Tag Archives: Color scheme

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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Fine Foliage – What Makes A Spring Sophisticate?

#FineFoliage #Spring SophisicateWhen spring rolls around and we are finally let out of our house to play amongst the plants, we fling ourselves to the garden center and start lolling about the colorful rainbow of flowers. Which ones? Hmmmm, one of each? Yes, Primroses, Pansies, Hyacinths… Yes, you KNOW what’s coming, I have to say it. Ready?

Now repeat after me, “Flowers are fleeting, foliage is forever.” Ahhhhh, now isn’t that better?

A sophisticated container like this that I created for one of my clients is a great alternative to starting out the season with flowers that will only last a short while before the heat of summer is upon us. This shady courtyard entry is dark and contemporary, but I adored the clients choice of the tall, black, column pot for me to create this design.

One of my favorite modern color combinations is ideally suited to this location. Gold or chartreuse and white or white variegation lends itself to coming across as so clean, fresh and textural. I love how the two leaf shapes mirror each other in a way. But, the real star of this container combination is the quirky conifer. I specifically chose it because of its sweet tilt. It gives not only a contrast of texture, but a fresh green distinction from the other palmate shaped leaves.

This refined spring combination will continue to look great well into the growing season. Still think you need a floral based design to feel like its spring? Now repeat after me….. :-)

Key Players:
‘Stoplight’ Foamy Bells, Heucherella- Citrus bold color foliage contrasted with red veins is striking and radiant in the shady nooks and corners of the garden or containers. It’s fluffy foliage stays colorful in part shade to shade from spring to fall. Profuse white flowers are charming in spring and hold for months. 14-16″ tall and wide for zones 4-9

‘Gryphon’ Begonia- Upright, green splashed with silver and white palmate foliage is a full on thriller in a container out in the garden or as a tremendously hardy houseplant. In part shade to shade, it has subtle, blush pink flowers and grows 16-18″ tall and wide for zones 7-11.

Slender Hinoki False Cypress, Chamaecyperis obtusa ‘Gracilis’- This graceful, arching branched conifer is a lovely and narrow small-scale tree in a container or garden. Its open branched, pyramidal form is loaded with sophisticated personality with its tiny, deep green needles and bronze winter color. Slow growing in part shade to full sun maxing out at 8-12 ft. tall by 4-5 ft. wide in zones 4-8.

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Shimmer & Shine – a Succulent Showcase

IMG_1061The Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle is considered one of the best in the country and with good reason. Spectacular show gardens, dozens of free seminars (including FOUR by your favorite Team Fine Foliage), a marketplace filled with gardening eye candy and a dazzling floral display are just a few of the attractions; there is enough to keep you happily mesmerized for all five days.

This year I found myself taking endless photographs of one of the Small Space Showcase displays called ‘Beyond the Potted Plant’ designed by Myra Shoemaker of Bellevue Nursery.

What comes to mind when I say ‘potted plants’? Since I can never keep houseplants alive my family would probably respond ‘compost’. But assuming your indoor gardening thumb is more green than brown you might think of a parlor palm, a jade plant or perhaps an indoor terrarium. Well push those weary ideas aside and be inspired!

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While the selected plant palette is essentially one of succulents and air plants (Tillandsia)  this is far from the typical display. Most specimens are potted individually in an exciting array of containers which are artfully clustered together to showcase contrasting foliage shapes and textures. Shades of green need no apology when dressed up in metallic silver, pure white or glossy black.

Clear glass vessels become treasure chests filled with layers of fine sand, glass pebbles and decorative gravel, a single air plant placed delicately on the surface like a resting mermaid.

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While we create interesting vignettes in the garden that concept is usually forgotten indoors yet this delicious display incorporates layers of silver framed mirrors, frosted beach glass, white candles on silver candlesticks and weathered wooden elements. The collection is stylish and contemporary without being overly fussy or feminine.

This is a lesson in elegant simplicity. By paring down the color palette the focus is on texture. Fleshy leaves against spiky ones. Tiny bead-like forms next to wild tentacle-like foliage. Reflective surfaces juxtaposed with matte finishes, clear with opaque.

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Truly ‘Beyond the Potted Plant’ this tempts me to venture into the world of indoor gardening again. What about you?

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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.

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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. :-)

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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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Autumn Color – To the Point

IMG_3358It may be cold, wet and gloomy outside on this Autumn day in the Seattle area, but I refuse to give in to “the drab”. This bold combination of Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Kilauea’, Phormium ‘Sundowner’ and ‘Thunderhead’ Pine harmonize well together.

Lower left is Nepeta that was glorious blooming lavender earlier in the season. You also get a teeny tiny peek of some Fuchsia ‘Neon Tricolor’ and a little bit of Corokia trying squeeze into the shot on the right.

This group of pointed foliage plants provide 3 heights, 3 textures and a monochromatic combination with WOW factor. Even in the rain!

The Acalypha simply sits in a pot in that bed to make it easy to move around later. So, even though I will have to bring it inside very soon, I am going to enjoy it as long as possible out my window!

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November 2012 BHG Container Photos 153

Breaking the Autumn Design Rules

This week’s blog post is about taking chances.

your-comfort-zone
It’s common for folks to ask me questions all day long in the nursery where I work, about plants, planting, and maintenance. However, I think there is a psychological shift that happens as fall and winter get under way. The questions get much more “intense”. People suddenly become much more concerned with the “rules” in designing their containers and landscapes. They begin to feel the impending pressure of the weather changing, motivation is more about hurrying, and getting things buttoned up and finished.

October 2012 Foliage and Bloom 091While we all want to be thinking about the common sense parts of design like not putting water plants with succulents, (ahem….. I’ve never done that, noooooo…..head down shuffling dirt) I think in our hurry to get the task done, we forget about having fun and being adventurous.

Try new plants out- what’s the worst that could happen? You could try a plant, whether it’s just something seasonal or a plant that winters over and you find a spot for it at a friend or neighbors house instead. I love that old saying “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not gardening.” I paraphrased that for designs sake, that saying really says “killing plants”.

October 2011 Foliage and Blooms 162Now, granted that those of us up here in the NW are blessed and are fully aware that we live in basically horticultural Mecca, but for those of you in tougher climates, its no excuse to just fall back on boring old standby plants anymore. Live a little, be bold, there is such a thing as happy accidents- I do it ALL the time! Did I plan for that Kale to go with that Cypress? Heck no! But, it turned out awesome.

Slide1Slide2Slide3Plant shopping is a lot like trying on clothes. You have to lay them out together or try them on! If you are not a visual person why not take up some room at the nursery and lay out a mini version of your planting area or pot. Get those leaves snuggling one another just as they do in the garden! Shuffle them about until you have them arranged just so- now don’t assume you will do this exact same arrangement when you get them home, because you might have some brilliant flash of insight OR conversely forget that you can’t plant there because of the cable box. Be flexible – there are no design police.

September 2012 Dump File 125Layering those rich, voluptuous autumn and winter colors and textures together is my own personal drug of choice. Dreaming and scheming ideas to weave together have kept me awake many a night. But, the one thing I DO plan for, I plan to leave room for creative inspiration to strike and change it up. Why can’t that blueberry be in my fall pot? What if I used this non-traditional color scheme in this crazy purple pot? What about a color scheme for this bed that is completely new and different for me?

November 2012 BHG Container Photos 108November 2012 BHG Container Photos 181November 2012 BHG Container Photos 196November 2012 BHG Container Photos 279.CR2November 2012 BHG Container Photos 314November 2012 BHG Container Photos 320Bottom line – get weird with your foliage. You might just find out you’re a design genius!

What design rules have you broken that turned out to be happy accidents?  

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