Tag Archives: Great Plant Picks

The Foliage Forecast – A Tale about Transition and the Size of Things to Come

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A tapestry of small-scale plants right next to the sidewalk! Leucothoe ‘Rainbow’, ‘Rheingold’ Arborvitae, Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’, Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’, Nandina ‘Gulf Stream’, ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’ False Cypress, Spirea ‘Double Play Gold’, ‘Tri-Color’ Sage, Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’, Dwarf Hemlock.

The downsizing of America‘s landscape is upon us. Just like our homes, cars and some of our lifestyles, we are now learning to garden more efficiently in less space without sacrificing style.

The vast majority of us don’t have giant-sized lots in our neighborhoods as our grandparents and parents might have, depending on where you live of course. 2 acre lots are considered luxurious, 5 acres are GIANT. But, most of us these days have 1 acre, 1/2 or a 1/3 acre. More and more newer planned communities like mine are even less than a quarter acre or what we call a zero lot line.

When our home lots of yesteryear were young and new, there wasn’t nearly the plethora of plants to choose from and not many resources for good gardening information the way we all depend on now. There was no one to teach us “Right Plant, Right Place“. We all piled into the station wagon, went to the nearest nursery and chose from the small selection of Junipers and Rhododendrons or whatever your local everyday average plant choice might have been long ago.

As the years went by those basic, bread and butter plants were great- they did their job. Dad would routinely hack them back every year whether they needed it or not as an act of domination over the family’s land. After all, aren’t we SUPPOSED to have a hedgerow on our All-American Homestead? Isn’t the home supposed to be snuggled with shrubs up against the house and a “Leave it to Beaver” lawn all the way to the street?

But, then while everyone was busy, those plants grew and grew and grew. Dad could only hack them back so far now. Mom can’t get around the Laurel to get to the front door. Guests have to dodge the thorny, poky plants on the walkway, the juniper on the driveway harbors a spider colony that could rival a horror movie.

Don’t we all have that story of the weekend warrior, gardening bender where someone decided that (insert ubiquitous over grown, badly placed plant here) it was high time to take that plant out? “I can’t stand it for not one more minute! Chop it down. Tear it out. Prune it into submission. Tie it to the bumper of your truck and pull that sucker out!”

Then suddenly its gone. As if by magic, the sun has broken through and now you have that SPACE. The family piles into the mini-van and heads to the local independently owned garden center and asks the smart horticulturist/salesperson for advice.

The following conversation is had thousands of times in nurseries every single day:
“We tore it all out, now its a blank slate, what do we do?”
“In your perfect universe, this new plant would be how tall and how wide when its mature in 10 years?”

Now this story is about to go one of two very distinct ways:
1) “We never want anything over 2-3 feet tall and wide. We NEVER want to have to prune it, let alone even think about it.”
OR
2) “Why can’t I just put in that plant that wants to be 25 feet tall, I will simply prune it into submission? It worked for my Dad.”

So, where does that leave us with our choices and options for the right plant in the right place? The future is now, the forecast for spectacular selection of dwarf plants of ALL types has never been better, you really can have the best of both worlds. Breeders and growers are coming out with new dwarf cultivars of nearly everything. You won’t have to settle for not having a Lilac if you can’t fit a 9-12 foot shrub in your small space garden.

Lest you think I have forgotten my foliage obsession, here is where we REALLY start to get some excitement. You CAN have magnificent color, texture, layering and multi-season interest in small garden spaces by focusing on those new plant introductions available to you these days. Dive right in!

Pick your foliage color palette, stick to it, repeat often and then break all the rules. :-) There is simply no need to comply with rigid old standards of cramming giant plants up against the house when you have so many foliage forward options to drool over that are low maintenance, colorful and elegant.

The forecast? Our new sized lots have forced us to change how we design our gardens and landscapes. We mix edibles with ornamentals and we focus on layering in some gorgeous foliage that FITS our space rather than forcing it to conform to our lack of selection. And we are vastly more fortunate than our grandparents to have such a huge selection of stunning foliage choices to try out every year.

What are you still doing here? Get out and shop for some NEW FOLIAGE for your landscape!!

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Triple Threat Foliage Trio

January 2013 Foliage and Bloom 198

STEAL THIS IDEA!
This Heucherella or Trailing Foamy Bells ‘Redstone Falls’ is a lush mix of ruby and autumn tones that have TONS of personality throughout the growing season in sun or shade. Happy in zones 4-9, this elegant mounding plant will be 10″ high by 15″ wide. A fast grower with airy white blooms from July through September,this would look excellent in the mixed border OR in containers.

Combine that exquisite Heucherella with one of my all time favorite foliage team players, Senecio Cineraria ‘Cirrus’. It’s the Peanut Butter of plants that goes with ANY flavor of jelly in sun or part shade in zones 7/8-10. Cirrus is such an easy and forgiving plant at roughly 12″ high and wide, though I prune mine to make it fuller and thicker with no flowering, so its bigger than the typical growth habit at about 18″ by 18″.

‘Cirrus’ is a hard plant to go wrong with for a couple of bucks in the nursery!! I have used it in so many different capacities, but my favorite is as a drought tolerant AND deer resistant small shrub. Up near the hot reflective heat of the sidewalk in my front yard, its hard to beat a plant that can take the abuse of the neighborhood dogs and deer. :-)

Last but certainly not least is the Calluna vulgaris ‘Firefly’. An outstanding plant for a number of reasons. The range of colors on the foliage throughout the seasons would be the top reason to fall in lust with this easy-going, small-scale shrub at 1.5ft wide by 2ft high. Lime, chartreuse, primrose foliage in summer is topped with what I describe as orchid pink color flowers, VERY showy! Then in autumn the change to the russets, shockingly beautiful fiery oranges and deep brick reds begin to show up as the cold weather sets in. This easy and non-demanding shrub only wants some good sun in zones 5-8 and a seasonal light shearing in return for the happiest bees on the planet and tons of color though the year!

Go ahead and steal this Triple Threat Design idea!

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Then join in the foliage party – sign up to get these leafy snippets delivered right to your garden. (Follow the link in the sidebar)

THEN- go ahead and visit our Facebook page too- we’re posting all kinds of beautiful foliage ideas in a zillion different ways there daily!