and password, we’re happy to share ideas with you.

 

Garden Designers TOP SECRET Plant PicksOh! Did we NOT mention the secret password??????? Next week……….

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Treasure Hunt!

IMG_1223Writing a book provides the perfect excuse for visiting new gardens, growing new plants and exploring new nurseries.

Last week I was in Victoria BC taking photographs for our next book when the car inexplicably did an abrupt left turn into a lovely garden center; Garden Works. Well that’s my excuse anyway.

There were several well thought out displays that would tempt any gardener but I was especially intrigued by this trio of foliage beauties especially as two of them were new to me.

Why it works

Blending feminine and masculine, romantic and minimalist, soft and strong; this is a surprising marriage of unique foliage personalities.

The black stems on the compact Golf Ball pittosporum echo the color of the glossy mirror plant while the fresh green is repeated in the variegated leaves of the viburnum. Flat clusters of soft pink flower buds add a delicate finishing touch to the design which is perhaps at its most interesting in late winter/very early spring.

Meet the Stars

Variegated viburnum (Viburnum tinus ‘Variegatum’)

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A mounding semi-evergreen or evergreen shrub 4-6′ tall and wide that bears clusters of white flowers in very early spring. Striking green and yellow variegated foliage makes this a year round beauty. Partial shade. Hardy in zones 8-10 (possibly root hardy in zone 7). Learn more

Golf Ball pittosporum (Pittosporum  tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’)

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An attractive alternative to boxwood in milder climates, this dense evergreen shrub stays a compact 3-4′ tall and wide and maintains a tidy rounded appearance without pruning. Full sun-partial sun. Hardy in zones 8-11. Learn more

Black Cloud mirror plant (Coprosma ‘Black Cloud’)

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Add drama to your garden with this tough evergreen shrub. Growing 3-4′ tall and wide this needs full-part sun and well drained soil. Hardy in zones 7-10. This would be beautiful with silver wormwood (Artemisia) . Learn more

What new plants have you discovered on your late winter travels?

Resources

Victoria garden guide; if you ever find yourself in Victoria BC be sure to look up Victorian Garden Tours. Owner and guide Joan Looy is a wealth of horticultural and historical knowledge. Our new book will feature almost a dozen outstanding combinations from gardens we would never have discovered on our own.

Garden Works ; a great nursery with great people and great plants – what better combination is there? Take time to visit and see what their latest treasures area.

 

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Cover Some Ground with Fine Foliage

Cover Some Ground with Fine FoliageGround covers are a fun and easy way to get a full garden look with great foliage plants. You can try small pots of plants that you might not have considered before with little investment. Or go all out with swaths of one plant en masse. Even container designs offer options for testing out ground covers that might appeal to you.

This week, Team Fine Foliage wants you to take a look at what amazing ground cover can do for your garden with showy foliage for many exposures and types of locations through the entire year. Whether your style leans to naturalistic, formal or eclectic, there are ground cover options that will help you make your garden more low maintenance, colorful and full of texture.

The 'Purple Haze' Acaena MAKES this combination!

The ‘Purple Haze’ Acaena MAKES this combination!

When we design garden or landscape it can be a little like furnishing a room. You need to understand the scale of your garden room, then you can choose the right sized “furnishings”, like your trees, shrubs and larger perennials. Then it’s time to “accessorize” with perennials that bring on the flower show, containers of showy mixtures and maybe some garden art or furniture to add the final touches.

Colorful Heath's and Heathers are fantastically showy options for year round ground covers.

Colorful Heath’s and Heathers are fantastically showy options for year round ground covers.

But, what about the garden floor? Adding in the ground cover is the touch that truly makes the picture complete, fills in the gaps and odd corners, softens the hard edges and often brings the intangible that completes a design.

Take a stroll through some lovely ground cover options and see if you don’t agree that adding the final element of ground cover makes a BIG difference in the big picture for your designs.

Trillium, Cyclamen and Sweet Woodruff combine elegantly to make a textural and interesting mix of ground cover.

Trillium, Cyclamen and Sweet Woodruff combine elegantly to make a textural and interesting mix of ground cover in a shady nook.

Cover Some Ground with Fine Foliage

Sedum hybrida ‘Immergrunchen’ creates a golden uplight under this ‘Kamagata’ Japanese maple.

Black Mondo grass creates a solid frame for garden art in this bed.

Black Mondo grass creates a solid frame for garden art in this bed.

Bergenia mingles at this spring party with black leaved Ajuga and Forget-Me-Nots on this little slope to make a sweet and hardy little spring vignette at this party.

Bergenia mingles at this spring party with black leaved Ajuga and Forget-Me-Nots on this little slope to make a sweet and hardy little spring vignette at this party.

Lysimachia 'Persian Carpet' makes a dramatic paring contrasted with silver euphorbia 'Rigida' foliage on this tropical feeling island garden.

Lysimachia ‘Persian Carpet’ makes a dramatic pairing contrasted with silver euphorbia ‘Rigida’ foliage on this tropical feeling island garden.

Sarcococca is a hardy evergreen groundcover that has divine fragrance is early spring!

Sarcococca is a hardy evergreen groundcover that has divine fragrance is early spring!

From spring to winter there is a Fine Foliage ground cover that suits every design style and location. What are your favorite ground covers?

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Foliage for your Spring Floozies

 

From the Gold Medal winning garden by West Seattle Nursery - Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2015

From the Gold Medal winning garden by West Seattle Nursery – Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2015

Gardeners are easily seduced. We understand – sometimes that flirty petal just calls to you but if you don’t give it the right foliage partner it will be a fizzled floozy in no time.

Spring bulbs and pansies leap onto our shopping carts at this time of year don’t they? While you’re at the nursery be sure to select some foliage beauties to create the necessary framework to make them shine and fill the beauty gap when the blooms are less than bountiful.

Here are a few of our favorite foliage+floozy options to try.

Pansies 

IMG_8686Who can resist the cute pansy faces? Whiskers, bold colors, frills – these are the flowers of our childhood.

Choose accompanying foliage plants to echo the colors. I have found that the fine strappy blades of grasses offer great contrast to the chubby faces as can be seen above where the golden variegated Japanese sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’) accents the golden moment.

IMG_0514Or look for something more subtle. Here variegated box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’) repeats the yellow eye in the blue and purple pansy.

In either case there is a visual color connection between the flower and foliage.

JH pansyThis simple combination has  color repetition between the yellow of the pansy and Angelina sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’) but the most striking theme is the connection of fine pansy ‘whiskers’ and the strongly vertical lines of the common rush; a green grass-like foliage plant  (Juncus).

Tulips

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Big, bold and beautiful – marry these extravagant blooms with equally sassy foliage. Princess Irene tulip is planted here with the similarly colored Peach Flambe heuchera while the chartreuse conifer Goldcrest Monterey cypress adds contrast.

IMG_0909Or go for moody drama with rich purple tulips against black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’). Emerald green ferns and Rainbow leucothoe (Leucothoe f. ‘Rainbow’) add lighter notes, the variegated shrub even hinting at burgundy-purple tints.

Floozy Frenzy!

IMG_2006Hellebore, hyacinth, candytuft – yes there’s a lot of floral action going on but it’s all held together with foliage. Silver Queen euonymus establishes the soft color scheme and adds strength to the combination of looser structures. The large purple foliage of Spellbound heuchera adds drama while a simple cotoneaster groundcover trails over the edge of the stone urn. All the foliage plants are evergreen, allowing the flowers to come and go without compromising the design.

Remember flowers are fleeting so enjoy their ephemeral beauty and seduction – but be sure to have great foliage tucked in alongside them for real drama that lasts.

 

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The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

TEAM Fine Foliage is having a crazy busy spring week right now. We are both speaking at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show this week as well as running our own business’, writing our new book, traveling, making videos, having a kitchen makeover and on and on and on….So I thought it would be entertaining to post a whole bunch of juicy photos that illustrate some of the amazing foliage and bare winter branches that I have seen recently. Some of them are everyday plants used in unique ways and some are “Holy Cow” plant moments where you exclaim, I NEEEEEEEEED that!

Since Valentines Day is this week, you will find some Fine Foliage Valentines at the end of the post too! Enjoy and share this post with YOUR sweetie this week if you can’t be at the show to say “Hi” to both of us!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

The blue toned foliage of this Euphorbia paired with the blue fronds of the yucca make a fine textural contrast. The orange toned euphorbia blooms will be stunning!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Gardeners frequently underestimate the power color in evergreen trees this time of the year. Here Cryptomeria japonica and Gold Cypress make a handsome pair on a sunny late winter morning.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Another spectacular euphorbia! This Euphorbia ‘rigida’ is expertly paired with ‘Lemon Wave’ Phormium and boxwood as seen outside Pomarius nursery in Portland, Oregon.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Mahonia gracilipes in its beautiful late winter red, gracefully arches over Black Mondo grass.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Gold willows are woven artistically and draw the attention away from the concrete slab below. Seen at McMenamin’s Edgefield outside of Portland, Oregon.

The Hottest Looks Foliage February 2015

Bamboo stems are a colorful art piece for the wide variety of colors that look so dramatic against a white wall.

The Hottest Looks Foliage February 2015

‘Ebony Pearl’ Rhododendron is not even in bloom and it’s a fashionista just for the amazing foliage!!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Two conifers showing off complimentary winter colors make a great pair! ‘Rheingold’ arborvitae and ‘Golden Fernspray’ cypress.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Now THIS is some RED just in time for Valentine Day. A Red Twig Dogwood shrub is the one that takes a backseat in this couples duo with native mahonia aquifolium in some outstanding winter color.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Team Fine Foliage affectionately calls him “MR. Wissel” around here (we have no idea why, but it fits) for ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ cypress, a BIG favorite of ours. He definitely takes center stage as the star that he is in this vignette.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Daphniphyllum macropodum as of yet has no common name but whatever you want to call it, I call it spectacular!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Variegated Daphniphyllum….sigh…..want!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

Metapanex delavayi is a stunner here as the centerpiece of this bed. Sharing the limelight are Hellebore that echoes that incredible foliage color.

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

A Valentine Day buffet of Heuchera foliage colors!

The Hottest Looks in Foliage February 2015

A 14ft. tall succulent Valentine is the PERFECT idea for your sweetie! Created by Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens.

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Winter Survivors and Thrivers

This is a good time to review those winter containers and see what has thrived despite extreme temperature swings, inconsiderate deer and neglect. Let’s face it, January is not the finest hour for most gardens but if we can keep a few containers looking stellar in the ‘off season’ it’s easier to ignore those iffy garden corners.

After several years observation I have found these plants to be reliable performers with little or no winter damage in my zone 6b/7 garden. Although Christina and I only live about 45′ away from one another my garden is much colder and I have to deal with deer so like some of you I have plant envy at times!

So take this foliage selection as a little winter pick-me-up. You can totally justify a trip to the nurseries to find one or more of these – just tell them Team Fine Foliage sent you.

Curly Red drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe axillaris ‘Curly Red’)

IMG_1134Evergreen, leathery twisted and puckered leaves take on rich burgundy tones in cold weather deepening to purple in winter. This dwarf shrub  grows slowly to about 16″ tall and wide as a tidy mound so is perfect for a container but also works well in the landscape, perhaps planted as a mass groundcover or as a compact specimen to accent more delicate foliage.

IMG_8698It makes a stunning contrast with golden conifers such as the Forever Goldie golden arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’) shown above.

IMG_8117In summer the foliage is mostly green, the younger leaves being a lovely fresh shade.

Color ideas

I’m thinking of planting a group in my woodland near a stand of Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’), autumn ferns (Drypoteris erythrosora), dwarf green spruce and yellow  cowslips. To one side is a young Rhode Island Red Japanese maple (Acer p. ‘Rhode Island Red’) and the whole group is in the dappled shade of a golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’). Mmmm.

Cultivation notes

  • Well drained soil in partial shade, partial sun
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Somewhat drought tolerant when established
  • Hardy in zones 6-9

Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

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The winter color is deeper

 

I have many different conifers in my garden from towering 60′ Douglas fir to dwarf spruce  with colors from darkest green to bright gold. Each has earned its place and is loved for different reasons but if I could only pick one and it had to be tough as nails, had never shown any winter burn, had great color, didn’t need pruning, was disease resistant, drought tolerant and was ignored by deer the humble Blue Star juniper would be my pick. We featured it on the cover of our book Fine Foliage and we have some breathtaking combinations using this conifer in our next book (still busy writing that one….). It’s inexpensive, easy to find…. Have I convinced you yet?

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The foliage is a duskier blue-green in summer

Use this low growing conifer to edge a border, add to a container, soften a stone wall or snuggle up to a large boulder.

Color Ideas

Take a leaf out of our book (pun intended – couldn’t resist) and pair it with Berry Smoothie coral bells for year round color

Let our book inspire you! Blue Star juniper is seen in spring with pink and gold companions

Let our book inspire you! Blue Star juniper is seen here in spring with pink and gold companions

Looks equally fabulous with bold orange and hot red; think dark leaved barberries or weigela in an orange container with black mondo grass….

We have a multi-trunked Himalayan white birch tree (Betula utilis var. ‘Jacquemontii’) underplanted with Blue Star junipers anchoring one end of a large border. ‘We’ (aka my long-suffering husband) has just moved my large orange pot into that area so it is now framed by the blue conifers; those colors really POP.

Cultivation notes

  • Compact 3′ x 3′ mound
  • Evergreen
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Drought tolerant once established
  • Full sun
  • Hardy in zones 4-9

Blondie coral bells (Heuchera ‘Blondie)

 

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Photo courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.

Some heuchera do better than others depending on where you live – agreed. In fact you may find this post I wrote with breeder Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries Inc. to be helpful in helping you fine-tune your selection.

I have some I consider annuals, some that look terrible in winter but revive so well in spring that I let them stay, others that I consider short term perennials (great for 3 years – maybe 4) and just a few that I have to stand back and admire because they truly exceed my expectations.

These are neither deer nor rabbit resistant so I am limited in how I can use them but the value of a colorful, evergreen bold leaf is such that I keep a few on hand for my designs. Blondie is one of my current top picks.

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The round leaves are a soft ginger in fall (as seen here), getting deeper throughout the winter and rich mahogany in spring. Each leaf is ~ 2″ in diameter so it wont swallow neighboring plants, making it a great container plant.

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Blondie has some of the showiest flowers of all the coral bells. Fat spikes of creamy flowers on red stems bloom profusely over many weeks. These make great cut flowers or leave them for the hummingbirds to enjoy.

Color ideas

I can’t give too much away here as we have a five star combo featuring Blondie in our new book! I’ll give you a clue; the colors are deep teal, deep rose and burnt orange……

Cultivation notes

  • I keep this in a corner of my fenced vegetable garden, ready for me to add it to a container as needed. It has done equally well in that semi-landscape setting as it has in pots
  • Partial sun and partial shade are generally recommended but mine was in full sun all summer and never scorched.
  • A smaller, more compact variety than most; mine measures 10-12″ tall and wide after 2.5  years.
  • Evergreen
  • Do not over-water.
  • Hardy in zones 4-9

Winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureo-marginata’)

Photo courtesy of Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Photo courtesy of Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Walk into any nursery in February and get ready to swoon…………it’s the time of year when winter daphne tickles our olfactory senses – or perhaps assaults rather than tickles! Some may find the sweet and spicy fragrance cloying but I love it and have two of these semi-evergreen shrubs near our front door.

Daphne have a reputation of being rather fickle but I haven’t found that to be the case at all. I’ve grown them in containers then transplanted them without a problem. Mine are in morning shade and afternoon sun (the opposite of what many books recommend), I never water them (my soil is moisture retentive but well drained and good quality loam) and the deer have ignored them.

Photo courtesy Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

Photo courtesy Richie Steffan/Great Plant Picks

In many areas these daphne are evergreen. In my  garden they can lose up to 75% of their gold and green variegated foliage during an extremely cold snap  but quickly leaf out again and the flowering buds never seem to be affected. I therefore consider them worthy of inclusion here!

Color ideas

Pick up on the pink and white flowers with the addition of hellebores – there are so many to choose from right now.

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Check out the last post Christina wrote on choosing hellebores for their foliage too.

Penny's Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink foliage would be a fun companion to the daphne, bringing pink and yellow color echoes. I’d soften the duo up a bit with some fine textured grasses such as the variegated moor grass (Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Variegata’ ) which would look good even dried and bleached in winter while the very finely variegation of green and soft yellow would be pretty from spring-fall.

Cultivation

Do as I do or do as I say? Up to you! I’ve already told you how mine grows. Here’s the official line;

  • Grows to 4′ tall and 6′ wide
  • Prefers light, open or dappled shade
  • Water occasionally
  • Hardy in zones 7-9

Consider us your enablers – we’ll see you at the nursery!

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Winter Roses? It’s ALL About the LEAVES

Penny's Pink Hellebore

Penny’s Pink Hellebore

No matter whether you call them Winter Rose, Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, the elegant winter blooming perennial formally called helleborus or hellebore is no slouch performer in the winter garden. Prized for the stunning blooms they provide, some early cultivars begin blooming at the holidays and then later blooming options that can power on for months into early spring. Many have blooms that evolve and change color, lasting as late as May before needing to be tidied up so that other super star plants can take the stage.

However, Team Fine Foliage dares to show you the OTHER facet of the gorgeous hellebore, the FOLIAGE! The options are amazing for foliage that is mostly evergreen, tough as nails and so showy. So, grab a cup of your favorite warm winter beverage, snuggle up if you are stuck in the snow and have a long look at what unique and stunning options you have for splashy cold season leaves.

Hellebore 'Winter Moonbeam'

Hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’ has a fun speckled pattern that is fabulous when mixed with other patterned foliage. Heucherella ‘Stoplight’ showing beautiful winter color too. Note the subtle burgundy centers on this hellebore and how the two plants compliment each other with “color echoes”. 

This exciting new hybrid ‘Winter Moonbeam’ has many foliage facets depending on the particular plant and exposure. You could have some luscious variations of the creamy moon beam white color. Be sure to follow the link to see the variations!

'Winter Moonbeam' is lovely in the rain!

‘Winter Moonbeam’ is lovely in the rain!

'Winter Moonbeam' hellebore

‘Winter Moonbeam’ hellebore

Hellebore 'Silver Dollar' with a deep dark heuchera shines like only valuable silver can!

Hellebore ‘Silver Dollar’ with a deep dark heuchera shines like only valuable silver can!

The heavily toothed ‘Silver Dollar’ hellebore is small but mighty. Can you see the “color echo” here? This is one of the design tools that Team Fine Foliage likes to illustrate in our many talks. Those subtle cues that link plants together by color, we call them a “color echo”. In winter when you don’t necessarily have the bold, brash and bawdy combinations that you can take in at a glance. You have to look closely and appreciate the small details.

Hellebore 'Silver Dollar'

Hellebore ‘Silver Dollar’

THIS ‘Silver Dollar’ hellebore is showing more of a red center than the one above and the green veining on the particular plants foliage is highly contrasted with the super silvery foliage. But, when you layer this one next to the bright green Rockfoil (Saxifrage arenas) foliage, WOW, that green pops!

Hellebore 'Silver Dollar'

Hellebore ‘Silver Dollar’ in the winter sunshine lights up the garden and container.

Helleborus f. 'Wester Flisk'

Hellebore ‘Wester Flisk’

Don’t let the name of THIS gorgeous hellebore keep you away from these leaves in your garden!    The Bearsfoot or Stinking hellebore has long, narrow leaves with a toothed edge that lends great textural interest to so many wonderful garden combinations. Formally called Helleborus foetidus or Fetid Hellebore, this lovely hybrid called ‘Wester Flisk’ brings a warm red-toned detail into the garden. This particular hybrid may not be fully evergreen in some colder climates, but it will emerge and leaf out early. Check here for more details on this fabulous plant. 

Hellebore 'Gold Bullion' paired with a showy patterned Heuchera

Hellebore ‘Gold Bullion’ paired with a showy patterned Heuchera

The sensational Bearsfoot hellebore is a flexible option for foliage combinations throughout the year. But, in late winter and early spring, the bolder ‘Gold Bullion’ gives a bit of the sunny warmth of golden tones that we crave this time of the year, particularly in low light locations.

This container shines in  a shady forest location between the 'gold Bullion' hellebore and the red pot, it brings sunny warmth to the shade!

This container shines in a forested setting, between the ‘Gold Bullion’ hellebore and the red pot, it brings sunny warmth to the shade!

'Silver Lace' hellebore shines against a gray-green spruce shrub.

‘Silver Lace’ hellebore shines against a gray-green spruce shrub.

Also known as the ‘Corsican’ hellebore, this particular plant named Hellebores argutifolius ‘Silver Lace’ is one tough plant! The leathery leaves in glowing silver will reward you in late winter, early spring voluminous apple-green blooms on a plant that can grow 3ft. tall and wide. As if that weren’t enough, this one in particular is VERY deer resistant. It’s not tender and tasty enough!

The plants we’ve shown off for you this week are all listed as being shade tolerant, and mostly indestructible. But, be sure to ask a horticulturist at your local independent garden center for hellebore’s with sassy and splashy foliage that will be happy in your zone.

If you think you NEED flowers to be satisfied in the winter garden, think again!

And now for something WE think you’ll really LOVE! One half of Team Fine Foliage, Karen Chapman has created a fantastic video gardening series with Craftsy.com and now she is a FINALIST in the Craftsy Blogger Awards contest for the BEST INSTRUCTORS BLOG -FINE FOLIAGE!!!!

We would be SO honored to have your vote and if you are so inclined to share this post, we are on the last day voting! Thanks in advance for ALL of your amazing support!
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