Late Summers Groovy Grasses

Late Summers Groovy GrassesWhether your intention is to create a nod to the meadows of grasses and flowers designed by the legendary Piet Oudolf  or to simply add some soft billowy texture to the landscape, adding a little zing with grasses is gratifying and much easier than most people believe.

Chanticleer
You have hundreds of amazing options no matter what your design goals. Some gardeners may just want a little textural difference from the standard variety of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and the low maintenance benefits of ornamental grasses are hard to resist.

Late Summer's Groovy GrassesRefined and elegant, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ has a thin white margin on the center of the blade giving it the advantage over other more plain grasses and where you may want a lighter color to a space. Topping out at only 5ft. tall it also has a quite narrow base so that getting other plants right in up close in tight spaces is not difficult as you can see above.

Late Summers Groovy Grasses

Certain grasses are out and showing off long before the first week of August, but many are just beginning to hit their stride for the late months of the gardening year. This week, we’re focusing  on those later grasses.

Above is a VERY fun grass with and equally fun name to say- Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blond Ambition’,  which is airy and light and needs to be either mass planted or to have a nice bold leaf to set against and be able to shine as a specimen.

Late Summers Groovy Grasses
The award-winning Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is a designers dream as it tall and narrow so it can be used not only in tight spaces, but in repetition in rows and give a modern, elegant look as well as above in a casual easy breezy way. The wheat-like blooms are both sturdy and showy from a distance.

LAte Summers Groovy GrassesStipa tenuissima ‘Mexican Feather Grass’ is a lovely option for a small growth habit in a grass, and one that has a fun personality. It comes out a fresh spring green and then in summer it begins to turn a sandy light beige. Team Fine Foliage is aware that in some locations across the count try it can be invasive, so be sure to check with your local independent garden center or horticulturist if this is one you should be avoiding. But if it’s one for you, you will have a hard time not petting it and feeling the silky softness as you walk by it.

Late Summers Groovy GrassesPennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ is a fountain grass and if low maintenance is your thing, try it with an amazing lavender with impeccable performance like Lavandula x intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ and you will see this combo check off many of your design boxes. This is a very tough grass that can be quite drought tolerant once established. It blooms with these “bunny-tail” blooms that are delightful to touch and when paired with the lavender blooms that come on earlier the duo it showy for months on end. In fall the grass will take on some elegant golden and apricot highlights and hold tight without falling apart for the majority of winter. It gets cut back in spring and you are off the races again.

Late Summers Groovy Grasses
As the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Angel Blush’ or ‘Tardiva’ change to their deeper rose tones in late summer and autumn, you can rely on Eulalia grass or Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’  for a taller, elegant option for pairing up with this large-scale shrub. The glittering blooms on this grass shine in the sunlight and give sparkle to whatever they are near.

For more information, garden writer Nancy Ondra wrote a beautiful book on grasses and designing with them, I highly recommend it! She is a masterful designer and it was my first go-to resource on grasses in my own hort-library.

What groovy grasses have you planted this summer? Leave us a comment below or tell us on Facebook!

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Beautify Your Edibles

Add flowers - and fun to liven up your edibles

Add flowers – and fun to liven up your edibles (Fruit from http://www.awpottery.com)

We’ve been seeing some truly beautiful vegetable gardens this summer. Word has clearly got out that many of our favorite edibles have highly ornamental foliage that don’t need to be hidden away. Not only that but by looking for fun color echoes and contrasts you can create some striking vignettes and combinations.

Golden creeping Jenny festoons over the edge of this elevated container. A perfectly balanced design by our friends Peggy and Al Shelley

Golden creeping Jenny festoons over the edge of this elevated container. A perfectly balanced design by our friends Peggy and Al Shelley

Our new book will showcase a few ideas but we thought you’d like a peek into our photo library to see what happens when you build a design by putting foliage FIRST – even if you’re going to eat it later – and add other colorful leaves, flowers and accessories.

Surprising Color Inspiration

Turn beans into a dazzling wall of color by planting tall lilies next to them

Turn beans into a dazzling wall of color by planting tall lilies next to them

Beans and peas are a summer staple and quickly smother a trellis with lush  leaves and dangling pods. Some varieties of bean have golden leaves, a few have colorful flowers and there are some exciting colored beans to choose from too but what do you do when yours are just ordinary green-leaved green-beans?

The design above was the mastermind of Whidbey Island, WA gardener/designer Elaine Michaelides as she selected lilies that echo the color of the structure behind it. These tall lilies grow  as tall as the beans bringing color just where you need it. Stunning.

Look around – do you have a colorful chair, container or cushion you can use as a springboard?

Keep it Simple

Swiss chard and Shenandoah switch grass - perfect partners

Swiss chard and Shenandoah switch grass – perfect partners

This easy combo was part of a street-side planting in Langley on Whidbey Island, WA.

What about yellow chard with golden grasses?  Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’) would be pretty in a partially shaded setting.

Or  the finely green and white variegated Overdam feather reed grass (Calamgrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’) with white chard for full or part sun.

A movable feast

Sunny yellows brighten bold silver-grey leaves

Sunny yellows brighten bold silver-grey leaves; Epcot 2014

Artichokes are undeniably one of the most exciting, architectural vegetables in the garden with wide deeply serrated silver foliage and tall stems that bear blue thistle-like flowers followed by the edible artichoke itself.

Silver can read rather ‘grey’ in the garden, however, unless you brighten it with something fun like sunny yellow as the gardeners at Epcot did last year. They planted the artichoke in a vivid yellow wheelbarrow and surrounded it with yellow daisies – fabulous! Trailing bronze sweet potato vine tumbling from the wheelbarrow adds a finishing touch and ties visually to the nearby purple chair (and the color of the soon to follow artichoke blooms). Genius.

Small Space Solutions

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Pallet gardens at Epcot

Even if you only have tiny planting pockets such as these pallet gardens, you can still get a designer look. Notice how the edible foliage textures and colors vary yet order is achieved by planting just one variety per row. A bright yellow chair and a few strips of cheery annuals makes sure the pollinators come to visit as well creating as a visual feast for us.

Escape route!

Break out of the vegetable garden!

Break out of the vegetable garden.

This pumpkin mingles happily with golden hyssop, coral bells and abelia in a street-side planting in Langley, WA – and why not? Big, bold leaves and sunny yellow flowers as well as attractive fruit make this every bit as ornamental as neighboring shrubs.

Rhubarb and rhodies

Rhubarb and rhodies

I do something similar with my rhubarb and grow it in front of rhododendrons. The deer don’t eat it so there’s no reason for me to take up space in my fenced vegetable garden and I love the ornamental value it adds to the border.

What good ideas have you seen this summer? Leave us a comment below or tell us on Facebook!

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Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageSummer is no time to be timid with your landscape design. We only have a short window for this garden magnificence and TEAM Fine Foliage says that you need to GO FOR IT! Whether in container or more large-scale, your garden should be a place that fills you with joy and excitement.
The color bonanza above is a BOLD over-the-top example and obviously not all of us can do this but please, this post BEGS you to imagine your world beyond the typical and everyday plants. Get crazy, think out of the box, try new things!
Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageOur post is LOADED this week with tropical feeling inspiration to shake you up a bit and get your design juices flowing with ideas that YOU can try. You can take these ideas and translate them from the idea of color schemes, textural ideas, scale, etc. The point is to study what brings you inspiration to try something NEW!
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Cool colors are your thing? Easy-peasy! This bromeliad sports quite the handsome lavender glow in the pot where a simple variegated ivy snuggles up the base of the plant and acts like an uplight. What could you use in place of this giant collectors plant that might be hardy in your garden?
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Do you yearn for a feminine esthetic? Citrus colors mixed with pale pink in this scene are not only soft and refined, but BOLD! 
Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageIf you simply MUST have your geraniums, then why not pair them with euphorbia ‘Fire Sticks’ and Carex ‘Cappuccino’ to mix it up a bit and try something unexpected.

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

The wow factor of these colors together is undeniable. Both subtle AND kind of savage at the same time! Acalypha and dracaena make fine friends in a container that compliments them with so much style!
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Could this dracaena BE any more well named? ‘Colorama’! Paired here in a captivating graphic combination with ‘Saffron-Spike’ Aphelandra they are a designers dream for inspiring new ideas! I know that your brain is just zooming with ideas isn’t it? This is how we come up with new ideas and plant combinations, we take fantasy and apply it to our own small-scale gardens and containers. What would your foliage plant combo be based on THIS photo?

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
HOLY COLOR WHEEL BATMAN! Yes, that is a LOT of color. Clear, true primary colors always work together. But here, the take away is to notice the strong, broad strappy leaves of the bromeliads give a green place for your eye to rest and cool off. So, even though this is based on flowers, it’s a foliage that saves the day!

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
The use of tasty edibles in containers is classy against the off-white stucco, but the DRAMA of the giant lemon colored schefflera in a deep blue pot adds that spark of powerful intensity. Not only that, it beautifully echoes the tile art on the wall too. 

Here is a peek at how I translated a little bit of FIERCE into a container for one of my more adventurous clients this summer.
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage

Have you got some tough shade but still want to have some intense combinations? Here are the couple of powerful combos that are under the shade of large trees. See? Scale, drama, texture bring this to design fruition with only a few small blooms!
Getting FIERCE with Fine FoliageGetting FIERCE with Fine Foliage
Here is my take on these extraordinary combinations for a shade container for that same courageous client….
Getting FIERCE with Fine Foliage


Now go out there and snap some photos of YOUR FIERCE Fine Foliage designs and share them with us on Facebook!

 

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Fido-Proof Foliage

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Bo (left) and Mia. Photo credit Gethyn Clothier

I have two golden retrievers with varying degrees of intelligence. Bo is big, blonde and goofy. Mia is smaller and more devious. For the most part our garden and the dogs live in harmony. The vegetable garden is fenced to keep the deer out and also serves to keep canine noses within reach of just a few strawberries and only the lowest apples.

Bo knows that  this path is off limits. Knowing and remembering, however, are two different skills

Bo knows that this path is off limits. Knowing and remembering, however, are two different skills

They know they have to keep out of certain areas that aren’t fenced but have a distinct change in tactile surface e.g. grass is OK but the wood chips path that winds through the bigger borders is off limits.

OOPS - we'd only had Bo a few days at this point so forgiveable

OOPS – we’d only had Bo a few days at this point so forgivable. Photo credit; Gethyn Clothier

The problem arises when they see deer. Or Rabbits. Or a squirrel. Or heaven help us the neighbor because at that point 85 pounds of blonde fur is likely to fly through shrubs and perennials, tail wagging with abandon.

Sound familiar? How can the garden survive such joie de vivre? I find dense planting helps (no clear pathway between them) but certain plants are tougher than others.

I look for flexible branches that will give way rather than snap, tough foliage that won’t shred under paws and multi-stemmed shrubs so that if one or two canes get damaged it’s not the end of the world.

Here are some of my favorite tromp-able foliage plants that look good enough for me and survive happy dogs.

Abelia

Kaleidoscope abelia has colorful variegated foliage

Kaleidoscope abelia has colorful variegated foliage

These evergreen or semi-evergreen shrubs work hard in the garden. Drought tolerant, deer resistant and rabbit resistant they also have fragrant flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds. Kaleidoscope is one of several variegated forms. Plant this next to a purple shrub such as a smoke bush or weigela and you’ve got the makings of a top notch vignette.

David’s viburnum

Davids viburnum with river birch

Davids viburnum with river birch

This tough evergreen shrub has a bad reputation for being boring thanks to its ubiquitous use along roadsides, in shopping malls and just about anywhere else you need a low maintenance, fuss-free plant. Hang on a minute though; since when was that a bad thing? These wide spreading shrubs survive deer, rabbits, drought and DOGS. Spring flowers, fall berries and easy going; you may need to put your pride aside and look at David’s viburnum again.

Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)

Fall Foliage on Little Henry

Fall Foliage on Little Henry

I favor the compact variety Little Henry as it fits easily into modest sized gardens but this is a foliage workhorse even at full size (Henry’s Garnet). Fragrant spring flowers and stunning fall color that often persists through winter are two great attributes but this deciduous shrub also thrives in wet soil and grows by suckering. For dog owners that’s a plus as it means there are lots of soft pliable stems so some will remain unscathed after the dog-chases-rabbit rampage is over.

Blue star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

Many low growing conifers survive the odd tennis ball but the short branches and needles  together with its irregular growth habit help the Blue Star juniper easily disguise some minor trampling. Larger pine boughs would definitely be missed by comparison.

Flanked by a viburnum and spirea the blue star juniper survives bouncing tennis balls and paws

Flanked by a viburnum and spirea the blue star juniper survives bouncing tennis balls and paws

Box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida)

Lemon Beauty has an attractive lemon and lime variegation

Lemon Beauty has an attractive lemon and lime variegation

If you have a shrub that you can prune anyhow, anytime and it still looks OK then chances are good that it will be fine with dogs too. Box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida) is a sprawling semi-evergreen/evergreen shrub with several attractive varieties sporting interesting foliage colors. Lemon Beauty is one of my favorites. I allow it to grow into a wide arching shrub to disguise irrigation pipes in one area of the garden but prune it more closely for shape in another.

Plants to avoid – at least initially

Dogs love to eat grass – especially the expensive ones like Japanese forest grass and mondo so wait a while on adding those if you’re training a puppy. Taller grasses can also quickly be ravaged by boisterous dogs.

Western sword ferns may not be the most delicate - but that is why they survive dog play

Western sword ferns may not be the most delicate – but that is why they survive dog play

Soft, delicate ferns are likely to get torn to shreds (e.g. western maidenhair fern) but the tougher more leathery varieties will cope better e.g. western sword fern

Anything whose beauty is associated with perfect symmetry! That suggests leaving globe shaped conifers behind in favor of ones with a little more personality.

Paws for thought

I haven’t mentioned plants with thorns such as Oregon grape (Mahonia), holly or barberries. These will hurt dogs and none of us wants to do that. When your dogs are trained by all means include these great shrubs if they are suitable for your area, but perhaps set them into the border a little way. Even well behaved dogs have accidents when leaping for a tennis ball!

Share your ideas

We’d love to hear what plants you have used that have survived being torn up by paws or knocked flat by tails (or rolled onto …)

Why do I feel as though the dogs will have the last laugh??

Why do I feel as though the dogs will have the last laugh??

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High Spirit Foliage Color for the 4th

With the 4th of July fast approaching, Team Fine Foliage is dealing with a 100 year, record-setting heat wave here in our typically mild northwest climate (as I sit in front of the AC writing this post). We have surpassed records made in past hot July and August months so far and there seems to be no end in sight. Most of our time when not working on the NEW BOOK “Foliage First”, has been holding a hose or setting up sprinklers.

Karen Chapman's explosion of fireworks Brit style. :-)

Karen Chapman’s explosion of fireworks Brit style. :-)

Since the vast majority of us can’t let off fireworks here due to the heat advisory and one half of Team Fine Foliage is British anyway, we can get crazy HERE! :-) I thought it was a good time to bring you foliage ideas that are both high energy color and high impact forms. Some spiky shapes that mimic fireworks are interesting and maybe they will give your imagination some ammunition to add some explosive foliage interest to YOUR landscape.

An Acalypha that I snapped in Disneyworld, BOLD!!

An Acalypha that I snapped in Disney World, BOLD!!

Red Castor Bean is a showstopper, but can be a bit hard to find. Those giant red leaves are about 2ft. across.

Red Castor Bean is a showstopper, but can be a bit hard to find. Those giant red leaves are about 2ft. across.

I could have stuck with the good old red, white and blue for this post, but I came across SO many other fun bits of color and detail for you that I gave up on that theme. But, there is always this one that you could do in a cobalt blue pot with red and white New Guinea Impatiens right? Someone make that combo and post it for us on the Fine Foliage page!

Drama with Caladium, never fails!

Drama with Caladium, never fails!

High Spirited Foliage for the 4thRed Mandevilla, red Rex begonia and a red sphere, now THAT is some color for a partially shady nook!

Another unique Acalypha harmonizing with orange, bronze and the lavender toned Asters.

Another unique Acalypha harmonizing with orange, bronze and the lavender toned Asters.

Impatien 'Omeiana' is ALMOST like fireworks in the shade garden!

Impatiens ‘Omeiana’ is ALMOST like fireworks in the shade garden!

A reddish Bromeliad in a patriotic blue pot makes a statement!

A reddish Bromeliad in a patriotic blue pot makes a statement!

Canna makes a wonderful backdrop for airy Gamma Grass like little sparks shooting up from the pot!

Canna makes a wonderful backdrop for airy Gamma Grass like little sparks shooting up from the pot!

Now THIS is a fireworks display!!

Now THIS is a fireworks display!!

There are always blue foliage plants (for the good old Red, White and Blue) that are dramatic and stunning around, sometimes you just have to think out of the box a bit. :-)

High Spirited Foliage for the 4th

'Silver Swan' euphorbia with 'Quicksilver' Hebe.

‘Silver Swan’ Euphorbia with ‘Quicksilver’ Hebe.

Melianthus

Melianthus

White foliage can be white HOT in sun or in shade!

'Spider Web' Fatsia

‘Spider Web’ Fatsia

Creamy off-white foliage from variegated Cordyline is plenty classy on it's own in a container.

Creamy off-white foliage from variegated Cordyline is plenty classy on its own in a container.

Garden Art, soft Mexican feather grass and one lone canna leaf glowing like a burning ember make for an unexpectedly electric combo of form and colors.

Garden Art, soft Mexican feather grass and one lone canna leaf glowing like a burning ember make for an unexpectedly electric combo of form and colors.

HOLY COW Yankee Doodle look at that BIG BOLD showy foliage in white? :-)

HOLY COW Yankee Doodle look at that BIG BOLD showy foliage in white?

Look at that, it’s time for me to go out and water the landscape, we should talk succulents next time. :-)

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The Ones That Got Away

Early morning in the beautiful garden of designer Vi Kono includes being serenaded by doves

Early morning in the beautiful garden of designer Vi Kono includes being serenaded by doves

Christina and I are working hard to bring you the best of the best for our new book Foliage First (working title only), due out fall 2016 with Timber Press. The less than romantic aspects of that means staggering out of bed at unearthly hours for photo shoots then working late at night editing, critiquing and selecting only those images that we feel really tell a story. We want you to see at a glance what a fabulous foliage framework can do for a piece of art or a special flower for instance.

In the selection process we have to set aside many combinations that are gorgeous but that perhaps include a shrub that we have already featured several times. Or sometimes there are just one too many slug holes! Occasionally our photography was good – but not excellent – and we are striving for excellence.

In this post I thought I’d share of few of those images that showed great creativity on the part of the homeowner but didn’t make the cut for the book. Be inspired! Don’t consider them ‘outtakes’ but rather the ones that (almost) got away.

1. Architectural detail

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

I love the curved lines of this metal sculpture. Nestled among the stiff succulent branches of donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) and backed by a variegated juniper this is a delightful ‘garden moment’. Have you got a rock retaining wall that could use a little accessorizing?

2. New Plant!

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

Have you seen Neptune’s Gold seaholly (Eryngium) in person yet? It looks like the one above (which is Sapphire Blue) but those bracts are actually GOLD. Totally amazing. You’ll have to wait for our book to see the combination included with the new perennial. It is STUNNING!

Meanwhile enjoy this duo; a wonderful soft color echo between Sapphire Blue sea holly with the teal and gold juniper behind it.

3. Look THIS way!

Design by Mary Palmer

Design by Mary Palmer

if only this clematis flower would have been turned slightly – or I could have found a better angle. Still I know you will still appreciate the ingenuity for allowing this to grow through the columnar purple barberry Helmond’s Pillar. Why didn’t I think of that?

4. Floral extravaganza

Design by Karen Steeb

Design by Karen Steeb

This delightful combination would be perfect – for a different book! The gold variegated foliage of the Emerald and Gold wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald and Gold’) sets off the white Jupiter’s beard (Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’) ) beautifully which in turn allows the orange poppy to shine. Can’t honestly say this is a ‘foliage first‘ combo, but you have to admit that the foliage is definitely a key part in its success.

5. Fishing hole

Design by Ruth Hough

Design by Ruth Hough

A charming vignette that tells a story of the one that got away. From the artfully placed gnarled tree root to the carefully selected boulder that holds water like a pool, this scene has got the perfect Pacific Northwest vibe, using native sword ferns as well as conifers and grasses to set the scene. We had to concede that the story it didn’t tell was foliage first – and that’s OK. We love it anyway and know you will too.

Can you do something like this? I’m on the lookout for a metal fish!

Do YOU have a garden we can photograph?

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We still need a few more great photographs for the book. We need them to show a foliage framework then how art, flowers or berries have been strategically layered in. If this sounds like your garden and you’re within driving distance of Seattle please get in touch! Email Karen to start the conversation. And please don’t worry about weeds or a lawn that hasn’t been edged. The camera is master of illusion.

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Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

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

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

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

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

Chanticleer
Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

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

Wither-Proof Hot Weather Foliage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Potted Inspiration

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

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

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

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

Unexpected Companions

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

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

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

Plan ahead

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

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

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

Pull a Vignette Together

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

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

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

When Procrastination Works

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

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

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

Aqua Shades

Contemporary wizardry by Todd Holloway of Pot Inc

Contemporary wizardry by Todd Holloway of Pot Inc

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

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Vibrant Color, Bold Design

Vibrant Color, Bold Design

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

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

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

Vibrant Color, Bold Design
Vibrant Color, Bold Design

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

Vibrant Color, Bold Design

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

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

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

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Simple yet Sophisticated

IMG_2855I planted up this little container for a demonstration during my one of my Spring Container Workshops last week. It’s a lesson in balancing abundance and restraint.

Size Matters

The rustic brown clay pot is just 12″ square so the temptation would be to fill it with lots of 4″ plants. Had I done that, however, the overall composition may have looked too busy. Instead I opted to use three gallon (6″) sized plants to really fill out the space with leafy goodness, adding just one 4″ and one 2″ accent plants.

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Foliage Stars

The feature plant is the cream/green variegated Angyo Star Fatshedera, one of the Sunset Western Garden Plant Collection beauties. This will need to be staked as it grows taller but I may just let it tumble and mingle to a degree; we’ll see! The glossy leaves suggest a tropical look but I’ve used it here in a more naturalistic design where it’s resemblance to ivy works well.

Playing off the creamy yellow tones I added the grass-like Everillo Carex to introduce fine strappy texture. The bright golden foliage works well with this informal container.

The third ‘big’ plant was Sweet Tea Heucherella, a favorite for its over-sized copper leaves and distinctive purple veins. Spires of fluffy white flowers are a bonus.

Final Details

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It was love at first sight when I saw these 4″ pots of Sparks Will Fly begonias; look at those black leaves! The orange flowers echoed the color of the Heucherella foliage and played off the warm sunset color scheme. Perfect to tuck into the corner of the container.

Purple Heart was tucked in a corner near the golden grass

Purple Heart was tucked in a corner near the golden grass

Also added but not visible in these photos  is a 2″ pot of Purple Heart wandering Jew (Setcreasea pallida ‘Purple Heart’ syn. Tradescantia pallida ‘Purple Heart’). The iridescent purple leaves picks up the vein color of the Heucherella and adds contrast to the golden grass.

Design Details

By using just five plants (three of them BIG) and by restricting the number of colors (gold, copper-orange and purple-black) this little container lives large. It has a full, lush look thanks to the foliage; no waiting for it to ‘grow in’ before being ready for its close up.

The three main foliage plants are all evergreen so can be kept in the container or transferred to the garden.

This combination will thrive in shade or partial shade all summer with average water.

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