Tag Archives: deer

Deer Resistant Drama (usually…)

Who says deer resistant gardens are boring?

Who says deer resistant gardens are boring?

I live in the land of deer. I have more hoof prints through my borders than slug trails and that’s saying something. In fact when my daughter got married in our garden last summer one of the last minute ‘to do’ items wasn’t to check for clean hand towels or ice cubes but to sweep out the deer tracks.

So I have great empathy with gardeners who desperately want a beautiful garden and not just a buffet. My go-to plants may be different from yours by virtue of climate, personal preference or local restrictions but my aim is to encourage you that you CAN have great foliage and that Bambi can simply find his supper elsewhere.

Spiky things

Top left, clockwise; sea holly, Rose Glow barberry, Goshiki Japanese false holly, Orange Rocket barberry

Top left, clockwise; sea holly, Rose Glow barberry, Goshiki Japanese false holly, Orange Rocket barberry

Barberries (Berberis) are invasive in several states but here in Seattle we are fortunate that they are not a problem and we have lots of great colors , shapes and sizes to choose from. Some of my favorites are Red Carpet (groundcover 2′ h x 4′w), Orange Rocket (orange-red, columnar), Concorde (grape-purple , 3′h x 3′ wide and Lime Glow (variegated lime and cream, ~4′ h x 3′w).

Goshiki Japanese false holly (Osmanthus h. ‘Goshiki’) looks like holly and is spiky like holly – but isn’t. Great green and yellow variegated evergreen foliage, this is one of our favorites for containers as well a landscapes.

Ferny things

Top left clockwise; bronze fennel, Himalayan maidenhair fern, Silver Mound wormwood, ostrich fern

Top left , clockwise; bronze fennel, Himalayan maidenhair fern, Silver Mound wormwood, royal fern

There are SO many great ferns for shady areas – some prefer more moisture while others like it dry but as a rule deer leave them alone. Whether you want a groundcover, an evergreen mound or a tall punctuation point you’ll find something with fronds. My favorites include autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora, coppery color, 3′ x 3′), Himalayan maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustem, 3′ x 3′), and royal fern (Osmunda regalis, ~4′ tall)

Smelly things

It’s true – Bambi can smell, and he/she doesn’t enjoy our wonderful aromatic herbs as much as we do. Take advantage of the fact and indulge in lavender, sage, and thyme in the garden. Drifts of bronze fennel or dill can provide culinary  treats while also acting as a barrier.

Silver things

Many silver leaved plants are drought tolerant, have a felted surface and are ignored by deer. Think of lambs ears (Stachys byzantina), wormwood (Artemisia), Jerusalem sage (Phlomis sp.) and the giant cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). Sounds like a great garden to me!

Grassy things

Top left, clockwise; assorted grasses, purple fountain grass with wormwood, Mountain Fire andromeda, dusty miller

Top left, clockwise; assorted grasses, purple fountain grass with wormwood, Mountain Fire andromeda, dusty miller

Surprisingly deer do not generally feast on grasses - maybe they are just too full of my Heuchera. That definitely opens up the design doorway for all sorts of heights, colors and form from the weeping Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) to upright feather reed grass (Calamagrostis sp.).

And bits and bobs…

Top left, clockwise; Olf Fashioned smoke bush, Axminster Gold comfrey, rhubarb, Highland Cream thyme

Top left, clockwise; Old Fashioned smoke bush, Axminster Gold comfrey, rhubarb, Highland Cream thyme

No real category here but I’m pleased to see that they have also ignored andromeda (Pieris japonica), Axminster Gold comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum ) , smoke bushes (Cotinus) and rhubarb.

While this list is far from definitive and indeed only represents a very small percentage of the deer resistant plants in my own garden, I hope it gives you a sense of what is possible. Many of these plants are also drought tolerant (since we are on well water that is an important consideration for me too). Careful selection is key but even then the deer will outwit you occasionally. For example while it is true that they don’t eat spirea – they DO eat the flowers.

Now as for the rabbits……………

What are your favorite deer resistant FOLIAGE plants?

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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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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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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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Lettuce Use Beautiful, Edible Foliage Too

June 2012 Containers 053Team Fine Foliage has been quite active in the arena of discussing, designing and writing about “Foodscaping” lately. Why not? It’s not only a hot, hip, trendy thing that everyone wants to know about right now, but it’s just good sense. It is the most base use of gorgeous edible foliage. Why shouldn’t our edible gardens be every bit as sexy and meaningful as our ornamental gardens? In fact, why can’t we have both at the same time and in the same place if possible, right?
Even with the added bonus of having to deal with the deer and rabbits, our protected areas and raised beds have lots of opportunity to feature gorgeous edible foliage as well as ornamental.

Karen Chapman's beautiful containers seated outside of her Vegetable Garden featuring dark brooding Dahlia foliage on a hot summer day.

Karen Chapman’s beautiful containers seated outside of her Vegetable Garden featuring dark brooding Dahlia foliage on a hot summer day.

Beautiful greens like lettuce and chard are incredibly easy edibles to grow either in beds or containers. There are SO many wonderful cultivars to try like the ‘Bright Lights’ Chard with a rainbow of bright colors running from the veins to the base of the stem. OR the vast selection of lettuce from heirloom to new hybrids and some that boast that they won’t bolt in the heat.
July 2011 Longwood 321

One of the beautiful things about lettuce in particular, when it comes to using it for its lovely design qualities is its flexibility.
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How about in a container of mixed lettuce combined with edible flowers like organically grown violas?
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Or in a mixed container of ornamental’s and herbs like lemon thyme where you can harvest your lettuce a few leaves at a time while you appreciate your fragrant flowers like jasmine and mini daffodils.
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Here in Shawna Coronado’s front yard garden, she is using every opportunity to grow her greens in the shade of a few mature trees. You might not think that its possible, but Shawna has had such incredible success, she was able to donate a serious quantity of food to the food bank last summer from it. And it was beautiful too!
Front Lawn Vegetable Garden August 2012 2

Leaves are valuable in design as well as in our new “Foodscaping” culture. Here are two of my favorite resources for lettuce and many other beautiful plants with edible foliage. Both are wonderful companies. I even bought lots of seeds for Christmas gifts last year!
1) Renee’s Garden Seeds
2) Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Try growing a number of different types, they are SO incredibly easy. Maybe they will take the place of one or two of the flowers you might have thought of designing with in your garden before Fine Foliage came into your life. :-)

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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’)

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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.)

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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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Dear Santa; our Foliage Wish List

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Forget the crowded malls and head to your local garden center for that perfect gift for everyone on your list. And while you’re there consider what you’d like Santa to leave in your stocking this year!

Something Naughty (but nice)

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Meet Scallywag. This mischievous little holly has the darkest green foliage – some might say it takes on rich burgundy tones in winter but mine is almost black. The spiky leaves may scratch a bit (the naughty factor) but it has plenty of ‘nice’ attributes too. Scallywag stays compact and has a tidy upright habit making it an attractive candidate for containers when small (see our example here) or as a foundation plant since it matures slowly to approx 4′ tall. The fact that it is deer resistant makes it far nicer than naughty in my book. Hardy in zones 5-9.

Something Sexy

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Forget Victoria’s Secret – look for this sexy little number; Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria). I know, the name isn’t very sexy – maybe try it with an Italian accent???

Like silver velvet this sensuous foliage will have you unabashedly stroking the sexy leaves and dreaming of…… well we’ll leave that to your imagination! The good news is that this evergreen perennial (or tender perennial in colder areas) is cheaper than a pair of silk stockings and will last much longer.

Vital statistics; 12-18″ tall, lacy or less risque cultivars available, sun or part shade, Hardy in zones 8-10 but can also do well in protected areas in zone 7.

Something Glamorous

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What says glamour to you? To me it means a great shape and vibrant color that catches the eye yet isn’t too ‘Las Vegas’. So let me give you a preview of a stunning addition to the gardening world which will debut on the foliage fashion runway spring 2014 – Persian Spire Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica ‘Persian Spire’).

This columnar tree has it all – attractive foliage, spidery red winter flowers and a slender silhouette. In spring the leaves emerge with a purple cast and as they mature the purple margin remains while the inner leaf turns green. Fall is when it really gets the glamour going, however, as the foliage takes on shades of orange, red, gold and purple the display lasting for many weeks.

Once seen, never forgotten. Worth the IOU from Santa!

To 25′ x 10′ but I’m enjoying my young tree in a container. Hardy to zones 5

Something Sparkly

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Like a little bling in your leaves? Then we think you’ll like the metallic, shimmery leaves of silverbush (Convolvulus cneorum), sometimes also known as bush morning glory. Use this to add a little pizzazz to a skirt of black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) for a year round fashion statement in a partially sunny area or deep burgundy sedum in hot sun (e.g. Red Dragon sedum).

This little dazzler is a Mediterranean native so is drought tolerant and reliably hardy in zones 8-10 (although I also had success with it in Zone 7). It needs very well drained soil and does best in full sun although again mine was gorgeous in partial sun only.

Something Lacy

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Well if the sexy little number I suggested above didn’t quite do it for you perhaps you need something a little more see-through? What about a Himalayan maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustem)? Delicate layers of soft green, lacy leaves are held high on slender black stems. Far from being summer attire only this provocative (ground)hugger will delight you year round.

Keep this in the shadows for your ultimate viewing pleasure. Hardy in zones 5-8

What’s on your wish list?

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Evergreens that aren’t Ever Green

Forever Goldie golden arborvitae has orange tips when the weather gets colder

Forever Goldie golden arborvitae has orange tips when the weather gets colder

We are all know that  most deciduous trees change color in fall but did you know that certain evergreens do too? When we notice these seasonal details we have the opportunity to create new combinations that highlight them – and that’s what Fine Foliage is all about!

Here are a few of my favorites;

1, Little Heath andromeda (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’)

Little Heath andromeda changes from green/white to green/pink

Little Heath andromeda changes from green/white to green/pink

This is a true four season shrub. Its  pretty green and white variegated leaves have pink new growth in spring, white flowers which often persist into summer and then the foliage takes on a wintry blush as temperatures drop. I use them in containers and landscape design – I’m sure you have room for at least one.

To see this in a great spring combination enjoy Damp and Dramatic on page 84-85 in Fine Foliage.

Plant details

Size; 3′ x 3′

Light; part shade, part sun

Soil; moisture retentive

Zones; 5-9

2. Blue Surprise Port Orchard cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Blue Surprise’)

Blue Surprise Lawson's cypress is typically a rich steel blue but in cold weather will add tints of burgundy

Blue Surprise Port Orchard cedar is typically a rich steel blue but in cold weather will add tints of purple

The surprise here is that the steel blue foliage takes on a purple cast in fall and winter! This Port Orchard cedar need good drainage to avoid fungal disease and rot but Monrovia has now grafted this onto disease resistant rootstock as part of their Guardian series so they are far less temperamental. I love this columnar conifer in containers when young before transplanting it to the landscape as a stunning exclamation point.

Plant details

Size; 8′ x 3′, possibly taller

Light; Full sun

Soil; well drained but moisture retentive

Zones; 6-9

3. Rainbow drooping fetterbush (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’)

Rainbow drooping leuothoe in its fall/winter color - wow!

Rainbow drooping leuothoe in its fall/winter color – wow!

Deer resistant, drought tolerant and as tough as old boots – three reasons why I include it in shady containers and gardens but that’s not all. White spring flowers and striking multicolored leaves which turn scarlet in fall and winter turn this into a real garden workhorse. In some years I have found it prone to fungal spot (seen as purple spots on the leaves) but I give it a good haircut in spring and it bounces back just fine.

Plant details

Size; To 5′ tall and wide but can be pruned easily

Light; part shade, shade

Soil; drought tolerant once established

Zones; 5-9

4. Forever Goldie golden arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘Forever Goldie’)

When young Forever Goldie is a perfect container candidate. It's summer color goes through gold to chartreuse

When young Forever Goldie is a perfect container candidate. It’s summer color goes through gold to chartreuse

Probably my favorite golden conifer, this is a beacon in my garden throughout the year combining with the blue-purple leaves of Grace smoke bush during spring, summer and fall before becoming a solo artist in winter. To add to its cold season glory the golden foliage takes on coppery-orange tints – stunning. This is usually available as a 1g or 2g plant so once again is a perfect container candidate until it needs a bit more root room. See the leading photograph for its fall/winter color.

Plant details

Size; 15-20′ x 3′

Light; full sun

Soil; average

Zones; 3-7

Other favorites?

Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica cvs.) – see A Three-Leaf Trifecta in Fine Foliage (pages 6-7)

Many heathers e.g. Firefly and Winter Chocolate – see Strawberries and Chocolate in Fine Foliage (p 68-69)

Many golden pines e.g. Louie and Winter Gold

Wintercreeper (Euonymus forunei) e.g. Emerald Gaiety and Emerald and Gold which both get pink tips,

What’s your favorite?

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Top 5 Scrumptious Shrubs for Lazy Gardeners

I’m a keen gardener but I’m also a lazy gardener. How does that work? I like to play in the garden rather than be a slave to it so my landscape designs rely heavily on easy care, no-fuss shrubs with outstanding foliage.

To earn their place in my garden they have to be drought tolerant, deer resistant, disease free and not require staking, feeding or pruning. Bonus marks if they have four season interest! A Tough order? You bet!

Here are the winners that meet ALL those criteria!

Spirea (Spiraea japonica cultivars)

Many spirea have this gorgeous copper color in spring

Many spirea have this gorgeous copper color in spring as well as great fall color

There are lots of reasons to love spirea – drought tolerance, copper color in spring, rosy new growth, great fall color. My favorite reason, however, is that I have the last laugh over the deer. You see these shrubs typically have clusters of pink flowers, which are nice enough but I  am really only interested in the foliage. So when deer nibble the flowers off they save me from deadheading and promote this colorful new growth! Works for me.

Magic Carpet is perhaps the best known cultivar (pictured here) but there are many others. I especially like Double Play Big Bang (Spiraea japonica ‘Tracy’) which seems to hold its color better, and which also provides the deer with extra large flowers.

USDA zones: 4 to 9 (find your zone)
Water: Average – low
Light requirement: Full sun or partial shade
Mature size: 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide
Why I love it:  drought tolerant when established, deer resistant-ish!! and outstanding foliage color
Seasonal interest: Spring, summer and fall

Old Fashioned smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’)

IMG_6650

I haven’t met a smoke bush I didn’t like but this one is special; just look at that gorgeous blue-green foliage. Burgundy veins, creamy white flowers and orange fall color round out the scrumptious factor for Old Fashioned

USDA zones: 5 to 10 (find your zone)
Water: Average – low
Light requirement: Full sun or partial shade
Mature size: 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide
Why I love it: Cut flowers, drought tolerant when established, deer resistant (my deer nibbled it the first year but have ignored it since)
Seasonal interest: Spring, summer and fall

Orange Rocket barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’)

Orange Rocket barberry makes a stunning color combo with the red tipped switch grass 'Shenandoah'

Orange Rocket barberry makes a stunning color combo with the red tipped switch grass  ‘Shenandoah’

When voracious deer roam your garden you stop being a plant snob. You worry less about about a plants pedigree than you do about its longevity. That is why you’ll find an assortment of barberries throughout my garden.

My top barberry pick is Orange Rocket for its appealing columnar shape and ruby foliage which turns citrus orange in fall. I’ve used it in containers with Tropicanna Gold canna and love it in the garden paired with Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’) shown above.

USDA zones: 4 to 9 (find your zone)
Water: Low
Light requirement: Full sun for best color
Mature size: 4 1/2 feet tall and 1 1/2  feet wide
Why I love it: drought tolerant, deer resistant, good for containers, in small spaces or as a vertical accent
Seasonal interest: Spring, summer and fall

Goshiki false holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’)

IMG_6642

Prickly as a hedgehog, this holly look-alike adds great color to the garden while thwarting the deer. Its evergreen spiny leaves are mottled green and gold with the new growth being a warm rose tone.

Buy these in smaller sizes to incorporate into your container designs then transplant into the garden. Mine have even survived a large tree branch falling on them, new growth quickly filling in the rather sad bare patch.

Even though I did not water my shrubs once this summer, they still look fabulous. A great primp-free shrub.

USDA zones: 6 to 9 (find your zone)
Water: Average - Low
Light requirement: Full sun or part shade
Mature size: 3-5 feet tall and 4 feet wide but can be pruned to keep shorter if you’ve nothing else to do
Why I love it: drought tolerant, deer resistant, good for containers, makes an attractive low hedge, evergreen
Seasonal interest: year round

Parney’s cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lacteus)

Robins love to feast on these Cotoneaster berries

Robins love to feast on these Cotoneaster berries

If you’ve a big space to fill this arching shrub may be just what you need with its long arching canes, silver-backed evergreen foliage and clusters of white summer flowers followed by glossy red berries. Come February you will be ‘Robin Central’ as word gets out that your garden has the best treats.

Deer did nibble one of my three bushes when first planted – the one that was most convenient to their ‘freeway’, but haven’t bothered since. I have these planted in terrible clay soil that stays moist most of the year and they are thriving. I have not watered them once since they were planted two years ago!

USDA zones: 7 to 10 (find your zone)
Water: Average –  Low
Light requirement: Full sun or partial shade
Mature size: 8 feet tall and 8  feet wide but can be pruned/whacked as needed
Why I love it: drought tolerant, deer resistant, birds love the berries, summer flowers
Seasonal interest: year round

What’s your favorite stress-free shrub with a major scrumptious factor?

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Power-Packed Hearts

IMG_1704

Design by Riz Reyes, RHR Horticulture

What is it about this combo that had both Christina and I reaching for our cameras? Between us we took a dozen or so shots from different angles. I came to the conclusion that its power is in its simplicity.

The star is undoubtedly the Iron Cross oxalis (Oxalis tetraphylla ‘Iron Cross’) with its four leaved clover type foliage, each cluster of heart shaped leaves having a dark center. The color echo with the strappy black mondo grass (Ophiopogon plansicapus ‘Nigrescens’) combined with the high contrast in texture is striking.

Thrown into the medley is the burgundy wedding train coleus (Solenostemon hybrida ‘Burgundy Wedding Train’) a vigorous trailing cultivar with smaller leaves than most. Notice how its leaves are also heart shaped – a repetition of the oxalis.

All three could mingle happily as a dramatic shady groundcover or be equally at home in a container where the coleus would  throw up stems to pierce its companions and also spill over the edge of the pot.

How easy is that?

Plant Details

Iron cross oxalis; hardy in zones 8a-10b; or use it as an annual! This grows 6″ tall, has hot pink flowers and likes part shade. (It may wilt in full sun). Average moisture. Non-invasive. It is also said to be deer and rodent resistant – I’m still testing that!!

Black mondo grass: Hardy in zones 6-10. 6″ tall and wide. Evergreen. Sun or part shade. My deer leave this for the rabbits.

Burgundy wedding train coleus: annual. 12-18″ high and trails/climbs to 2′. Morning sun and afternoon shade.

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