Tag Archives: Design

Ground Cover Collision!

Whether for sun or shade, the last finishing touch most of us plant is our ground cover plants. It’s that ever so important detail that makes a lovely garden design HOLY COW! But, how do you decide which ground covers are going to be best for your light conditions? What if you just simply can’t decide which one neeeeds to come home from the nursery with you? This one or that one, that one or this one?

Sometimes it’s both! If your light conditions, watering needs and soils are in harmony for more than one ground cover, how about a groundcover MASH-UP? A mash-up is when two great things, in our case plants, but it could just as easily be food, music, fabrics, etc. end up snuggling together to make ONE great look, taste or sound. Think peanut butter and chocolate, mint and chocolate, coffee and chocolate, wine and chocolate. Hmmmm, maybe I need chocolate now. ;-)

Acaena 'Purple Haze' with Sedum 'Oreganum' This Sedum oreganum ‘Oregon Stonecrop’ is a wonderful example of a lovely collision with Acaena inermis ‘Purple Sheep’s Burr’ as a flat, hardy and walkable ground cover for light traffic.

Not all ground covers are flat and walkable, some are fluffy and full like this combination of hosta ‘Halcyon’ with ‘Black Scallop’ Ajuga and white variegated Comfrey in the background. The triad of textures and cool colors are lovely in this eastern morning sun exposure.
'Black Scallop' Ajuga, Hosta 'Halcyon' and White Variegated ComfreyThis singular and exotic looking Paris podophylla stands tall above a monochromatic mash-up of ground covers. The hardy Asarum europaeum ‘European wild ginger’ is a glossy textural contrast to the low Adiantum venustum ‘Himalayan maidenhair fern’ in a shady nook.

Paris podophylla, Maidenhair Fern and European GingerWhy not try a ground cover mash-up in your own garden? Snuggle up a plant or two and see what foliage combinations you can create in your very own ground cover collision!

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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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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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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

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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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Freeze-Thaw Survivors….or Last Grass Standing

We have finally thawed out here in Seattle after a week of Tundra-like conditions. Well OK compared to those of you who live in Boston or Alaska this is probably still balmy but my plants didn’t think so.

Just a short while ago my gently frost-kissed garden looked like this;

IMG_0186Today after a week of temperatures struggling to get out of their 20′s it looks more like this;

Not quite Fine Foliage is it?

Not quite Fine Foliage is it?

So I decided to go out into the garden and see what looked as good after our deep freeze as it did last summer. To make the challenge harder I was specifically looking for evergreen grasses that still looked great.

The results are in! Here are the best of the best in my zone 6b garden and in the interest of full disclosure no cheating took place – all these images were taken December 16th on a cold, grey day.

Sirocco pheasant tail grass (Stipa arundinacea ‘Sirocco’)

Sirocco pheasant tail grass keeps its bright coppery tones all winter

Sirocco pheasant tail grass keeps its bright coppery tones all winter

This grass has been a trouper since the day I tucked a 4″ pot into the corner of a container a few years ago. Regardless of hot sun or freezing cold this grass hasn’t missed a beat. Many evergreen grasses need at least a little trimming each spring but not Sirocco which seems to be truly maintenance free

I transplanted this into a well drained part of the garden in fall where I’m enjoying it near this mossy Exbury azalea. In spring the azalea will explode with fragrant, golden blooms, each tinged with deep red – what a spectacle that will be!

The details

Hardiness; reports vary but USDA zones 4-9 are generally cited.

Size; the three year old plant above is 2′ tall and 3′ or so wide.

Light; full sun to light shade

Water; average

Note; I also have the regular pheasant tail grass and while it is still thriving Sirocco is more colorful.

Ice dance Japanese sedge (Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’)

Ice Dance Japanese sedge is a reliable performer

Ice Dance Japanese sedge is a reliable performer

While this grass-like plant does have a desire for world domination, it can be a very useful evergreen groundcover for tricky areas. Here I let it edge a large border which can get waterlogged during the winter yet never gets watered at all in summer.  It is also a major deer highway so I am thankful that grasses do not seem to be on their menu and that Ice Dance can cope with being trampled on.

I wouldn’t use this in a highly visible area as the tips of the blades often turn brown and need trimming away in spring- a chore I can choose to ignore in this more distant border. Ice Dance spreads rapidly by underground stems which makes it unsuitable for small spaces. Also to keep it looking its best the clumps need dividing every few years so this is not a low maintenance choice.

Having said that just look at how much it adds to the winter garden. The bright green blades are edged with crisp white margins, each clump mounding nicely.

The details

Hardiness; zones 5-9

Size; 12″ tall x 2′ wide but spreads indefinitely

Water; avergage to moist

Light; prefers afternoon shade

Golden variegated sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’)

Fan shaped yellow blades look this good all year

Fan shaped yellow blades look this good all year

The rather waterlogged purple Heuchera betrays the recent weather conditions but otherwise this photo could easily have been taken in June. The sunny-yellow sweet flag brightens up the winter garden and is completely unfazed by cold weather. It is a great addition to containers where I let the foliage fan outwards to soften the pot edges. In the landscape it associates well with large mossy boulders or as part of a water garden since it thrives in wet soil.

This is a ‘clumper’ rather than a spreader so grows relatively slowly.

The details

Hardiness; zones 5-11

Size; 10′ tall and 18″ wide

Water; average to high

Light; prefers light shade – may bleach in full sun

Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima)

Mexican feather grass after the freeze

Mexican feather grass after the freeze

Invasive in some states and a fairly prolific self seeder in others Mexican feather grass is not for everyone. In my garden it doesn’t make a nuisance of itself so I can enjoy the wispy texture year round. Soft green blades and tufty white seedheads are fun to place near something sharp or spiky as contrast. Here you can see a Feeling Blue deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’) to one side which has deceptively prickly needles.

After torrential rain this grass can lay low for while but quickly fluffs up as it dries. The freezing weather does not seem to have affected it at all.

In spring I run my fingers through the clumps to tease out any dried material. If it starts to look really matted I grasp it in a ponytail and trim it down to 8″. It quickly regrows and looks fresh again.

The details

Hardiness; 6-10

Size; 2′ tall and wide

Water; low

Light; full sun or part shade

Variegated woodrush (Luzula sylvatica ‘Variegata’)

An under-utilized grass that thrives in dry shade

An under-utilized grass that thrives in dry shade

At first glance this looks just like Ice dance Japanese sedge shown above but it has quite different characteristics. This tough evergreen grass thrives in dry shade where so many other plants struggle. The fuzzy brown seedheads in spring  add another layer of interest.

Woodrush looks perfect in a woodland setting – I have let mine colonize under towering Douglas fir trees where it receives only dappled light for a few hours each day in summer. Hellebores, ferns and Japanese maples make great foliage partners. The clumps can be lifted and divided if you wish to propagate  them but unlike the sedge, woodrush will not deteriorate if you choose not to do so.

The details

Hardiness; zones 6-9

Size; 12″ tall x 18″ wide

Water; low

Light; full shade, part shade.

Other good performers

I grow several other evergreen grasses in my garden which are worth mentioning.

Beyond Blue fescue grass

Beyond Blue fescue grass

Beyond Blue fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Beyond Blue’) – 2′ mounds of ice blue foliage. Unlike the paler ‘Elijahs Blue’, this cultivar keeps its intense color without browning. I’m fighting the rabbits over this one! I may need to move it into a container.

Orange hair sedge

Orange hair sedge

Orange hair sedge (Carex testacea) – wispy arching blades of olive green tipped in orange make this a fall and winter favorite. I have had mixed results with these in winter but the plants that are in my garden today are stunning, even after three years. A great addition for containers or gardens in full sun or light shade.

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One of the many tall, brown-toned sedges

Assorted sedges (Carex sp.) – there are many brown-toned sedges available from ‘Red Rooster’ to ‘Toffee Twist’ and ‘Cappuccino’. All do well in winter here.

 

What evergreen grasses do you grow that look equally good all year?

 

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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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Head over to our Facebook page and let us know – or leave a comment below.

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Frosted Fine Foliage

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It’s that time of year to reach for your woolly sweaters and furry slippers; unless you live in balmy Arizona of course. Here in Seattle we had our first frost this past week as well as a significant windstorm. Two big Douglas fir trees came down in our forest, a huge chunk of one of our ornamental pear trees snapped off (thankfully without doing damage to the nearby Japanese maples) and many previously beautiful fall trees were left naked. Is this the end of our leafy love affair you ask? NO! A well designed garden always has beautiful foliage to offer, even when frosted. Take a walk through the garden with me and see what I mean.

1. Conifers, deciduous trees, grasses and seed heads offer the perfect stage for Jack Frost to play.

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As I dashed outside with my camera the sun was just beginning to peek over the trees. Such magical lighting is ephemeral but I was able to capture the frozen grasses and seed heads before the suns rays melted the icy jewels.

2. Frost can add a new texture to the garden

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Conifers add a bold stroke to the border yet when dusted with frost this Feelin’ Blue deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’) has a delicate quality.

3. Fleeting beauty; anticipation and appreciation

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Just hours after this photo was taken the last of the golden spirea leaves dropped to the ground. Combined with softly textured yet frozen grasses such as this Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) this just says ‘autumn’ to me.

4. Rich colors are even more stunning when dusted with ice

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This Exbury azalea is a head turner in spring with its golden yellow, fragrant blooms. Yet I wonder if I prefer this time of year since the fiery fall color lasts for many weeks and is even more striking when etched with frost.

Just because many trees and shrubs have now lost their leaves doesn’t mean your garden should be lacking in interest. A good balance of  conifers, broad leaf evergreens, deciduous trees, perennials and grasses will have you celebrating the new season and exploring new ways to design with foliage.

Denver Botanic Garden

Denver Botanic Garden

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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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