Leaves that Beat the Heat (and the Deer)

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the awards;

Best Combo

It may look delicate but this combo is TOUGH!

It may look delicate but this combo is TOUGH!

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

Best Bling

A silvery feathery puff ball

A silvery feathery puff ball

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

Best Variegated Leaf

Not your typical barberry

Not your typical barberry

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

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

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

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

Best Native

A bronze beauty - Northern bush honeysuckle

A bronze beauty – Northern bush honeysuckle

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

Best Surprise

Glossy abelia - worth a second look

Glossy abelia – worth a second look

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Hot White Chic Style for Summer 2014

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

Spider Web Fatsia container in a shady nook.

Spider Web Fatsia container in a shady nook.

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

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

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

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

A more feminine combination with the pink Lacecap Hydrangea.

A more feminine combination with the pink Lacecap Hydrangea.

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

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The Finer Points of Interest

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

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

(Name still TBD)

(Name still TBD)

 

 

 

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

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

Impatiens 'Omeiana'

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

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Plant Emergencies

When disaster strikes - look for FOLIAGE!

When disaster strikes – look for FOLIAGE!

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

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

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

Serious sizzle factor from an oak leaf croton

Serious sizzle factor from an oak leaf croton

Oak leaf croton

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

Carolyn Whorton caladium - reminds me of a strawberry milkshake!

Carolyn Whorton caladium – reminds me of a strawberry milkshake!

Caladium

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

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

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

Variegated dracaena

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

This beefsteak plant is as reliable as it is colorful

This beefsteak plant is as reliable as it is colorful

Beefsteak plant

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

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

 

The perfect rose for a container

The perfect rose for a container

Succulents

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

Ascot Rainbow euphorbia. Photo courtesy Skagit Gardens

Ascot Rainbow euphorbia. Photo courtesy Skagit Gardens

Euphorbia

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

Jack Frost to the rescue

Jack Frost to the rescue

Bugbane (Brunnera varieties)

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

One of the many varieties of periwinkle available

One of the many varieties of periwinkle available

Trailers

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

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

What do you do in a plant emergency?

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Going for Gold

A haze of gold wraps around these rustic metal spheres.

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some ideas on combinations to try;

Containers

Contemporary flair with foliage

Contemporary flair with foliage

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

Color punch

Color punch

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

It only needs a little

It only needs a little

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

For the squish factor

For the squish factor

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

In the landscape

Brighten a shady path

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

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

For winter interest

Copy of July 2011 Peace Tree Farm 211

Need I say more?

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

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

We’re thrilled!14-silver-logo

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

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

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Try Purple and Silver for a Fresh Flavor

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It’s that time of year when we are both creating endless container combinations- each one unique. Always on the lookout for cool new plants and different combinations i seem to find myself frequently drawn to purple; purple pots, purple leaves and even purple flowers. The obvious color partner is chartreuse but while attractive that is rather predictable.

Now PURPLE and SILVER gets my attention.

Going solo

Some plants have it all.

Lochinch butterfly bush has the most beautiful felted silver foliage and fragrant lavender flowers.

Lochinch butterfly bush has the most beautiful felted silver foliage and fragrant lavender flowers.

Butterfly bushes have a bad rap for seeding everywhere and are banned in several states. In WA they are still widely available although the sterile forms are gaining popularity. Lochinch is not sterile but it has never set a single seedling either in my garden or a neighbors. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to enjoy this beauty and watch the hummingbirds and butterflies coming to feast.

Japanese painted fern glows in the shade

Japanese painted fern glows in the shade

Japanese painted ferns bring a fresh color palette to the shade garden. Deep purple/burgundy veins with shimmery silver and grey feathers

A classy double act

Feathery purple fountain grass against silver wormwood - one of my favorite combinations

Feathery purple fountain grass against silver wormwood - one of my favorite combinations

Two plants – two colors. Nothing else is needed; just delicious on their own. The purple fountain grass and Silver Mound wormwood are perfection. We have a similar combination in Fine Foliage (p. 52-53 ‘Purple Waves’)

The sculptural container repeats the purple but brings something extra. That glossy finish adds sparkle – an interesting contrast to the matte silver foliage of the licorice plant.

Notice how the matte silver licorice plant plays off the shiny surface of the container

Notice how the matte silver licorice plant plays off the shiny surface of the container

Have you tried the latest silver kid on the block? Bella Grigio is lambs ears (Stachys byzantina) on steroids.

Ultra silver with dusky purple - mouthwatering

Ultra silver Bella Grigio lambs ears with dusky purple succulent foliage- mouthwatering

I’m trying this new sexy silver in several container combinations as well as a groundcover in a hot sunny garden – I’ll let you know how they fare in a few months but right now I’m entranced with it next to this moody sedum – a dusky purple with grey-blue undertones. I confess I’ve lost the tag for the sedum but will try and get an ID.

Or make it a trio

A columnar Blue Surprise false cypress introduces a gentle third color

A columnar Blue Surprise Port Orford cedar introduces a gentle third color

The purple shades from Rose Glow barberry (it is not invasive in the Seattle area), Xenox sedum and heuchera are highlighted by the silver wormwood while the grey-blue conifer adds subtle depth.

Or what about adding in hot pink? Or copper? or bright orange? There are SO many possibilities, I could write a book………….now there’s a thought!

What would you add to purple and silver? Post photos to our Facebook page – we love to share your ideas with other foliage-aholics.

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3 Elements of Style

20140525-CS_IMG_9777This small pocket-garden at the edge of a quaint courtyard has come to life by the use of color, art and of course nature. The narrow palette of foliage colors; silver or white, green and fiery copper are both sophisticated and delicate all at once.

The color scheme for this planting draws on the creme, white and earth toned interior colors of the home to bring the outside in and create harmony throughout the rest of the garden with a similar focus on light, white, and variegated or silver foliage. The flame colored Heuchera plays a role in this triad of style as the showy color tying it all together with a color echo on the new growth on the dwarf Pieris.
The use of the water feature brings in the sounds and movement of water as one vital element in this design. The actual water feature itself lends itself to the homeowners focus on traditional style.
The use of the boulders brings in the natural element of stone, as does the paver-patio and natural stones that create the path.

There you have it! Stone, fire and water, the three elements of style for this tiny gem of a garden. The KEY PLAYERS? I thought you would never ask!

Key Players

Peach Flambe Heuchera‘Peach Flambe’ Heuchera

 

 

'Little Heath' Pieris‘Little Heath’ Pieris

 

 

Brunnera 'Jack Frost'
‘Jack Frost’ Brunnera


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Spring Slump Solution!

The daffodils are a tangle of decaying foliage, the tulips are long since collapsed and the roses are still tight buds. What is holding your garden design together during this in-between stage?

You can bet that your two foliage divas have got this one down – it’s all about having a framework of trees, shrubs and perennials with great leaves – whether they bloom or not.

Here’s a photo from my garden taken a few days ago.

IMG_2929

In March there was a haze of yellow daffodils at the base of each arbor post – an early spring highlight but those green leaves don’t offer much in this May scene. Instead almost all the color is from layers of foliage.

Here are the key players;

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Forever Goldie arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’)

Stunning evergreen conifer – one of my favorites for year round color

 

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Fireglow Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’)

Retains the deep red foliage well and takes full sun

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Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum ‘Mariesii’)

Tiers of luscious leaves AND spring flowers!

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Double Play Gold spirea (Spiraea j. ‘Double Play Gold’)

We’ve told you about this beauty before.

 

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Golden Ruby barberry (Berberis t. ‘Golden Ruby’)

It hasn’t developed its distinctive gold margin yet – but it will! A neat little dumpling of a barberry. (Barberry is invasive in some states but not in the Seattle area)

IMG_0505Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

Reliable and tough – we both have this on our top ten list for color and performance.

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Golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’)

Our signature tree! I admit to having five in my garden – two in this border alone. (This may sucker in some areas but has never done so in my gardens)

 

So you want flowers too?

IMG_3633 IMG_2953

 

Well there are two blooming exbury azaleas strutting their stuff – but I bet you had to look twice to find them both!

A few extra tips;

Color - sunset tones dominate with just a little grey-blue for contrast

Maintenance – everything has to be deer resistant and drought tolerant (by its second year)

Maturity – this border was planted in 2012. Honestly!

IMG_8854This is only its third year – this photo was taken in March 2012 – use the Forever Goldie arborvitae as a reference point. Miracles do happen – if you pay attention to the FOLIAGE!

What’s  your favorite foliage to combat the spring slump?

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Sizzling Grape Jelly Carpet of Foliage

Tradescantia zebrina, the lovely purple and silver dominant foliage in this shot is the eye-catching plant carpeting the floor of the hothouse display at the Denver Botanic Garden. But, what REALLY caught my eye was how the contrast and interplay of the four dominant foliage plants in the display all weave together making a tropical patchwork quilt with a distinctly grape flavor of clear grape jelly.
Denver Botanic Garden Tropical House Of course your eye goes straight to the BIG leaf plant in the center, (no tag that I could find) but, now look at how many other textures fill out this frame. The fern and the other beautiful leaf with silver banding (no tag that I could find). This lesson is really about the layers of the textures though, the grape jelly is just because of that yummy color!

Denver Botanic Garden Tropical HouseThe four distinct texture just MAKE this combination! Something BIG and bold, something medium-sized, a fine texture addition and a scrumptious color and voila! If you look closely you can even make out a flower that made it into the post too! ;-)

What leafy textural combinations have you spotted lately?

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