Tag Archives: Full Sun

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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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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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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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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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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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’)

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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’)

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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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Liquid Sunshine

A simple wooden bench placed strategically beneath a golden locust tree

A simple wooden bench placed strategically beneath a golden locust tree

Have you noticed that there are certain plants which you seem to always need in your garden? Perhaps they rekindle fond memories or simple make you feel happy.

The golden locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’) is my signature tree. Since we moved to the USA we have had at least one in every garden and right now I have FIVE! Funnily enough it is  Christina’s favorite too. Why? It’s all about the FOLIAGE.

Sit or stand beneath the canopy as sunlight streams through and you will be bathed in an unforgettable pool of gold. The slightest breeze will whisper secrets through the translucent leaves. It will make you smile.

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate one (or more) into your garden.

Balance the height of a tall house

Kirkland

Photo courtesy of Windermere Realty

Without the golden locust tree on the right the mass of this house would be overwhelming on such a small lot.

Add shade to a seating area

Photo courtesy of Windermere Realty

Photo courtesy of Windermere Realty

A partially secluded patio feels more intimate – and cooler with the filtered shade provided by this tall tree beyond the sitting area.

Use one or more as a trail marker

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Use a single specimen as a way to indicate the start of a garden path or several dotted along the way as golden trail markers.

Frame a planting vignette

IMG_5162This flower-rich part of my garden benefits from the bold foliage of a golden locust tree (left) and burgundy ‘Grace’ smoke bush (Cotinus x coggygria ‘Grace’).

Use it to establish a soothing monochromatic scheme

Design by Dan Hinkley, McComb Gardens, Sequim, WA

Design by Dan Hinkley, McComb Gardens, Sequim, WA

The soft tones of ‘African Queen’ lilies are all the more stunning set against the golden backdrop

Use it to create ‘garden moments’ of high contrast

IMG_2193Vivacious magenta spider flowers (Cleome) really bring drama to the summer border when paired with such acid yellow foliage

Enjoy the fall foliage too

IMG_0742A new season, a new look. As the leaves turn from chartreuse to rich gold opportunities arise for fresh combinations. Here they highlight the last of the black eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’), warm tones of Crocosmia seed heads and peeling cinnamon bark of the paperbark maple tree (Acer griseum).

Plant details

Botanical name: Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’
Common name: Golden locust tree
Where it will grow: Hardy to -30′F (USDA climate zones 4 to 9) Find your zone 
Water requirement: Low once established
Light requirement: Full sun for best color but also partial shade
Mature size: 30 to 50 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide
Season of interest: spring-fall
When to plant: Plant it in well-drained soil in spring or fall.

Caution: Golden locust trees may produce suckers although I have never had a single one from all my trees

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Fire Pit + Foliage = Fabulous!

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There was a gap in my garden; both a novelty and a major concern. Some people like plants spaced well apart with visible soil between each. Me? I’m a squisher. I like my plants to mingle, creating a tapestry of textures and colors, with plants weaving in and out of one another often creating pleasing if unexpected combinations. Bare soil is a wasted opportunity!

Our daughter is getting married in our garden in a few weeks. Such an event would send any gardener into a flurry of planting and primping but this is both a large and a relatively young garden so there are in fact still gaps (gasp!) One particularly offensive one was of course in prime view, partly because I just couldn’t decide what to put there and also because the surrounding plants were still growing in.

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I  found the perfect solution behind the barn – an old fire pit! The tile surround had long since disintegrated but the stand and bowl were still in good shape. A few holes for drainage and it made the perfect planter!

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These plump pads offer great contrast to the finely textured groundcover sedums.

Snuggled into the border things looked better already, but what to plant? Foliage of course and a medley of succulents was the perfect choice. Just as we combine ‘regular’ garden foliage by echoing a color from one leaf with a neighboring one, and varying the leaf shape and texture, so I chose big bold rosettes of Echeveria, plump balloon-type pads and a few finely textured groundcover succulents to fill in the gaps.

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Sedum nussbaumerianum ‘Coppertone’ has fragrant blooms in early spring but of course I chose it for the foliage!

The color scheme for the wedding is ‘sunset shades’ with soft green and grey-blue accents so I looked for succulents that repeated those tones.

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This tough, hardy groundcover has wonderful glossy foliage year round

In just three weeks the plants have started to fill in nicely and by August should have formed a tightly knit foliage tapestry.

Bare soil hidden, foliage focal point created, planting emergency over!

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Sedum clavatum has fat rosettes of frosted mint green leaves

Practical pointers

The potting soil I used was Sunshine#1, a free draining mix with no water retention polymers or moisture retentive, organic material. I added just 10% compost and some slow release general purpose fertilizer. The bowl has several 5/8″ holes drilled in it and the soil was mounded up in the middle like a berm.

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Dinner is served….but NOT for the deer!

Deer are the bane of my life and have already indicated their preference for certain sedums in the garden by eating some and relocating others, so I am using the firepit cover to protect this meal! To give me additional height my husband has welded on adjustable feet to the lower rim of the cover.

Plants used included…

Tender (in Seattle area)

Echeveria nodulosa

Echeveria ‘Roundleaf’

Echeveria ‘Perle Von Nurnberg’

Sedum clavatum

Sedum nussbaumerianum ‘Coppertone’

Hardy

Sedum acre ‘Aureum’

Sedum oreganum

Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’

 

plus….others whose tags have since been lost!

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When the Understudy Becomes the Star

'Copper' bush honeysuckle, is a bullet-proof, deer resistant shrub that earns its place in any garden

‘Copper’ bush honeysuckle, is a bullet-proof, deer resistant shrub that earns its place in any garden

If you’re like me you’ll naturally gravitate towards the biggest, showiest, most colorful leaves in the nursery, oohing and aahing over the latest chartreuse, purple or polka dot darling of the foliage world. All well and good except that a garden filled entirely with such ‘specimens’ can be visual overload.

Don’t forget to check out some of the quieter beauties such as this ‘Copper’ bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera ‘Copper’). This was an impulse buy on my part last year and I’m so glad I succumbed!

Just look at that color!

Just look at that color!

As the name suggests, the new growth is a rich copper color, especially striking with the sun streaming through it. Even the older leaves are a deep olive green with rosy undertones, making a lovely pairing with the burgundy stems. In fall the whole bush turns shades of yellow and orange before the leaves drop.

If only this was 'scratch and sniff'... the beautiful honeysuckle type fragrance fills the summer air

If only this was ‘scratch and sniff’… the beautiful honeysuckle type fragrance fills the summer air

For those who have to have their floral fix you’ll be pleased to know that bush honeysuckle does have lots of small, fragrant yellow flowers in mid summer which contrast beautifully with the copper foliage.

If you live in deer country you can celebrate – the deer really do seem to leave this alone! As well as this cultivar I have the native bush honeysuckle in another area and both have been completely ignored by these four legged pests.

Are you watering-challenged when it comes to the garden? Then this may be just the shrub for you! Mine does not get watered at all yet it is thriving even in full sun.

Still not convinced? It will take considerable shade just as easily as full sun although flowering is better in sun and I would imagine that ‘Copper’ also has better color in more light.

Do you prefer enjoying your garden from the comfort of a hammock? is your idea of a tough day in the garden trying to decide between a glass of Sauvignon blanc or iced tea? Then buy several of these. Abuse-proof, pest free, and just about zero maintenance.

Wondering how to incorporate this beauty? Look in the very center of this photo - that soft copper glow is the bush honeysuckle

Wondering how to incorporate this beauty? Look in the very center of this photo – that soft copper glow is the bush honeysuckle. See how it breaks up the gold and green?

But the best reason to include it is to add a soft ‘neutral’ color to the garden. Use it to break up swathes of green or to add a quiet note to an otherwise overly colorful foliage palette.

Sometimes the real stars are the understudies.

Cultural countdown

Site; sun or shade

Water; average but drought tolerant when established but will also adapt to moist soils

Mature size; 4′ x 4′

Hardiness; USDA zones 3- 8 or 9 (reports vary)

Other good stuff; hummingbirds, butterflies and bees love it. Deer don’t.

Uses;

  • as a transitional shrub between the more manicured garden and wilder areas beyond.
  • for naturalizing (it will sucker but not aggressively),
  • as a visual resting place between bolder colored foliage,
  • as an informal hedge,
  • woodland garden

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