Tag Archives: Heuchera

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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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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Cinnamon Spice

IMG_0636Some foliage looks so good you could almost eat it! Well here’s a lick-ilicious combination for you that is easy to try in a large container or your garden.

The inspiration for this scrumptious color scheme came from the cinnamon colored indumentum on the new growth and stems of this Rhododendron ‘Teddy Bear’. This fuzzy coating has a suede-like feel and serves to help protect the plant from moisture loss. Interestingly it has also been reported that many Rhododendron with indumentum are less susceptible to vine weevil attack.

Pairing this with Heuchera ‘Creme Brulee’ was an obvious choice since its foliage was the perfect shade  to draw attention to this special feature of the Rhododendron. The dark green, glossy, mature foliage of the shrub adds necessary contrast and depth; without it we’d just have a cinnamon slushy.

The finely textured grass seen peeking here is orange hair sedge (Carex testacea). It’s wispiness lightens and softens the plant palette while keeping with the monochromatic color scheme.

IMG_0447To develop this grouping further you could add autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) shown above. The new growth has wonderful coppery tones and the different leaf shape adds interest.

This combination began life as a container planting for a client. I loved it so  much that I repeated it in my own garden! Remember that you can always transplant your container plants to the landscape when they outgrow their allotted space too. Containers are a great way to experiment with new plants and color schemes before you splurge on an entire border makeover.

Plant details

Rhododendron ‘Teddy Bear’ – compact and dense growth to 4′ x 4′. White flowers flushed with pale pink in June. Outstanding plant!  Zones 5b-8b

Heuchera ‘Creme Brulee’ – 16″ x 16″ evergreen perennial with spires of white flowers in spring that hummingbirds love. Zones 4-9. (‘Southern Comfort’ has a similar color and may be better for hotter climates).

Orange hair sedge (Carex testacea) – olive green stems, tipped with orange. This evergreen grass grows to 2′ tall and 18″ wide as a soft fountain. Zones 7-10

Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) – my favorite fern. This vase-shaped,evergreen beauty  benefits from trimming in spring as the fresh foliage appears. To 3′ x 3′. Zones 5-9

All plants do well in part shade with average, well drained soil.

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Portrait of a Foliage Color Palette – Refreshing

Sometimes you don’t choose a color palette for a foliage design in a garden, it chooses you. It’s common for me to find that I have subconsciously chosen a very harmonious color combination that is spread out all over the landscape and all its waiting for is for is for me to pull it together. Re-arrange a few plants and voila!

I tend to end up with a couple of Go-To color combinations that are very harmonious together in spite of how I might put them together initially. Somehow, they end up working with a bit of digging here, a bit of digging there, add a couple new plants and there it was all long.

My Go-To colors a few years ago were very French Country in feeling, Lots of golds, pale yellows, blues, lavender and whites.  For some reason, it didn’t matter what nursery I was at, what home I was helping with design elements, I would consistently fall back to this same color scenario.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE color pig. I am the United Nations of color choices when I have my druthers. But, this was something deeper, a pull if you will that kept leading me back over and over to this same color scheme until I eventually just gave in to it.

Then the oddest thing happened, once I gave in, I didn’t gravitate toward those colors anymore. I still loved them, but I wasn’t compelled in the same way to keep making the same harmonic choices any more. Now, it’s a whole new color scheme that has me in its grip. :-)

January 2013 Foliage and Bloom 181.CR2

Variegated Boxwood, Parahebe, Heuchera ‘Lime Rickey’,
Asparagus Fern and Senecio cineraria ‘Cirrus’.

I’m not quite sure what I’d like to call this monochromatic inspired color scheme other than “Refreshing”. (If you have ideas, let me know)  Its sophisticated and modern, bright and airy and texturally alluring all at the same time. All of these except the Asparagus Fern are happy here in my Seattle area Zone 7-8 in Partial to Full Sun and all are pretty easy plants too! The Asparagus Fern, I either have to treat as an Annual or pot it up and keep it under cover or inside in the winter. I have been nothing short of thrilled with the Parahebe.

Here is an example of how I used this same color scheme in a part shade area of my front yard a few years back. I KNOW there are flowers in there. Once in a while even we FOLIAGE people love flowers too!

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Silver, Chartreuse, Green and White Variegated Foliage all came together in this fluffy mayhem! Quite refreshing don’t you think?

What is YOUR color combination of the moment?

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Portrait of a Foliage Color Palette – Silvers

January 2013 Foliage and Bloom 158.CR2 copy

Have you ever gone in to a fabric store and had the clerk snip samples of fabrics to help you with design ideas? You can come up with your own design palette with even the smallest pieces of fabric for an outfit or for an entire room, then springboard into all of the other details from there.

How about taking that same idea and creating a foliage palette for a container or garden space in a similar way? Create mini-arrangements of various types in a little shot glass or small bowl to see what you like together. Winter and early spring is particularly great for this as you’re looking at your building block essentials in the garden at this time of the year.

In this vignette you see Artemisia ‘Cirrus’, a plant that ranks high on my must have list. Helleborus sternii ‘Silver Dollar’, Parahebe perfoliata and Heuchera ‘Green Spice’. All of these are hardy here in my part sun, zone 7-8 (Seattle area), but check with your local nursery expert or Master Gardener about hardiness in your area.

This palette of silvers that range from whites to blue tones is rich with the winter bronze on the Heuchera that has that hint of milk chocolate in the veining. In the spring, the Heuchera will revert to its soft silvery-green with burgundy veining as an elegant foil to all that silver.

The good manners caveat here is that you don’t ever snip where it’s not invited. A good friend or a neighbors garden with permission is different than snipping without permission in a nursery or botanical garden.