Tag Archives: Grasses

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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New Zealand Sends Fine Foliage to Seattle

New Zealand Garden Are you ready to go on a little adventure walk with me? C’mon, we will go see some amazing foliage! In the summer of 2012, the Arboretum Foundation of Seattle began installation of one small part of a larger puzzle called Pacific Connections; an Eco-geographic display of native flora and fauna from regions such as Cascadia, Australia, China, Chile and New Zealand with similar climate features to our own in the Seattle area.

The phase of the project I’m showing off today is the New Zealand Forest. There is a plethora of wonderfully well written articles to read that will give you some in-depth understanding of what this all entails from the preparation of the site to the plant selection. Here is a piece that is for the plant collectors out there!
I wish that I could give you all of the proper plant names for these shots right now, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to get them as these shots were taken last fall on a VERY cold day and I was getting numb! The incredible Cistus Nursery outside of Portland Oregon is supplying plants for this exhibit, so you may find the vast majority in this catalog. Here is another resource for plant names as well. As time will allow, I will go back and update some of these names for you, or if you are a Hort-Head like me, feel free to leave a comment with a plant name.

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumThe foliage combinations are really the main focus here anyway. So, take the lesson in use of the colors and textures and apply them to your own climate and design style. The shot above deftly shows this plant with purple stems and silver foliage that bears an almost Holly-like detail on the leaf next to what appears to be an Ilex shrub. The contrast of the two is a blend of wild and refined. I LOVE it!

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumDrought tolerant plants are efficient in the higher elevations of New Zealand as well as in the Seattle area too. You might never imagine that our region can be quite drought ridden at times when we have SUCH a reputation for rain. But, grasses like this beautiful silver Astelia in the foreground are great with sharp drainage. Small leaved plants are also the big winners too as they can handle the heat in summer and deflect rain well in heavy, wet winters.

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumPittosporum tenuifolium ‘Elizabeth’ is the plant on the right of this photo. I adore the black stems with the white variegation, plus the growth habit is tidy too!

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumTo the left of the rock, different cultivars of Hebes grow in tidy mounds while a Green New Zealand Flax or Phormium stands up tall giving a sword-like foliage texture for them to snuggle against. The ground cover filling in here is the gorgeous ‘Purple Haze’ Acaena, one that I am going to bring into my own garden this season. I love it with the autumn color of the tree in the background.

Acaena 'Purple Haze' is the carpet of groundcover from which this lovely dark Carex grass emerges.

Acaena ‘Purple Haze’ is the carpet of ground cover from which this lovely dark Carex grass emerges.

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumNew Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumAnother elegant example of the Variegated Pittosporum and grass textures together, planted next to the Purple foliage color Pittosporum ‘Atropurpureum’ or Purple Kohuhu.

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumI noticed these in the distance and at first thought they were Rhododendrons, of course they aren’t but, I adore the growth habit of these small trees. This shot is cropped from quite a distance, so I didn’t have the where with all to climb down the small ravine to investigate- but they are BEAUTIFUL!

New Zealand Garden, Seattle ArboretumThe green New Zealand Flax in the “Hebe/Heath” section is such a brilliant textural contrast to the bushy plants in the foreground from the Heath family. The rich, green, upright Heath are perfectly suited for the “Emerald City” as Seattle is known, and the lower bushy ones with a slightly burgundy stem are Hebe.

I hope that you enjoyed our quick little stroll through a garden of foliage that might ordinarily be out of reach for many of us to visit in its native land. The Arboretum Foundation is a doing a masterful job at bringing the world to Seattle in a 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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Foliage Explosion!

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

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

Who are the rebel-rousers?

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

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

It works….

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

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

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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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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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Six Ways to Make the Most of Fall Foliage

IMG_6759There is no doubt about it – we have left summer behind. Instead of waking up to clear blue skies we are more likely to see grey storm clouds rolling in. The good news is that just because the sky is changing color doesn’t mean our gardens  have to. In fact if we focus on FOLIAGE fall can be one of the most vibrant seasons in the garden.

The key, however, is knowing how to create vignettes in the landscape to make the most of our fall foliage. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Create a vignette around a sculpture, container or other focal point in your garden.

Use a beautiful container

Use a beautiful container as a focal point

In summer this grass is a delicate teal-blue, a perfect complement to the rustic container. In fall, as the grass takes on warm earth tones, the partnership changes. Now the grass echoes the brown pot rim as well as playing into the deeper shades of the container glaze.

Look behind the container and note the fall color of a Japanese maple. This repeats the colors found in the grass, adding depth to the scene.

One pot, two seasonal vignettes – it’s all about the foliage.

2. Focus on textures

IMG_1284This is a Japanese maple of unknown heritage. It was given to me by a friend as a 6″ cutting and after several years is still only a petite 5′ tall, yet its fall color is remarkable and deserves to be showcased. How to do that without overwhelming this small tree?

Rather than adding bold contrasting color nearby I elected instead to use  wispy tan grasses. Thieir delicate texture allows the small maple foliage to be the star in this garden scene.

3. Use existing structures as a backdrop for exciting foliageIMG_1217The paperbark maple (Acer griseum) is a year round, five star tree known primarily for its cinnamon colored peeling bark – a highlight of the winter garden. However its fall foliage is also outstanding, turning fiery shades of coral, rose and amber over a period of several weeks. The warm brown cedar shingles of the nearby cabin are a perfect foil for such bright leaves.

4. Take advantage of a borrowed landscape

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The beautiful maple in the foreground is Acer palmatum Koto-no-ito which means ‘harp strings’; a very apt name for the fine, thread-like foliage. The tree is so delicate, however, that I was unsure how to plant around it. I wanted to showcase its fall color yet not compete with its shape. The answer was to become a virtual-thief!

Our property boundary lies just behind the two red leaved American sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) seen above - beyond that is a neighboring parcel of land. From this perspective my beautiful maple tree is framed initially by the sweetgums and then by the glorious yellow and gold of the distant alders and cottonwoods. I’ve ‘borrowed’ them to use in my own fall foliage vignette. Shhhh

5. Create windows to reveal smaller beautiesIMG_1354In my large garden it is easy for small trees to get ‘lost’ no matter how beautiful their fall color. One solution has been to limb up this row of ornamental pear trees to create windows into the woodland beyond. Notice the vivid orange Lions Head maple (Acer shishigashira) and crimson Purple Ghost maple (Acer p. ‘Purple Ghost’) are revealed as specimens by doing this.

6. Go for all out COLOR!IMG_4150Don’t be bashful – go for high contrast! This Grace smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’)  is fabulous no matter where you put it, but look how striking the early fall foliage is when combined with the sunny yellow ash trees. No apologies needed – just have FUN.

And that’s what our fall gardens should be – an all out  FOLIAGE PARTY. As you visit the nursery for your new foliage treasure ask yourself how best to showcase it? Maybe you need to buy a few more plants to keep it company???

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Power-Packed Hearts

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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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Designing for Drama; Reflections & Shadows

Serene beauty in Joanne White's garden in Redmond, WA. Photo credit; Ashley DeLatour

Serene beauty in Joanne White’s garden, Redmond, WA. Photo credit; Ashley DeLatour

What’s better than ONE luscious leaf? MORE luscious leaves!

Yet we can’t always add more plants, so what’s a foliage fancier to do? Try using the power of illusion – take advantage of reflections and shadows to amplify the beauty of foliage.

Reflections

When designing a garden to take advantage of reflections there are two key factors to consider; the foliage you intend to reflect and the surface upon which to cast that reflection.

Foliage shapes and colors

Simple leaf shapes make for the clearest reflections. Stands of grasses or oversized bold leaves make a striking statements when reflected in a mirror like surface. The effect is to literally double the dramatic impact of the leaves.

Using a reflection to amplify brightly colored foliage is also a very effective design tool. In the opening photograph  the colorful display of a late summer garden is reflected in the tranquil pool. We have featured this stunning garden in our book Fine Foliage – see it on page 30. We called it ‘Masterpiece’ and you can see why.

The reflective surface

In garden design the two most commonly used reflective surfaces are  water  and mirrors.

The mighty Gunnera is even more magnificent when joined by its reflection

The mighty Gunnera is even more magnificent when reflected in water

A reflection distorted by ripples adds complexity to the scene. The Gunnera above arrests the eye by its sheer size and powerful form. The reflection does not give an accurate representation of the shape of the leaves yet the green hazy reflection adds a sense of mystery and enhances the scene.

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Bellevue Botanical Gardens, WA

Still water has a glass-like surface resembling a true mirror. In the photograph above it is not the foliage adjacent to the stream which is reflected but rather the tall trees overhead. We see them as an impressionistic sweep of an artists brush yet they give us a sense of the greater picture beyond the boundaries of this lush vignette.

Reflections are not always on the ground plane. Mirrors can be hung on a vertical surface.

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Avon Gardens, Indianapolis

This simple mirror hung on a fence reflects the leafy glade of trees opposite, bringing light, color and movement to an otherwise blank canvas.

Design by Alyson Ross-Markley

Design by Alyson Ross-Markley

The Japanese maple reflected in the mirror above is really quite the Charlie Brown of maple trees – rather thin and spindly. Yet seen within such an elegant frame its beauty is enhanced, the focus set on the attractive leaf shape and color rather than the tree as a whole.

This photograph also demonstrates another way to double your foliage fun – by using shadows. Notice the dappled shadows on the wall cast by larger trees – they add a new dimension to the leafy scene.

Shadows

Whereas a reflection repeats the color, shape and size of a leaf  a shadow gives us the silhouette.

Remember making shadow puppets as a child on the canvas of a tent when you were supposed to be asleep? Successful leafy shadow puppets also need a smooth surface and as with reflections simple shapes are best; too many tiers of leaves or overly complex forms and the shadow loses definition. The following sequence of images taken at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden in San Francisco shows what I mean as I discovered interesting shadows cast on a beautiful rustic container.

Shadow puppets with a container

Here is what I first saw;

Can you see the potential?

Can you see the potential?

Lots of interesting shapes and a beautiful urn with great shadow potential but the overall composition is too busy. One leaf vies with another for shadow casting supremacy!

Getting closer

Getting closer

As we start to eliminate some of the foliage plants  we can get a better sense that the grass is the key shadow puppeteer. Re-frame the scene once again and we get to my final photo;

Final vignette

Final vignette

So now we see the shadows cast by the grass yet have the broader foliage to one side to add some weight but have lost most of the peripheral foliage fluff.  The take home message for your own garden then would be to select one key plant to be the shadow maker and set it to the side of your urn. Keep other plants simple, spaced and set back.

Using fabric

untitled-30Fabric can also be a perfect projector screen; don’t you just love the way this maple adds pattern to the shade canopy?  Sitting here on a summers day was delightful as I watched the shadows dance. This plain fabric of medium opacity is ideal. The foliage structure itself is open rather than dense which allows us to enjoy the shadows of individual palmate forms as well as clusters.

Using walls and fences

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You want dramatic? These petite cacti have serious attitude thanks to the strong shadows cast by a late afternoon Arizona sun. The warm terracotta color of the wall works beautifully with the sandstone planters at sunset.

Taking advantage of the leaf architecture

IMG_0994Wicked! The deep clefts in this barrel cactus are cast into shadow while the spines appear even more menacing as shadows literally double their numbers. The cactus creates and projects its own shadows.

Using artificial lighting

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Display garden at the San Francisco Flower and garden Show 2013

Shadows cast by  landscape lighting allow for greater artistic creativity since spotlights can be focused in strategic places.

These uplights cast an ethereal glow on the contemporary containers and small grasses seem much larger than life when projected in this way.

For another fun post on Summer Shadows enjoy this post by our friend Debra Lee Baldwin on Gardening Gone Wild

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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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