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 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!


Hot New Coleus for 2015

Grab your sunglasses, think warm tropical breezes, delicious cocktails with little umbrellas in them and sand between your toes. Think SUMMER.

Ignore the snow, ice, hail, rain and bitingly cold wind and feast your eyes on these new introductions from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., Start dreaming up your summer foliage combinations now.

Coleus Hipsters™ ‘Zooey’

Coleus_Hipsters_Zooey_1bWOW! You did get your sunglasses didn’t you? This is one serious party-coleus. Zooey has a wide spreading habit (9″ h x 23″ w) and spiky yellow leaves that are splashed with crimson. What about growing this as a groundcover around tall green ferns? Shade/part shade

Coleus Wildfire™ ‘Smoky Rose’

Coleus_Wildfire_Smoky_Rose_1bShort and wide this smokin’ hot introduction is going to look stunning tumbling at the edge of a large container. It grows 8″ h x 24″ w so give it some elbow room. Deeply cut leaves really help show off the rich plum and hot pink variegation, edged with just a hint of lime. I can see this with a spiky gold grass such as Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex). Shade or part shade

Coleus Flying Carpet™ ‘Shocker’

Coleus_Flying_Carpet_Shocker_1bNo more excuses for dark and dreary shade gardens – add a carpet of Shocker and your garden visitors will be….well SHOCKED! The dark red center expands as the leaf grows to give a wonderful layered look. This big mama grows to 24″h x 28″w. Fabulous as a groundcover in shade or part shade or as a solo container plant.

Coleus Terra Nova® ‘Green Lantern’

Coleus_Green_Lantern_3bThe only lime green trailing coleus on the market, this is one you just have to try this year. Imagine this with a dark leaved Canna and bright orange Bonfire begonias….. This one is sun tolerant too although the best color is in partial shade. 10″ h x 24″ w

Coleus Flying Carpet™ ‘Zinger’

Coleus_Flying_Carpet_Zinger_1bA traditional color with a twist – literally. Love the curled end of each leaf that is reminiscent of a paisley design. Beautifully sculpted and frilled picotee edge together with a clean lime and deep red color – this is one I’m going to look out for. Zinger grows to 24 x 24 and does best in shade or part shade.

General growing tips

Coleus prefer well drained soil and like to dry out slightly between waterings. They need warmer temperatures than annuals such as geraniums – ideally wait until night temperatures are consistently 55′ or above.

So which ones are on your shopping list for 2015? Leave us a comment below or get in touch on Facebook.

All photos courtesy Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., – and no we didn’t get paid for writing about their plants!

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Boring Containers? 5 Tips for Buying the HOTTEST Pots!

"POTS" Sign at Aw PotteryTeam Fine Foliage loves to give you lots of juicy photos and information on designing with foliage in the garden and in containers. But, great containers are quite the investment aren’t they? So, this week we’re giving you tips for making the most of your container choice dollars for your future Fine Foliage designs.

BOLD Citrus Color Container Grouping

Not everyone goes for these BOLD citrus bright colors in the landscape, but you have to admit, they show off that foliage in a fun and modern way!

Many people choose to play it safe with container colors like beige, gray or even the MOST exciting option, “greige”. Sigh….a designers dream. But, I’m here to tell you that there is a whole world of options for dazzling container shapes and colors to try!

Containers for sale at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

Containers for sale at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

I speak all over the country and in Canada and one of the TOP questions I get from both individual gardening enthusiasts, professionals and even garden centers is “Where do YOU find your containers?” Luckily, these days it is getting much easier, but for many, even a simple, not that exciting container can be SO expensive due to shipping costs. Access has changed even in just the last few years to include many more options for people than used to exist. Though for lightweight and better quality fiberglass containers, the cost can be prohibitive at times. This is why thinking and planning your purchase carefully is important.

A warehouse full of container options to try out!

A warehouse full of container options to try out!

So, here is just the nudge you might need to start keeping your eyes open for new containers for your landscape. Even if you wait until the fall clearance sales, the key is to be ready to POUNCE when you find the container or multiple containers that make your heart sing. And THAT my friends is truly the key. You NEED to fall in lust with a container for your environment and design aesthetic that will make your design senses soar with nothing in the darn thing. If it sits there as an ornament in the garden or on the patio with nothing in it and you STILL love to gaze at it, then you have your winner winner, chicken dinner! :-)

More containers displayed expertly at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

More containers displayed expertly at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

I purchased a container at a local hardware store here in the NW, completely unplanned a few years ago. It was at the end of summer, the clearance sales had begun and this was a VERY random color and among a small pile of pots left.

An odd lavender colored pot that I fell in love with a few years ago!

An odd lavender colored pot that I fell in love with a few years ago!

Clearly no one wanted it because they couldn’t see what the possibilities could be with it as an odd color of lavender with reddish undertones. Honestly, I’m not quite sure I did either, but for the price, I was willing to try it on and WOW- was I glad I did!
It ended up on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens!

More "fluffy" with flowers than this designer prefers, but it worked!

More “fluffy” with flowers than this designer prefers, but it worked!

That container has ended up being one of my favorites. I have had MANY offers to sell it, but now I am in love with it and the color, as odd as it is, it has turned out to be one of the most flexible colors I have ever chosen.

This winter design is perfect for our mild winters in the NW.

This winter design is perfect for our mild winters in the NW.

The basic elements of choosing a good container for you aside from being thrilled with it without any plants in it are fairly simple, but people tend to overlook these when they are in a sea of pots. So here is a list of easy tips to remember:

1) WHERE you shop matters: Unless you have NO other option, the BIG BOX store is not where you are going to find the best selection. Neither the quality nor the styles are going to be anything very thrilling most of the time and many tend to be sub-par quality of clay. There are always the few weird exceptions, but in general, unless you know specifically what you want and you find it there. If it’s on a giant palette piled a mile high with all of the same styles, it’s not likely that you’re getting anything that your neighbors next door won’t have on their patio too. If I had a lottery ticket for every time I saw this happen!
Go to a garden center or nursery with a great reputation and you will find the buyers make a point of trying hard to bring in both quality AND style.

Blue foliage highlights these BOLD purple pots at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

Blue foliage highlights these BOLD purple pots at Flora Grubb in San Francisco.

2) Express yourself! There is a deep canyon of pottery and container options between playing it “greige” safe and going for it with a colors that reflect YOUR personality. Don’t be afraid to express yourself and your personality with your container, playing it safe with colors and styles gets old very quickly!

These turquoise colored containers are a surprisingly flexible color to design around.

These turquoise colored containers are a surprisingly flexible color to design around.

3) If you need to keep it simple: Black containers are the “little black dress” of pots, always classy, always sophisticated no matter the accessories. I give beige and gray a bad time, but they DO have their place in certain design aesthetics, just make sure it’s “YOU” when you buy it and you’re not just thinking of the neighbors.

Black containers are universally easy to design with and EVERYTHING looks great in them!

Black containers are universally easy to design with and EVERYTHING looks great in them!

4) Look for a flattering figure: The shape of a container is incredibly important for the flexibility of your investment. If the opening, or “the collar” is too small, it can be hard to get plants out that have rooted laterally in the opening. To the same point, you have to be careful of the “belly” or “shoulder” of the pot as well. There is nothing more frustrating to this designer than to have a prized maple have to be “cut-out” from a pot that was chosen simply for style over function.
If it’s simply summer annuals and you don’t care about hurting them at the end of the season, then it’s no big deal, but if you like to mix it up a bit with trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers as we do, then you might want to give the shape of your container some thought. I prefer taller with somewhat straight sides. Low, wide bowls are fabulous too!

A low-wide glossy black bowl shaped container is a feast of design options all year long!

A low-wide glossy black bowl shaped container is a feast of design options all year long!

These simple bright green pots are the perfect compliment to nearly any design just as black pots would be.

These simple bright green pots are the perfect compliment to nearly any design just as black pots would be.

5) Dive in and shop! When you buy good quality containers, they will last many years with proper care. But, just as important, you don’t have to live with containers you don’t love forever. You can sell them! Garage sales, friends and family would love to take your old pots. Not to mention giving them away to charities or planting them up for auctions.
Just like clothing, pottery and container styles change over time and if you are bored with your containers, you DO have our permission to try something new and exciting. You will be amazed at what it does for your creativity. :-)
When the fall sales arrive, selection gets picked over FAST! Be ready to jump on something if you MUST have it. On the flip side, if you are lusting for a particular color, style or finish, be ready to buy at the beginning of the season at full price and be OK with that too.
Now, shop on Foliage Fans….but first….
The Craftsy Blogger Awards 2015 are here and Fine Foliage wants YOUR support! Nominate your favorite gardening blog before January 20th to be entered to win a free Craftsy class. We are eligible for all THREE categories; content, photography (which you all seem to love ) and Craftsy instructor (aka Karen).

Click here for details and to vote

Thank you for your support!

Naked and Loving It!

Since we’re all about foliage it may seem rather strange to be featuring bare branches but we want it all! Yes we positively swoon when we come across a tree or shrub that looks as good fully clothed as it does in the nude. So here are a few of our  bare-bottomed favorites

1. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)


I suspect as soon as I mentioned colorful bark you thought about the coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’) as a great example but I want you to consider two very different maples. The first is this paperbark maple, named for its cinnamon colored bark which peels away in fine strips; visible in all seasons but especially striking in winter. The foliage opens a soft green and fall color ranges from gold to salmon. This slow growing maple needs to be in your garden!

2. Lions Mane maple (Acer shishigashira)

lions mane collage

The lions mane maple is grown for its twisted clusters of dissected leaves that have the appearance of a shaggy mane. This is a slow growing tree well suited to container culture when young. The spring and summer foliage is green but in fall the leaves turn yellow, gold or orange (mine seems to be different every year!). Yet the story doesn’t end there – notice the smooth green bark that is revealed when the last leaf has fallen silently to the ground. Beautiful

3.  Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius varieties)

Left and center; 'Coppertina'. Right; 'Diablo'

Left and center; ‘Coppertina’. Right; ‘Diablo’

While the shrub twig dogwoods are an obvious choice for a colorful winter display with bare branches in fiery shades of red, orange and gold there are other options such as the ninebarks. Depending on the variety the foliage may be gold (Dart’s Gold), bronze (Coppertina) or almost black (Diablo) and all have clusters of white flowers followed by decoratives seed heads. They also have coarsely peeling bark on the older branches giving a marked striped effect.

4. River birch (Betula nigra)

IMG_3726_1While I will always love the pristine white bark of the Himalayan white birch (Betula utilis var, jacquemontii) and have three multi-trunked specimens in my own garden, I have to concede that the river birch (Betula nigra) is often the better choice. River birch is resistant to the birch borer and those pesky sapsuckers and other woodpeckers seem to leave this species alone. We planted a cluster of three multi-trunked river birch ( the named variety Heritage) in an area that is  exceptionally wet, often with standing water in winter and they are thriving. With soft green leaves that rustle in the breeze, butter-yellow fall foliage and bark that peels away to reveal the smooth inner trunk that is….well as soft (pink) as a babies bottom – you know you’re going to like it.

Of course we have lots of other favorites and we’ll introduce you to some in our next book (Foliage First, Timber Press, 2016) but we’d love to know what your favorites are. Leave us a comment below or tell us on our Facebook page. Even better – post a photo to share. (Just make sure only the plants are naked please!!)


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Happy New Year’s Toast to 2015!!

Winter 2011 2012 264Team Fine Foliage has been quiet in the last few weeks as we are feverishly working on our new book due out in 2016. But, we wanted to take a moment to tell everyone how much we appreciate your support and enthusiasm for our passion for designing with foliage and sharing it with all of you!
As we embark on this new year and most of us are frozen “leaf-cicles” try to keep looking for that beautiful spot of interesting foliage that might be just under your drippy nose, even THIS time of the year. AND if you find it, let us know either here or on our Facebook page, Twitter or Pinterest. We are always excited to see the plants and combinations that make you smile where you live so that we can learn from you too. ;-)
Who knows, we may even show up on your doorstep to snap a photo for the new book!

So, we raise a glass you all of you out there with this toast of farewell to 2014;

Leaves may fade, leaves may blow,
but every year, we await the show.
The chill of winter makes us ponder,
how many leaves are over yonder?
The frozen bark, the berries, the twigs so bright,
they keep us up dreaming all through the night.
We imagine the ice, the sleet, the snow,
all melting away, it could happen ya know.
Just in time for the garden show season,
we’ll be inside and warm, with good reason.
So, be patient dear friends in the cold,
we will be working while spring unfolds.
It won’t be long, so stay snug with our book,
no sneak peeks at the new one, not even a look!

Cheers to 2015!!
Team Fine Foliage


Fine Festive Foliage

Some leaves are simply more ‘Holiday ready’ than others. Here’s what we look for ;

  • Doesn’t drink too much
  • Naughty or nice (but not too naughty!)
  • Looks good with bling
  • A fun party host and is good at mingling

And the winners are…..

1. ‘Rainbow’ drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’)

Rainbow Leucothoe in Winter

This glitzy lady knows how to get all gussied up. Evergreen, deer resistant (those wretched creatures are terrible gatecrashers), drought tolerant and can take center stage or be a regular party guest.

2. Angelina stonecrop (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’)

Copy of July 2011 Peace Tree Farm 211

Decked out in gold and copper this girl knows how to bring the bling. Evergreen, tea-total and great at just hanging out (or over) – be sure to have this succulent in your party pots

3. Scallywag holly (Ilex x meservae ‘MonNieves’ )

IMG_0511A cousin of Little Rascal, this holly isn’t nearly as naughty as you’d expect. Knows how to wear that little black dress and looks great with gold or silver accessories. Those party-pooping deer leave Scallywag alone too.

4. Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)



The Queen of Elegance, dusty miller knows how to wear sexy silver lace. Have you noticed how many times her velvety outfit gets stroked? Keeps her drinking to a minimum but loves to play with others whether its a black tie gathering or something more colorful.

5. Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)

IMG_0447it’s important to have a mix of personalities at any party so this soft feathery fern is a great one to have on the invitation list. She does drink a little more than the the other guests but she handles it well and without excess. Gold and copper highlights add an olde world charm to any gathering.

The BIG Bling

silver ball

Need a little extra glitz? Save a few glass balls from the tree and tuck them into containers and window boxes together with some extra large pine cones.


Maybe add a few sparkly stems and little ornaments too.


For more ideas on how to dress up those containers enjoy our post from last year showcasing work from our friends around the country.

So what are your containers wearing this year? Tell us all about them and we’d love to see photos on Facebook.


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A Stormy Day for Fine Foliage

Stormy Day Fine Foliage

Left to right; ‘Rainbow’ Leaucothoe is showing off some new cold weather burgundy foliage for winter. A favorite conifer Thuja Occidentalis ‘Rheingold’ is coloring up nicely for winter as it warms up with orange and amber tones. My STAR conifer in this bed is Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ he is growing in nicely! Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ is a soft accent texture in the small bed with its swaying plumes. Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ is the toughest character in this little gang, drought tolerant with foliage that has interesting color changes through the entire year. Down low is Nandina ‘Gulf Stream’ giving a bold red uplight to the group next to the more somber deep tones of the ‘Crimson Pygmy’ Barberry.

When rain, wind and flooding storms are pummeling both the East and West coasts at the same time, it can seem like there is no reason to find joy in the garden, but Fine Foliage is here to cheer you on and say YES! There are always gorgeous things to be appreciated in the garden no matter the weather. I ran outside in my jammies THIS MORNING and took a few shots in my own garden to show you that it is true!

You just have to do a little simple planning. In fact I kind of enjoy the challenge of proving this point, I get to go to the nursery and browse and that’s always a fun job. ;-)

So, how do WE do it? It means that when it is NOT ugly, dark, gray and wet, you have to stand out in the glaring sunshine in spring or summer with one eagle eye imagining THIS day to come. I often take my clients outside on a gray day such as this, all of us in our rain gear, umbrellas in hand and I ask them to stand at the driveway and imagine what exactly they want to see when they pull the car up after a hard day of work. Do you want neat clean and tidy clipped hedges? Can Do! Do you want COLOR? Can do! We just have to be thinking about in earlier in the year and talk about WHAT COLOR MEANS for the garden in fall and winter.

Inevitably, a client will say “What about all of the flowers?” Well, that’s a bit tougher. Even in our mild climate in the Northwest. Viola’s and Pansies are not terribly big fans of our constant rain and it’s a little early to appreciate many Hellebore and Primroses in bloom yet.

Cryptomeria 'Black Dragon' anchors this combo pot, paired with a lovely native Mahonia nervosa blushing in the cold with a subtle purple, Heuchera 'Berry Smoothie' gives a large leaf respite to all of the smaller foliage detail. The lacy and vibrant purple Kale is perfect snuggled with 'Ducksfoot' Ivy peeking out around the base of the pot.

Cryptomeria ‘Black Dragon’ anchors this combo pot, paired with a lovely native Mahonia nervosa blushing in the cold with a subtle purple, Heuchera ‘Berry Smoothie’ giving a large leaf respite to all of the smaller foliage detail. The lacy and vibrant purple Peacock Red’ Ornamental Kale is perfect snuggled with Ducksfoot’ Ivy peeking out around the base of the pot. The cut Red Twig Dogwood twigs in this pot add just the right touch of bright red for the season too!

Just look at all of the COLOR we have with no flowers! This is just what Fine Foliage in your garden does the very best. It gives these cold, drab days with seemingly nothing to see a focus, a point to look at that warms your heart and makes you feel that every time of the year is worth appreciating in the garden. Rain or shine Fine Foliage can be found everywhere if you just look!

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Need Some Winter Foliage Inspiration?


Then head to your local independent garden center! We are blessed with an abundance of first class nurseries in the Seattle area. Staffed by professional horticulturalists, keen home gardeners and part time designers you can always be assured of finding a great selection of plants, expert advice and most importantly at this time of year – ideas!

I wanted to freshen up the containers on my front porch this weekend and had planned to gather greenery and holly from the woods at the back of the property. Only one problem – they are covered in a few inches of frozen snow which doesn’t seem to be melting anytime soon. I can also usually dig up a few things from the garden to tuck in such as young evergreen shrubs and trailing periwinkle but that isn’t possible either. So when the ice melts on the roads a bit I’ll be heading out to a nursery to gather my ingredients.

Here’s what I found at Sky Nursery in Shoreline, Seattle last December.

1. Oval metal planters

Designer credit; Stephanie, Sky Nursery

Designer credit; Stephanie, Sky Nursery

Why it Works

Simple and elegant this design has a crisp green, red and white color scheme with a few tasteful metallic accents. Notice how the silver sprays echo the washed grey metal containers- great attention to detail.

Foliage Framework

Young upright conifer

Small evergreen fern

Green and white variegated grass

Bright green moss to hide the soil


Jacob hellebore

White pansy

Red cyclamen (also has great foliage)

Berried wintergreen (small glossy evergreen leaves too)

Decorative silver spray stems

Sheer gold ribbon

2. Round birch pot

Designer credit; Stephanie, Sky Nursery

Designer credit; Stephanie, Sky Nursery

Why it works

The rustic pots leads the design style here. All foliage and flowering elements follow a simple monochromatic green and white theme with only the bow adding a touch of contrasting color

Foliage Framework

Dwarf mounding conifer

Green and white variegated euonymus (Euonymus f. ‘Emerald Gaity’)

Silver icicle plant (or substitute a silvery lavender)

Grey Spanish moss to trim the pot


White cyclamen (gorgeous green and white foliage too)

White pansy

White flocked branches

Sheer burgundy bow

3. Tiered fountain

IMG_1166This design would only work if the fountain was in a covered courtyard – otherwise the tiers would fill with water and rot the plants. However we can still get ideas for plant combinations to add to our containers out in the garden.

Why it Works

All three tiers have a common color scheme yet use different plants to get the effect.

Plants are repeated around each tier for a unified look

Foliage Framework and Accents

Top tier;

Green and white variegated grasses

Berried wintergreen

Green and white trailing ivy

Middle tier;

Silver Astelia (the grass-like plant with wide blades)

Deer fern

Icicle plant

White pansies

Lower tier;

Soft burgundy coral bells

Green and white trailing ivy

White pansies

4. Final Flourishes

IMG_1197Look past the large number and varieties of plants here to get ideas for adding the fun factor.

The tiered stand to the left could easily be a re-purposed pot stand, or perhaps an old kitchen produce holder. Each section is lined with moss as you would a hanging basket then filled with soil and plants.

The tall green pot may not be planted at all and just acting as a pedestal. There appears to be a ‘nest’ of wood excelsior that is acting as the shallow planter. Placed over the top is a rusted metal frame. Is it a hanging basket frame placed upside down? Or a cloche without the protective fabric or glass? Or a cake dome??? I’ve no idea – but maybe I have something in the barn like this that I can use. Do you? A few thin twisted branches have been inserted too, helping keep the arrangement loose.

Ready to go shopping?


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The Color Spectrum of Thanks

Rainbow Leucothoe in Winter
As we writers furiously work on our forthcoming book (Working title “Foliage First” from Timber Press out in 2016), the blog is a particularly nice place for us to take a quiet moment during this Thanksgiving week and reflect on the abundance in our lives in all of its glorious colors.
Not only do we want to convey the vast amount of grace and joy we experience in bringing Fine Foliage to YOU every day and every week, but we wanted to take time to look at the number of ways that our thankfulness is manifested from large to small, from subtle to bold, from public to private and all the ways in between.
The lovely rainbow of colors on the Leucothoe foliage above reminded me of this today. Obviously, it is called ‘Rainbow’ for it’s multitude of colors but it represents so much more when you really think about it. This plant begins with such subtle maneuvers with its spring tones of cream and green and gradually builds excitement as the temperatures rise. I NEVER tire of admiring this in spring as the quiet marbling begins to roll. I begin the growing season thankful for the elegant and understated display.
Then summer brings on the WOW factor of the most divine coral-colored new growth. It is a whole new reason to appreciate what Mother Nature created in the small space of a shrub like this one. When paired with the sassy new growth on a ‘Magic Carpet’ Spirea, it is incredible! I adore the opportunity to ogle this combination and the energy it brings to the garden in summer with hardy, easy-going shrubs.
As fall and winter approach the color deepens. It begins to get richer and warmer as is the case with so many wonderful plants that color up with the cold. Though this shrub stays evergreen here in our mild northwest climate rather than the multitude of deciduous shrubs and trees that draw our attention during this time, we tend to forget the ones that stay with us and still change color anyway. They don’t ask us for the bold adoration of tourists coming to visit for the short burst of the season, they slowly deepen their colors and enrich all those around it.
Kind of like those people in all of our lives who remain steadfast and true. The ones that you might take for granted on a daily basis when your attention is on some dazzling shooting star for the moment.
I like to believe that I endeavor to take notice of ALL the changes in my garden and my loved ones in all of the seasons of the year and not just when they have a shining moment. Those day-to-day moments of appreciating the love, abundance and beauty all around us are worth remembering this week of thanks, no matter what color it is that they present themselves.
This week, take a breath, pause to enjoy your families, friends and all of the blessings that the colors in your world bring.
Warmest wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving foliage fanatics!
Christina & Karen

Frozen Fine Foliage


Usually when I need writing inspiration I just look out of the window. At this time of year I anticipate the vivid colors of maples and witch hazels, the rosy tints on variegated weigela and  Japanese forest grasses together with big fat buds on evergreen hellebores that promise not only great foliage all winter but also flowers.

Sadly 2014 is not the year of the fall extravaganza. Blackened hydrangea leaves hang like limp seaweed from the branches,  maple leaves are frozen to a crisp well before their colorful peak, dropping to the ground with the slightest breeze. The same goes for the viburnums, smoke bushes and more.

And so I sought inspiration in my photo library rather than my garden where I discovered these images taken at the Denver Botanic Garden in January 2011. It was bitterly cold yet the gardens were beautiful thanks to the finely textured foliage of grasses. It occurred to me that there was a lesson to be learned.

Creating an understory


What do your garden layers look like in winter? Typically we will still have the tall trees – evergreen or deciduous, often with some shrubs in front, again either evergreen or just the skeletal branches. But with the perennials dormant the sense of movement and life may have gone out of the garden.

In the photo above notice how the  grasses bridge the visual gap between the tall birch tree and the ground plane. The grasses add color, height, a focal point and fine texture. Even though the grasses are frozen they are a critical design element in this winter border and they give a sense of movement by virtue of the feathery plumes and the wonderful rustling sound as the winter winds pass through.

Plan ahead for winter

IMG_1698When the nurseries start filling up with our spring and summer favorites it is tempting to fill every nook and cranny of our gardens with foliage and flowers that celebrate those warmer seasons. The winter garden shouldn’t  just be the leftovers, however, but rather a deliberate setting and plant pallet.

In the photograph above there are several different types of grasses all massed together for impact. Adding just a single grass here and there would not be nearly so effective. Choosing just two or three areas of your garden to create a winter scene like this can add significantly to the sense of a garden which is still alive rather than fast asleep. Be sure to design these winter vignettes where they can be enjoyed from inside too.

Framing with frozen foliage

IMG_1697This elegant statue is clearly an important focal point in the garden even in winter as the frozen grasses frame the imposing sculpture. The dried tan blades also contrast with the grey granite as though throwing a spotlight onto the scene.

A wintery walk

IMG_1708So look again at your garden this winter. Does it entice you outside like this grass lined pathway does? Notice how the destination is obscured by the frozen grasses, luring you away from the cozy log fire for a few moments.

Or does your garden feel old, tired and stodgy? Conifers and broadleaf evergreens are of course invaluable in the winter garden but don’t forget the finer textures. Even when frozen  grasses bring movement, sound and life.

Plant list

Here are a few grasses to consider. Be sure to check if they are hardy in your area and if they are considered invasive or not

Evergreen grasses

Mexican feather grass (Nasella tenuissima  syn. Stipa tenuissima)

Many finely textured sedges e.g Red Rooster, Frosty Curls, Toffee Twist (Carex species)

Blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)

Grasses that are not evergreen but last well into winter

Feather reed grasses e.g. Karl Foerster (Calamagrostis species)

Maidenhair grasses e.g. Variegated  (Miscanthus species)

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)

Switch grass (Panicum virgatum) e.g. Northwind, Heavy Metal

Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)

Blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis)


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