Tag Archives: Color Palette

The Blushing Beauties of the Spring Garden

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Many Japanese maples exhibit beautiful spring color

We expect the color blast in our spring garden to come from flowers – daffodils, tulips, bleeding heart and primroses  are just a few I am enjoying in my own garden right now. But have you noticed all the colorful foliage – and its not just that fresh shade of green we have been coveting all winter.

The leaves of many perennials, shrubs and trees display warm shades of copper, rose and burgundy as they unfurl even if they mature to green or yellow.

Double Play Gold spirea

Double Play Gold spirea

Double Play Gold spirea (Spirea japonica

Perhaps the best known shrubs for warming the early spring garden this way are the birchleaf spirea. I have several groups of the one shown here and they create a striking splash of color, especially when seen against a backdrop of evergreens. The foliage will eventually transition to a warm gold but it will continue to produce copper colored new growth all summer (mainly because the deer keep deadheading the shrubs….)

if you only want to treat yourself to one shrub this spring make it a spirea. Better still get three. Or five.

The new growth of peonies reminds me of hands closed in prayer

The new growth of peonies reminds me of interlaced fingers

Peonies

I was fortunate to find several peonies in our garden when we moved here but as is usually the case I have no idea what varieties they are. Regardless, I have some with deep pink flowers with gorgeous burgundy toned leaves and others with softer pink blooms and a bronze-green leaf. It is the latter peony that is pictured here and I was fascinated to notice the two-tone color as the leaves were slowly unfolding. So pretty.

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

Red barrenwort – also known as Bishop’s hat in the UK

Red barrenwort (Epimedium rubrum)

This may be one of the most common barrenwort but every year I look forward to the intense spring color on the heart shaped leaves.

The flowers emerge in March and as dainty as they are, after just a few weeks they are spent. That’s when the new colorful foliage quickly fills in to create mounds of these luscious leaves. Stunning.

Many of the orange-toned Heuchera have vibrant new growth in spring

Many of the orange-toned Heuchera have vibrant new growth in spring

Coral bells (Heuchera)

I think the hybrid shown above is Caramel but many of the warm colored coral bells have similar spring colors e.g. Peach Flambe, Creme Brulee and Marmalade. The layers of spring color are totally delicious!

Jade Frost sea holly

Jade Frost sea holly

Jade Frost sea holly (Eryngium planum ‘Jade Frost’)

This drought tolerant perennial has a more delicate blush than the others I have shared, the pretty pink margins only being really noticeable in cooler weather – both spring and fall.

Summer will bring spires of blue and white teasel-like flowers but as is always the case it is the foliage that spans the seasons.

What are your favorite spring plants that bring a warm glow to the garden?

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Lemon and Lime – a Delicious Green Smoothie

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There’s nothing quite like a zesty splash of citrus to wake things up and this great combo by Terra Nova Nurseries Inc. certainly does the trick.

To me the most exciting plant - and the inspiration for the color palette is Lunar Glow elephant ears (Bergenia hybrid) with its bold green and yellow splashed, leathery evergreen leaves. In spring, stalks of raspberry-pink flowers punctuate the carpet adding a fun contrast.

if your grandma told you never to mix your patterns – she was wrong! There are another two variegated plants in this group; the wispy Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) and in the middle of the photo a Gilt Edge toad lily (Tricyrtis sp.) with a narrow gold margin. Since each of these three leaves offer a unique shape and feel the trio has great visual interest yet the common lemon and lime scheme keeps it from feeling too busy. The bold foliage of a green hosta also helps to tone things down.

Beyond the immediate group a soft fern adds a feathery texture to the mix while the golden leaves of Goldheart bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) add sparkle, their pink dangling heart-shaped flowers repeating the color in the foreground.

This is a fun foliage combo to light up the shade garden. What are you waiting for? Well apart from the snow to melt….)

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Four Season Fabulosity!

IMG_0585I’m a lazy gardener – or at least I prefer to choose how much work to do rather than feeling overwhelmed by a ‘to do’ list. I suspect I’m not alone…………..

So here is a container for you that looks this good ALL YEAR! This would be a perfect combo on a shady porch where you can enjoy the lush foliage and see the seasonal changes. That’s right – even though all the plants here are evergreen they all change in some way during the year, either in color or because they have flowers. See the plant profiles below to see how they strut their stuff.

Clockwise from top;

Paprika coral bells (Heuchera) – spicy round leaves add a punch of heat to this combo. White flowers in spring combine with extra hot colors for a show stopping display. Zones 4-9

Silver dragon lily turf (Liriope spicata ‘Silver Dragon’) – an underused grassy plant with attractive green and yellow variegated leaves. This is a wonderful evergreen plant for the shade, a bonus being spikes of blue flowers in summer. Approx 12″ high and spreads slowly to form clumps 18″ wide. Zones 6-11

Black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) – this jet black grass is a favorite of ours for giving a sophisticated touch. It has lilac flowers in spring followed by black berries. Love it! Zones 5-10. to 6″ tall and spreads slowly in clumps

Lime rickey coral bells (Heuchera) – there’s nothing quite like a splash of chartreuse to wake things up and this coral bells does just that. Clouds of little white flowers in spring add sparkle. To 18″ tall and wide. Zones 4-9

Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) – although mostly green in this photo this fern gets the most glorious coppery shades on the new fronds and despite its name produces these almost year round. Can’t have enough of these in my shade garden! To 3′ x 3′ but enjoy in containers while smaller. Zones 5-9

Rainbow drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’) – a mouthful of a name for a pretty variegated plant. Marbled shades of cream, green and pink intensify to deep burgundy in winter – can you imagine how fabulous that looks with the chartreuse?! Deer resistant, drought tolerant and low maintenance – my kind of plant. Zones 5-9. to 3′ tall and wide or greater but can be clipped to keep small.

Mikawa Yatsubusa Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’) – a very special dwarf Japanese maple whose leaves overlap one another like shingles on a roof. Spring color is light green fading to mid green. In fall the foliage turns golden orange with burgundy tips (This photo was taken in October, just as the fall tints were beginning to develop). Smooth green bark adds winter interest. Great for bonsai. To 4′ tall in a container. Zones 5-9

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Foliage Explosion!

IMG_4765We love to break the rules – preferably completely blow them out of the water and that is what this container vignette does!

All that talk about varying texture? Well just look at all the spiky foliage in this design; and yet it works!

Who are the rebel-rousers?

In the container there is a hot pink cordyline exploding at the back and a golden yellow bromeliad launching itself from the middle together with a softer but still spiky tufted hair grass (Deschampsia caespitosa ‘Northern Lights’).

But that’s not all. Containers are not viewed in isolation – consider the surroundings when placing them. Here the container is framed by a sunburst of iris foliage at the back and native reeds in front. Far from detracting from the container these actually add to the drama by screaming “Look at ME!”

It works….

…because of the repetition but also because there is balance provided by the trailing bronze sweet potato vine, variegated periwinkle and the tumbling yellow daisies of the creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens). The two chartreuse green Goldcrest Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’) add a solid conical shape to offset all the fluff.

Dare to throw away the book – well apart from FINE FOLIAGE  of course!

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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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Take our Jigsaw Challenge!

Old Fashioned smoke bush - what would YOU combine this with?

Old Fashioned smoke bush – what would YOU combine this with?

Do you like puzzles? I love the thrill of clicking that final piece into place to complete the picture. Yet it often takes many attempts of trial and error, substituting first one then another candidate, (admittedly even trying for force the occasional piece into place, convinced it must be right)  before I achieve success.

Christina and I had the honor of presenting a talk to the Northwest Horticultural Society last week and the title of our presentation was Dynamic Duo – the foliage edition where we showed what two very distinct personalities can come up with! We gave each other a series of key plants and challenged one another to see what other foliage plants we would pair it with to create a perfect picture. Well judging by the wonderful comments we are continuing to receive the audience had lots of fun -but so did we! There’s nothing quite like being challenged to stretch yourself and consider the myriad of possibilities. Unlike jigsaw puzzles there are many ways to create a stunning combination if you know what clues to look for. Not everything will work but it is so much fun to find the plants that look stunning together and reflect your unique style.

I thought you might enjoy seeing a couple of our completed puzzles and then it will be YOUR turn if you dare to take the challenge!

Challenge 1 –  Orange Rocket barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’)

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The clue – rich rosy foliage on bright red stems

Option 1

Design credit; Mitch Evans

Design credit; Mitch Evans

Neither of us can take credit for this remarkable spring combination – it is the work of designer Mitch Evans, Redmond, WA

The jigsaw pieces

1. Itoh peony (bronze leaf)

2. Blue Nest spruce (Picea mariana ‘Ericoides’) in the foreground

Whey they fit together so well

The emerging peony foliage is a striking bronze color and brings out the smoky tones in the barberry leaf as well as drawing our attention to the stems of the spruce which might otherwise go unnoticed. Additionally each leaf is a different shape giving great textural contrast.

The overall picture has a strong, masculine and contemporary feel with its unusual color scheme

Light conditions; full sun

Option 2

barberry collage CSChristina took a flirtatious approach! In fact we both had lots of fun with our collage approach to designing with foliage  - no boundaries to hold us back!

The jigsaw pieces

Clockwise from 12 o’clock

1. Rue (Ruta graveolens) ;this can be a serious skin irritant, especially in warm weather

2. Ivory Coast bromeliad

3. Big Red Judy coleus – or as Christina would call it “The trucker-chick of the coleus world”

4. Cirrus dusty miller (Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’)

Why they fit together so well

Soft and velvety, sharp and spiky – this combo is a textural extravaganza. Each leaf shape varies in size and shape yet the repetition of red tones between three of the pieces brings a sense of unity. Likewise the silvery dusty miller and soft green rue play off the colors in the tropical looking bromeliad which is definitely the star of this combo with its wildly striped leaves. (The magenta flower of  ‘Fireworks’ globe amaranth is ‘photo-bombing’ and has nothing to do with the bromeliad other than getting in the way, although it does lend a fun punch!)

Light conditions; Full morning sun with some afternoon protection

Challenge 2 – James Stirling hebe (Hebe ochracea ‘James Stirling)

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The clue

Olive green, conifer-like foliage. (The funny thing is that neither of us liked this until we started using it!)

Option 1

hebe collage

Design by Christina

A classic case of  throwing leftovers in a pot and being surprised that the results actually work. Yes sometimes it  does pay to see if those unusual pieces do in fact fit together.

The jigsaw pieces

Smaller photo

1. Needle-like silver foliage of the Icicles licorice plant (Helichrysum thianschanicum ‘Icicles’)

,2. Silver Dollar hellebore (Helleborus ‘Silver Dollar); larger blue toned foliage with dusky pink flower

Larger photo

3. Golden sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’); yellow grass

4. Rainbow leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’); variegated leaf

5. Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star); blue conifer

Why they fit together so well

Adding bright yellow to the drab olive green hebe immediately brightens things up. Three plants bring in silvery-blue tones yet each has a different texture both in leaf shape and feel; the dual aspects of ‘texture’. Finally the variegated leucothoe adds a little sparkle with creamy white, while the soft greens tie into the hebe and rich burgundy introduces a new color to play with.

This is a step away from the more typical color schemes  - dare to try something different!

Light conditions; this took a surprising amount of sun – place it so that the leucothoe and hellebore get a little dappled shade in the hottest part of the day.

Option 2

My response to the challenge!

My response to the challenge!

The jigsaw pieces

Left to right

1. Golden Ruby salmon berry (Rubus  spectabilis ‘Golden Ruby’)

2. Tropicanna canna

3. Spitfire coleus

Whey they fit together so well

What Christina called ‘olive green’ I think more of ‘dirty mustard’! However I recalled experimenting with a coleus a few years back with a similar color handicap (Orange King)) and discovered this this Spitfire coleus gave a nod to that color while bringing in a refreshing blast of crushed raspberry. Phew!

From there it was easy as I took inspiration from the great combo on the left, photographed in the display gardens at Terra Nova Nurseries Inc. The golden yellow salmon berry adds a highlight (Christina did the same thing with her grass) and the huge  canna leaves take the coleus color to a whole new level. In fact I liked this so much I may try it this summer.

Light conditions; full sun (Spitfire coleus was fabulous in my sun drenched pots)

Your challenge!

Go back to our first photo of the gorgeous Old Fashioned smoke bush (Cotinus x coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’) – isn’t that just leafy-licious?

Clue

Blue-green foliage with rosy veins and stems. The new growth is also tinted with warm shades of rose.

What jigsaw pieces would you add and why? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page (you can add a photo there too is you like). We can’t wait to hear from you!

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Frappuccino of Succulents

Copy of April 2010 Miscellanous Container Pics 025Sometimes when you’re cooking, you just throw things in a bowl and see what happens. This was exactly the case here! Inspiration struck me with this luscious root-beer color glaze on the container. Though, not normally a color I would gravitate to using in design, I was challenged to design a combination using those colors to stretch my design chops a little bit. This little Frappuccino, as I like to call it, is what I came up with!
Sedum nussbaumerianum and Sedum stonecrop in 4″ pots were planted evenly around to pot since this was meant to be seen from all sides as possibly a low table centerpiece for summer. Then a small Carex testacea, ‘Orange Sedge’ was the center piece for this yummy creation. It doesn’t even need a drizzle of caramel sauce. :-)

Have FUN with your foliage in 2014!

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Big Picture Foliage Color

IMG_4646We are so fortunate to live in the Northwest with an abundance of Japanese maples to ogle every year in four seasons. This week, I went to the Washington Park Arboretum to enjoy the fall colors and get design ideas. For this particular weeks blog post, if you can take the ideas here and springboard from the maples to whatever shrub or tree that is appropriate to your own particular climate, you will get the most out of it.

I would like you to take a look at the size and shape of the plants in relationship to one another and how the layers of vivid color show the foliage at its finest. The focal point Weeping Japanese Maple in the photo above could be many gold foliage colored shrubs, evergreen OR deciduous. With this thoughtful planning, it is a BOLD autumn statement with the orange and fiery coral trees in the background.

IMG_4669We tend to rely on gold foliage a lot in our predominantly gray, mild climate in the Northwest. This example of a gold Weeping Birch defines the form even better as it loses its leaves, but the supporting players in this big picture vignette are as vibrant as ever. Check out the layers of color!

IMG_4693This spectacular Oxydendrum or Sourwood tree with its dangly white seed-heads from summer blooms is the Matriarch in this scene. The red and gold Japanese maples in the foreground are certainly showing off as youngsters will, but SHE always has the upper hand in this grouping, she is only just beginning to strut her stuff!

IMG_4723A giant blue-green Sequoia positively dwarfs this fall gold Horse Chestnut tree. Now, THAT is long-term thinking for color and layering in the landscape right there!

IMG_4748I was positively entranced when I came around the corner to see this Stewartia Monodelpha. It was the only tree of color in the whole area and the burgundy/red foliage with the russet red bark were the height of elegance against an entirely green backdrop.

IMG_4863This picture in the Washington Park Arboretum Japanese Garden was one that illustrated the point this week best I think. The two amazingly citrus yellow Ginkgo trees and one lime green, side by side amongst the layers of cedar, spruce, pines and maples are stand-out examples of my point.

IMG_4876Think about the bigger picture when planning out your trees and shrubs. If you have the luxury of thinking long-term for your landscape, or even if you won’t be living with your current garden years from now, think of the next gardener to enjoy it, and try to keep in mind how amazing your fall color can be with the large-scale foliage color layers. This is a skill that will come in handy during the hot, sexy rush of spring planting.

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The Art of Layering

IMG_0486Both Christina and I design container gardens as part of our businesses. We love what we do and we do something different every time! I was asked once if I ever got stuck for ideas and to be honest I never have. You see even if I find myself reaching for a few of my favorite plants (again) I know I’ll combine them in new ways. But there’s another design layer to consider; the context.

You see the container design is not an isolated entity but rather is part of a larger scene. Whether on a front porch or set within a vast garden, we have the opportunity to establish a relationship between the container garden and its surroundings.

That really came home to me as I watched noted photographer David Perry at a photo shoot in my garden recently. I had been asked to design ten containers for a national magazine that will be published next summer. To appeal to a wide readership I intentionally used a fun mix of colors, plant palettes and styles. Color schemes ran from sleek black and silver to hot pink, blue and lime – something for everyone.

But for them to be shown at their best, we needed to find suitable backdrops for each of the containers to be photographed. This is where I saw David really work his magic. He knew just how to place each pot to transform it from a humble collection of plants into the focal point of a beautiful painting. It was all about context.

Now of course I can’t show you those designs yet but I can share this one with you that I created afterwards.

Taking my cues from the plants in the container I looked for a backdrop that would echo the key foliage colors; yellow, pink-coral, grey-blue and a hint of burgundy-purple. Yet I needed to be sure that the garden setting wasn’t a distraction.

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My initial idea was to set the container on a pathway with a froth of feathery Arkansas blue star (Amsonia hubrechtii) behind to really show off the dark stems of the Scallywag holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘Scallywag’).  The bright lemon groundcover is the annual Lemon licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare) which despite being mid-October is still going strong. The color and texture contrast worked well. Yet I knew it could be better so I took a step back. (Thank you David for reminding me I can move!)

IMG_0482This seemed to work better. The overall scene is more complex but the inclusion of the big mossy boulder on the left provided a great counterpoint to the fluffy foliage and now the container was set within the context of a frame rather than just being in the foreground. But what about the bigger picture? This time I zoomed out and moved slightly to the right

IMG_0486Now we are back to the opening photograph and you can see the context of the container within the garden and the beautiful layering of foliage colors and textures from front to back. The purple smoke bush (Cotinus x ‘Grace’) echoes the purple, blue and pink tones within the shallow pot, while the golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’) shimmering in the distance, the feathery Arkansas blue star and the Lemon licorice plant all play off the the similarly colored foliage  tucked into the container.

Experiment with your container placement at home. Look for great foliage in your garden to provide context for your design. As you enjoy our blog you’ll see this principle at work over and over – now you know the secret.

Plants used

Scallywag holly, Fire Alarm Heuchera, Blue Star juniper, variegated ivy, variegated hebe, Olivia St. Johns wort (berries), Rheingold arborvitae (the small, mounding goldenconifer behind the berries)

Cultural conditions i.e. how not to kill it

This combination will take full sun and is mostly winter hardy. (In milder areas of Seattle the hebe will remain evergreen  although I expect I’m a bit too cold in Duvall). The list. John’s wort will lose its leaves, and eventually its berries too but it will grow back next year. I have spring bulbs tucked underneath which will add color in the meantime. Just be sure the potting soil drains well and that the drainage holes on the pot aren’t blocked (unless you want a water feature).

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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.

October 2012 BBG Dump File 047

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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