Tag Archives: Artemisia

Fine Fragrant Foliage

the silvery-grey foliage of lavender cotton highlights the white markings on the fluffy Blue Shag pine.

the silvery-grey foliage of lavender cotton highlights the white markings on the fluffy Blue Shag pine.

It is usually the intricate shape or fabulous color of a leaf which make us scramble over rocks or slither under bushes to get the perfect shot of fabulous foliage for you.

Yet there is another attribute that we often forget to mention – that of fragrance. The leaves of many trees, shrubs and perennials release a scent when brushed or bruised and while this may be impossible to capture in a juicy photograph these plants have something beyond their good looks to offer the designer and homeowner alike.

Of course not all garden aromas are desirable! One of my lecturers insists that boxwood smells like cat pee (!) and that Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata) is little better. I can’t say that I find them offensive but I certainly don’t use boxwood for its fragrance.

I am interested in leaves that have it all – good looks and a pleasant fragrance. As a bonus many of these plants are deer resistant and usually pest free. My design mantra is that gardens should be experienced and not just observed and that means involving all the senses not just sight. Let’s look for leaves that can be explored with the finger tips, taste buds and nose as well as having exceptional good looks! Here are a few of my favorites.

Incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens)

The beautiful foliage of incense cedar. Photo credit; Missouri Botanical Gardens

The beautiful foliage of incense cedar. Photo credit; Missouri Botanical Gardens

This is an elegant slim conifer that typically grows 40-60′ tall yet only 8-10′ wide. Native to the western United States it is hardy to zone 5 yet is not found in many home gardens. Although not a true cedar it does have a cedar-like fragrance both from the crushed foliage and the resin. Where privacy is needed this may be a better choice than the ubiquitous arborvitae.  It also keeps a healthy dark green color throughout the year.

Goldcrest Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’)

The bright lime green foliage of Monterey cypress is a great contrast to shades or purple and orange

The bright lime green foliage of Monterey cypress is a great contrast to shades or purple and orange

Bright chartreuse foliage makes this slender conifer an easy winner for landscapes and containers but what makes it extra-special is the heady citrus scent that is released when the foliage is touched. Pair this with deep purple spurge (Euphorbia hyb.) for a bold backdrop to orange foliage and flowers. Or keep a crisp contemporary look by adding silver and white.

This dwarf beauty is hardy in zones 7-10 where it will grow 6-8′ tall and 2′ wide.

Lavender sp. (Lavandula)

It's not JUST about the flowers

It’s not JUST about the flowers!

When I worked in a nursery I would find every excuse to  walk by the lavender display and casually brush my fingers through the highly aromatic foliage! Somehow that heady fragrance would make me slow down, breathe in deeply and relax – which is why of course it is so popular as an essential oil in aromatherapy.

There are many species, hybrids and colors of both flowers and foliage as well as variability in the hardiness. They all need full sun and exceptionally well drained soil – ask at your local independent garden center for advice on those best suited to your area. Is any garden really complete without at least one lavender plant?

Lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus)

Grey, aromatic foliage of lavender cotton

Grey, aromatic foliage of lavender cotton

Tough, evergreen, deer resistant and drought tolerant – four reasons to look for this silvery-grey leaved shrub. Yellow button flowers in summer are a bonus. It may need whacking back every couple of years to stop it getting too leggy but if like me you have some areas that need bullet proof plants check this out.

The fragrance is hard to describe – somewhat medicinal but not in a bad way!

At 1-3′ tall and wide it can be used to edge herb gardens and pathways or set as an informal evergreen groundcover. See it paired with Blue Shag pine at the start of this post and read about the beautiful combo (“Easy on the Eyes’) on pages 62-63 of Fine Foliage

Fuzzy fragrant foliage - meet Lemon Fizz lavender cotton

Fuzzy fragrant foliage – meet Lemon Fizz lavender cotton

Last summer I discovered its relative Lemon Fizz lavender cotton (Santolina virens ‘Lemon Fizz’). This was an outstanding tender perennial with bright chartreuse foliage forming tidy cushions and smelling of pine. I’m definitely getting more next year.

Catmint (Nepeta sp.)

Walkers Low catmint mingling with Byzantine gladioli

Walkers Low catmint mingling with Byzantine gladioli

My first introduction to this herbaceous perennial was the variety Six Hills Giant which I allowed to scramble at the base of climbing roses in my English garden. Soft grey leaves were topped with blue summer flowers all of which exuded a wonderful herbal smell.

Today I favor Walker’s Low which despite its name is not a dwarf variety but rather takes its name from of the garden where it was originally found. Although it is less straggly than Six Hills Giant I still shear it back by half in early summer – within two weeks it  bounces back into a tidy cushion.

Limelight catmint behind Chocolate Drop sedum. Design by Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.

Limelight catmint behind Chocolate Drop sedum. Design by Terra Nova Nurseries Inc.

Limelight is a newer introduction from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc. with attractive lemon and lime foliage – watch out for this one.

Hyssop (Agastache sp.)

Apricot Sprite peeks out of the hanging basket while a coral colored haze of Apricot Sunrise  fills a container in the background

Apricot Sprite peeks out of the hanging basket while a coral haze of Apricot Sunrise fills a container in the background

The foliage of this perennial is somewhat reminiscent of  catmint although the habit is typically more upright. There are many varieties available today with heights ranging from the dwarf Apricot Sprite to the much taller Blue Fortune. Flower colors range from blue to orange and pink and they all attract hummingbirds which get positively giddy with excitement. Even without the flowers this is an easy plant to enjoy in the garden for the drought tolerant, deer resistant foliage alone. I have grown Apricot Sprite as the centerpiece of a succulent hanging basket, as well as in containers and the garden.

Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) – while it does smell like curry it is not recommended for eating and does not in fact taste like curry at all. At first glance you might mistake this for lavender since the foliage is almost identical but the small yellow flowers are quite different.

I love the texture of this perennial (hardy in zones 8-11) and it is fun to include in designs as a talking point for garden visitors.

Other favorites

  • Rosemary, sage, mint, thyme and lemon verbena all assault the senses with their aromatic leaves as do so many other culinary herbs
  • Wormwood (Artemisia sp.) comes in many shapes and sizes some better behaved than others! My personal favorite is Silver Mound (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’) featured in our book (Purple Waves, p52) This is another plant whose fragrance is rather hard to describe – somewhat musky yet medicinal. Not unpleasant yet perhaps not one you would want in great quantities.
  • Scented geraniums and citronella for keeping those pesky mosquitoes away!

What’s your favorite fragrant foliage?

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New Leaves for 2014

As seed catalogs replace Christmas cards in the mailbox the planning begins! Although I am always ready for a break from regular weeding and hoeing by October it never seems to dampen the giddy excitement as I consider those glossy photographs and ponder my choices for the New Year. Yet those catalogs only show you a few of the new offerings and rarely focus on cool new foliage plants so we thought we’d share some with you here. Start your 2014 foliage wish list!

Sunjoy® Tangelo barberry (Berberis th. ‘Sunjoy Tangelo’)

proven_winners_berberis_sunjoy_tangelo_barberry_0

Late season color. Photo credit; Proven Winners

I know barberries are listed as invasive in many States so for those of you who cannot – or prefer not to grow this shrub just skip ahead!

Before I moved to my deer-plagued garden I had little interest in these thorny shrubs but I have since completely changed my tune. I can rely on these in less than favorable circumstances AND their wide range of foliage colors offers the potential for endless new combinations.

So what’s special about this one? Bright and cheery, this new barberry has tangy orange foliage that is often accentuated by a distinctive chartreuse margin. Stronger growing than other variegated cultivars, it is a medium-sized shrub to 4′ wide and tall. Like all barberries it needs full sun for the best color and is drought tolerant once established. Hardy in zones 4a-8b.

Foliage combination ideas

Try underplanting this with Lemon Fizz lavender cotton (Santolina virens) to pick up on those bright green margins. Alternatively Ogon spirea (Spiraea th. ‘Ogon’) has finely textured foliage also in a golden-yellow that turns orange in fall. Since this grows to the same size as the barberry they would make quite the fiery duo!

Glow Girl™ Birchleaf Spirea (Spiraea sp.)

glow_girl_spirea-0695

Spring flowers and foliage

My love affair with spirea has grown for much the same reason as it has with barberries – they come in fun colors and are both deer resistant and drought tolerant. I’ve never been terribly partial to the pink flowers on chartreuse varieties, however, so Glow Girl grabbed my attention thanks to its vivid lime green leaves and white flowers which give the shrub a wonderful fresh appearance.

Glow Girl holds its color well and doesn’t burn in the summer. Since it also offers great fall color this is a true three-season shrub.

Fall color is equally lovely. Photo credit; Proven Winners

Fall color is equally lovely.

At 3-4′ tall and wide this spirea is well suited to the middle of the border where it will be happy in part or full sun. It tolerates a wide variety of soil conditions and is hardy in zones 3a-9b. Whats’ not to love?!

Foliage combination ideas

Pair this with the fluffy silver foliage of Silver Mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana) in sunny, dry spots or if you have part shade and moisture retentive soils the evergreen autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) would bring shades of copper to the display.

Tiny Wine™ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolious)

A new option for dark foliage. Photo credit; Proven Winners

A new option for dark foliage.

Christina and I both love  ninebarks and have enjoyed using the dwarf ‘Little Devil‘ in container designs where its rich chocolate leaves add excitement to pink, orange or yellow companions. Here is a new introduction for 2014 which promise to be more petite still at 3-4′ tall and wide with a good upright habit.

Tiny Wine appears to be bushier and to have smaller leaves than Little Devil too resulting in a shrub that appears to be more balanced in scale. Even though we are most interested in the foliage we have to concede that the flower show is exceptional, with dainty flowers blooming up and down each stem in late spring.

Attractive flower buds, blooms and seed heads add to the diplay

Attractive flower buds, blooms and seed heads add to the display

Ninebarks are tolerant of many soil types, do well in full sun or part shade and are hardy in zones 3a-7b.

Foliage combination ideas

For a three season combo the variegated pink foliage of My Monet weigela (Weigela florida) would echo the ninebark flowers in spring while creating an artistic medley for summer and fall.

Anna’s Magic Ball™ Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

 
What a cutie!

What a cutie!

I had the pleasure of testing this in my garden and just loved its puffball demeanor. Even after weeks of low temperatures and hard frost this golden ball shines. I use dwarf conifers a lot in containers but there are relatively few that stay small – this one fills that role nicely with its mature size being listed as 10-15″.

Average water and  average soil makes this an easy care conifer for zones 3a-7b. Definitely one to look out for in 2014.

Foliage combination ideas

Blue and gold make great color partners so I might try this with the low growing Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) or the striking Beyond Blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca ‘Beyond Blue’).

Wild Romance hebe (Hebe hybrid)

A new hebe to look for

A new hebe to look for

Just look at those leaves! Dark green foliage turns to deep burgundy at the end of each stem in winter and spring, mellowing to a lighter red in summer. For those who want flowers you will enjoy the purple display in early summer.

The leaves are smaller than many variegated hebe resulting in a more delicate appearance. When grown as an evergreen shrub it will reach 24-30″ tall and wide but I would expect half that when grown as a summer annual

Hebe are drought tolerant, deer resistant and prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Wild Romance is hardy in zones 7b-9a – enjoy it as an annual elsewhere

Foliage Combination ideas

I would look for bolder foliage companions such as the dark, fleshy rosettes of black rose (Aeonium arboreum var. atropurpureum ‘Zwartkop’) and one of the chartreuse sweet potato vines for an easy container combo perhaps throwing in some of the sun-tolerant hot orange Spitfire coleus for drama.

Which new introductions are you going to try this year? Do leave a comment below or on our Facebook page to tell us.

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Standout Silver Foliage – Step Into the Light

October 2012 BBG Dump File 128

Silver Pulmonaria shines!

In a predominantly gray climate like the Northwest, we get a little hungry for light as you may imagine. As the darker days of autumn creep in and we lose more and more of our light to wet, rainy skies, it deepens my commitment to adding light colors to the garden as an uplight to other plants. Or simply just to add that high contrast WOW factor.

November 2012 Foliage and Bloom 005

Lets just say that I totally planned for these stunning Japanese Maple leaves to fall just like that over my ‘Moonshine’ Yarrow, yes lets say that. :-)

November 2012 Foliage and Bloom 131.CR2

Hebe ‘Quicksilver’ being photobombed by the ‘Ghost’ fern.

Of course there are the occasional “happy accidents” in garden design. I am comfortable enough in my design skills to admit that Mother Nature can be a better designer than I am. It’s those moments when I run, not walk to get my camera.

Then there are the times that I FINALLY found a plant that I have been looking for, for SO long! I was thrilled to score one of these from a friend in one of the local Hort Societies that we visited during a book talk. I have JUST the pace for this one.

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Euphorbia rigida

The texture and form of this low growing Euphorbia are spectacular with another drought tolerant silver plant, Salvia officianalis ‘White edged’.

October 2012 BBG Dump File 049Another standout silver foliage is the Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’. I have grown this one very well. After having marginal success with ‘Tasmanian Tiger’ and ‘Glacier Blue’, ‘Silver Swan’ has been utterly fantastic and I recommend it highly.
October 2012 Foliage and Bloom 868Look how pretty it is in the rain! Someday I will post my pic of this same plant under a solid inch of ice not too long ago came through with flying colors!

Our good friend and also as big of a hort-head, maybe more than Karen and I, is Mitch Evans. His gardens are toured for Horticultural teaching as well as for general ogling quite frequently. Mitch is an extraordinary plantsman and collector. He has a particular enthusiasm for amazing conifers.

October 2012 Mitch Evans Garden 016This stunning little Spruce in Mitch Evans garden illustrates my point here to a T – uplighting the Barberry so expertly!

Mitch Evans also happens to collect Cyclamen too, this one just took my breath away!

October 2012 Mitch Evans Garden 018Can’t you just imagine the uplifting effect this would have under a red Japanese Maple for instance? Stunning!

So now I hope that you can envision the vision of what a standout silver can be on a gray day in the fall. How about a few more ideas to add to your list?

- Liriope ‘Silver Dragon’
- Lamium ‘White Nancy’ or ‘Ghost’
- Stachys ‘Lambs Ears’
- Astelia
- Japanese Painted Fern
- Artemisia
- Asarum

I could go on and on and on and on…. but I would rather hear about what standout silver you love to use in your garden. 3,2,1….GO!

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Portrait of a Foliage Color Palette – Refreshing

Sometimes you don’t choose a color palette for a foliage design in a garden, it chooses you. It’s common for me to find that I have subconsciously chosen a very harmonious color combination that is spread out all over the landscape and all its waiting for is for is for me to pull it together. Re-arrange a few plants and voila!

I tend to end up with a couple of Go-To color combinations that are very harmonious together in spite of how I might put them together initially. Somehow, they end up working with a bit of digging here, a bit of digging there, add a couple new plants and there it was all long.

My Go-To colors a few years ago were very French Country in feeling, Lots of golds, pale yellows, blues, lavender and whites.  For some reason, it didn’t matter what nursery I was at, what home I was helping with design elements, I would consistently fall back to this same color scenario.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE color pig. I am the United Nations of color choices when I have my druthers. But, this was something deeper, a pull if you will that kept leading me back over and over to this same color scheme until I eventually just gave in to it.

Then the oddest thing happened, once I gave in, I didn’t gravitate toward those colors anymore. I still loved them, but I wasn’t compelled in the same way to keep making the same harmonic choices any more. Now, it’s a whole new color scheme that has me in its grip. :-)

January 2013 Foliage and Bloom 181.CR2

Variegated Boxwood, Parahebe, Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’,
Asparagus Fern and Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’.

I’m not quite sure what I’d like to call this monochromatic inspired color scheme other than “Refreshing”. (If you have ideas, let me know)  Its sophisticated and modern, bright and airy and texturally alluring all at the same time. All of these except the Asparagus Fern are happy here in my Seattle area Zone 7-8 in Partial to Full Sun and all are pretty easy plants too! The Asparagus Fern, I either have to treat as an Annual or pot it up and keep it under cover or inside in the winter. I have been nothing short of thrilled with the Parahebe.

Here is an example of how I used this same color scheme in a part shade area of my front yard a few years back. I KNOW there are flowers in there. Once in a while even we FOLIAGE people love flowers too!

Garden Photos 7-13-09 054

Silver, Chartreuse, Green and White Variegated Foliage all came together in this fluffy mayhem! Quite refreshing don’t you think?

What is YOUR color combination of the moment?

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Triple Threat Foliage Trio

January 2013 Foliage and Bloom 198

STEAL THIS IDEA!
This Heucherella or Trailing Foamy Bells ‘Redstone Falls’ is a lush mix of ruby and autumn tones that have TONS of personality throughout the growing season in sun or shade. Happy in zones 4-9, this elegant mounding plant will be 10″ high by 15″ wide. A fast grower with airy white blooms from July through September,this would look excellent in the mixed border OR in containers.

Combine that exquisite Heucherella with one of my all time favorite foliage team players, Senecio Cineraria ‘Cirrus’. It’s the Peanut Butter of plants that goes with ANY flavor of jelly in sun or part shade in zones 7/8-10. Cirrus is such an easy and forgiving plant at roughly 12″ high and wide, though I prune mine to make it fuller and thicker with no flowering, so its bigger than the typical growth habit at about 18″ by 18″.

‘Cirrus’ is a hard plant to go wrong with for a couple of bucks in the nursery!! I have used it in so many different capacities, but my favorite is as a drought tolerant AND deer resistant small shrub. Up near the hot reflective heat of the sidewalk in my front yard, its hard to beat a plant that can take the abuse of the neighborhood dogs and deer. :-)

Last but certainly not least is the Calluna vulgaris ‘Firefly’. An outstanding plant for a number of reasons. The range of colors on the foliage throughout the seasons would be the top reason to fall in lust with this easy-going, small-scale shrub at 1.5ft wide by 2ft high. Lime, chartreuse, primrose foliage in summer is topped with what I describe as orchid pink color flowers, VERY showy! Then in autumn the change to the russets, shockingly beautiful fiery oranges and deep brick reds begin to show up as the cold weather sets in. This easy and non-demanding shrub only wants some good sun in zones 5-8 and a seasonal light shearing in return for the happiest bees on the planet and tons of color though the year!

Go ahead and steal this Triple Threat Design idea!

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Portrait of a Foliage Color Palette – Silvers

January 2013 Foliage and Bloom 158.CR2 copy

Have you ever gone in to a fabric store and had the clerk snip samples of fabrics to help you with design ideas? You can come up with your own design palette with even the smallest pieces of fabric for an outfit or for an entire room, then springboard into all of the other details from there.

How about taking that same idea and creating a foliage palette for a container or garden space in a similar way? Create mini-arrangements of various types in a little shot glass or small bowl to see what you like together. Winter and early spring is particularly great for this as you’re looking at your building block essentials in the garden at this time of the year.

In this vignette you see Artemisia ‘Cirrus’, a plant that ranks high on my must have list. Helleborus sternii ‘Silver Dollar’, Parahebe perfoliata and Heuchera ‘Green Spice’. All of these are hardy here in my part sun, zone 7-8 (Seattle area), but check with your local nursery expert or Master Gardener about hardiness in your area.

This palette of silvers that range from whites to blue tones is rich with the winter bronze on the Heuchera that has that hint of milk chocolate in the veining. In the spring, the Heuchera will revert to its soft silvery-green with burgundy veining as an elegant foil to all that silver.

The good manners caveat here is that you don’t ever snip where it’s not invited. A good friend or a neighbors garden with permission is different than snipping without permission in a nursery or botanical garden.