Tag Archives: Home and Garden

Finding the Spotlight with ‘Sun King’

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Every landscape, large or small needs “focal points” to focus the eye or the viewer’s attention to a particular spot. The focal point element doesn’t want to be competing for attention with anything else. A tree, a shrub or an outstanding piece of garden art are all excellent examples of options you have for creating that point of focus.

But, in shady nooks, the one point of interest that is sometimes the best, is that one singular spotlight plant. That beacon that draws the eye in for a closer look in a less than boisterously colorful location might just be a foliage plant, rather than a flowering plant.

If you like fluffy, focal point plants (say that three times fast) with larger than life personality then Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ (Sun King spikenard) is just the plant for you. It’s that golden ray of sunlight in the cooler shade garden. A late season star, it gains momentum from July through fall, growing taller than wide at 6ft. by 3ft. in part sun to light shade. This plant also boasts blooms that are SO reminiscent of the white, fireworks shaped Fatsia flowers at a time when many perennials and shrubs are winding down. ‘Sun King’ makes beautiful purple, bird-craving, ornamental fruits in the fall too!

The photo above illustrates beautifully “Why This Works” so well because it shows this sparkling plant, shining in its best light, both figuratively and literally, as the afternoon sun gets past that mid-day heat, its glow is NOT understated. Its marvelous! But, also because it acting as a standout against the typically “look at me” Hydrangeasthat flank it.

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Happiest in zones 4a to 8b, in part sun to full shade, this relatively new arrival from Japan, is a welcome striking new foliage option for gardens both large and small. The one I bought last year for this container will be moved into a larger container for this summer to gain some size before I find its optimum home in the landscape.

This super star plant would love to be surrounded by other shade loving perennials and even evergreen shrubs too- just none that are too dinky or they will get none of the spotlight from the King.

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Photo courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery, Inc.

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ (Sun King Spikenard)

- See more at: http://www.plantdelights.com/Aralia-cordata-Sun-King-for-sale/Buy-Sun-King-Spikenard/#sthash.EOAkserL.dpuf

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Photo courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery, Inc.

Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ (Sun King Spikenard)

- See more at: http://www.plantdelights.com/Aralia-cordata-Sun-King-for-sale/Buy-Sun-King-Spikenard/#sthash.EOAkserL.dpuf

Shimmer & Shine – a Succulent Showcase

IMG_1061The Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle is considered one of the best in the country and with good reason. Spectacular show gardens, dozens of free seminars (including FOUR by your favorite Team Fine Foliage), a marketplace filled with gardening eye candy and a dazzling floral display are just a few of the attractions; there is enough to keep you happily mesmerized for all five days.

This year I found myself taking endless photographs of one of the Small Space Showcase displays called ‘Beyond the Potted Plant’ designed by Myra Shoemaker of Bellevue Nursery.

What comes to mind when I say ‘potted plants’? Since I can never keep houseplants alive my family would probably respond ‘compost’. But assuming your indoor gardening thumb is more green than brown you might think of a parlor palm, a jade plant or perhaps an indoor terrarium. Well push those weary ideas aside and be inspired!

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While the selected plant palette is essentially one of succulents and air plants (Tillandsia)  this is far from the typical display. Most specimens are potted individually in an exciting array of containers which are artfully clustered together to showcase contrasting foliage shapes and textures. Shades of green need no apology when dressed up in metallic silver, pure white or glossy black.

Clear glass vessels become treasure chests filled with layers of fine sand, glass pebbles and decorative gravel, a single air plant placed delicately on the surface like a resting mermaid.

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While we create interesting vignettes in the garden that concept is usually forgotten indoors yet this delicious display incorporates layers of silver framed mirrors, frosted beach glass, white candles on silver candlesticks and weathered wooden elements. The collection is stylish and contemporary without being overly fussy or feminine.

This is a lesson in elegant simplicity. By paring down the color palette the focus is on texture. Fleshy leaves against spiky ones. Tiny bead-like forms next to wild tentacle-like foliage. Reflective surfaces juxtaposed with matte finishes, clear with opaque.

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Truly ‘Beyond the Potted Plant’ this tempts me to venture into the world of indoor gardening again. What about you?

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Lettuce Use Beautiful, Edible Foliage Too

June 2012 Containers 053Team Fine Foliage has been quite active in the arena of discussing, designing and writing about “Foodscaping” lately. Why not? It’s not only a hot, hip, trendy thing that everyone wants to know about right now, but it’s just good sense. It is the most base use of gorgeous edible foliage. Why shouldn’t our edible gardens be every bit as sexy and meaningful as our ornamental gardens? In fact, why can’t we have both at the same time and in the same place if possible, right?
Even with the added bonus of having to deal with the deer and rabbits, our protected areas and raised beds have lots of opportunity to feature gorgeous edible foliage as well as ornamental.

Karen Chapman's beautiful containers seated outside of her Vegetable Garden featuring dark brooding Dahlia foliage on a hot summer day.

Karen Chapman’s beautiful containers seated outside of her Vegetable Garden featuring dark brooding Dahlia foliage on a hot summer day.

Beautiful greens like lettuce and chard are incredibly easy edibles to grow either in beds or containers. There are SO many wonderful cultivars to try like the ‘Bright Lights’ Chard with a rainbow of bright colors running from the veins to the base of the stem. OR the vast selection of lettuce from heirloom to new hybrids and some that boast that they won’t bolt in the heat.
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One of the beautiful things about lettuce in particular, when it comes to using it for its lovely design qualities is its flexibility.
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How about in a container of mixed lettuce combined with edible flowers like organically grown violas?
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Or in a mixed container of ornamental’s and herbs like lemon thyme where you can harvest your lettuce a few leaves at a time while you appreciate your fragrant flowers like jasmine and mini daffodils.
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Here in Shawna Coronado’s front yard garden, she is using every opportunity to grow her greens in the shade of a few mature trees. You might not think that its possible, but Shawna has had such incredible success, she was able to donate a serious quantity of food to the food bank last summer from it. And it was beautiful too!
Front Lawn Vegetable Garden August 2012 2

Leaves are valuable in design as well as in our new “Foodscaping” culture. Here are two of my favorite resources for lettuce and many other beautiful plants with edible foliage. Both are wonderful companies. I even bought lots of seeds for Christmas gifts last year!
1) Renee’s Garden Seeds
2) Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Try growing a number of different types, they are SO incredibly easy. Maybe they will take the place of one or two of the flowers you might have thought of designing with in your garden before Fine Foliage came into your life. :-)

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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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Big Picture Foliage Color

IMG_4646We are so fortunate to live in the Northwest with an abundance of Japanese maples to ogle every year in four seasons. This week, I went to the Washington Park Arboretum to enjoy the fall colors and get design ideas. For this particular weeks blog post, if you can take the ideas here and springboard from the maples to whatever shrub or tree that is appropriate to your own particular climate, you will get the most out of it.

I would like you to take a look at the size and shape of the plants in relationship to one another and how the layers of vivid color show the foliage at its finest. The focal point Weeping Japanese Maple in the photo above could be many gold foliage colored shrubs, evergreen OR deciduous. With this thoughtful planning, it is a BOLD autumn statement with the orange and fiery coral trees in the background.

IMG_4669We tend to rely on gold foliage a lot in our predominantly gray, mild climate in the Northwest. This example of a gold Weeping Birch defines the form even better as it loses its leaves, but the supporting players in this big picture vignette are as vibrant as ever. Check out the layers of color!

IMG_4693This spectacular Oxydendrum or Sourwood tree with its dangly white seed-heads from summer blooms is the Matriarch in this scene. The red and gold Japanese maples in the foreground are certainly showing off as youngsters will, but SHE always has the upper hand in this grouping, she is only just beginning to strut her stuff!

IMG_4723A giant blue-green Sequoia positively dwarfs this fall gold Horse Chestnut tree. Now, THAT is long-term thinking for color and layering in the landscape right there!

IMG_4748I was positively entranced when I came around the corner to see this Stewartia Monodelpha. It was the only tree of color in the whole area and the burgundy/red foliage with the russet red bark were the height of elegance against an entirely green backdrop.

IMG_4863This picture in the Washington Park Arboretum Japanese Garden was one that illustrated the point this week best I think. The two amazingly citrus yellow Ginkgo trees and one lime green, side by side amongst the layers of cedar, spruce, pines and maples are stand-out examples of my point.

IMG_4876Think about the bigger picture when planning out your trees and shrubs. If you have the luxury of thinking long-term for your landscape, or even if you won’t be living with your current garden years from now, think of the next gardener to enjoy it, and try to keep in mind how amazing your fall color can be with the large-scale foliage color layers. This is a skill that will come in handy during the hot, sexy rush of spring planting.

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Standout Silver Foliage – Step Into the Light

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Silver Pulmonaria shines!

In a predominantly gray climate like the Northwest, we get a little hungry for light as you may imagine. As the darker days of autumn creep in and we lose more and more of our light to wet, rainy skies, it deepens my commitment to adding light colors to the garden as an uplight to other plants. Or simply just to add that high contrast WOW factor.

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Lets just say that I totally planned for these stunning Japanese Maple leaves to fall just like that over my ‘Moonshine’ Yarrow, yes lets say that. :-)

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Hebe ‘Quicksilver’ being photobombed by the ‘Ghost’ fern.

Of course there are the occasional “happy accidents” in garden design. I am comfortable enough in my design skills to admit that Mother Nature can be a better designer than I am. It’s those moments when I run, not walk to get my camera.

Then there are the times that I FINALLY found a plant that I have been looking for, for SO long! I was thrilled to score one of these from a friend in one of the local Hort Societies that we visited during a book talk. I have JUST the pace for this one.

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Euphorbia rigida

The texture and form of this low growing Euphorbia are spectacular with another drought tolerant silver plant, Salvia officianalis ‘White edged’.

October 2012 BBG Dump File 049Another standout silver foliage is the Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’. I have grown this one very well. After having marginal success with ‘Tasmanian Tiger’ and ‘Glacier Blue’, ‘Silver Swan’ has been utterly fantastic and I recommend it highly.
October 2012 Foliage and Bloom 868Look how pretty it is in the rain! Someday I will post my pic of this same plant under a solid inch of ice not too long ago came through with flying colors!

Our good friend and also as big of a hort-head, maybe more than Karen and I, is Mitch Evans. His gardens are toured for Horticultural teaching as well as for general ogling quite frequently. Mitch is an extraordinary plantsman and collector. He has a particular enthusiasm for amazing conifers.

October 2012 Mitch Evans Garden 016This stunning little Spruce in Mitch Evans garden illustrates my point here to a T – uplighting the Barberry so expertly!

Mitch Evans also happens to collect Cyclamen too, this one just took my breath away!

October 2012 Mitch Evans Garden 018Can’t you just imagine the uplifting effect this would have under a red Japanese Maple for instance? Stunning!

So now I hope that you can envision the vision of what a standout silver can be on a gray day in the fall. How about a few more ideas to add to your list?

- Liriope ‘Silver Dragon’
- Lamium ‘White Nancy’ or ‘Ghost’
- Stachys ‘Lambs Ears’
- Astelia
- Japanese Painted Fern
- Artemisia
- Asarum

I could go on and on and on and on…. but I would rather hear about what standout silver you love to use in your garden. 3,2,1….GO!

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Autumn Color – To the Point

IMG_3358It may be cold, wet and gloomy outside on this Autumn day in the Seattle area, but I refuse to give in to “the drab”. This bold combination of Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Kilauea’, Phormium ‘Sundowner’ and ‘Thunderhead’ Pine harmonize well together.

Lower left is Nepeta that was glorious blooming lavender earlier in the season. You also get a teeny tiny peek of some Fuchsia ‘Neon Tricolor’ and a little bit of Corokia trying squeeze into the shot on the right.

This group of pointed foliage plants provide 3 heights, 3 textures and a monochromatic combination with WOW factor. Even in the rain!

The Acalypha simply sits in a pot in that bed to make it easy to move around later. So, even though I will have to bring it inside very soon, I am going to enjoy it as long as possible out my window!

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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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November 2012 BHG Container Photos 153

Breaking the Autumn Design Rules

This week’s blog post is about taking chances.

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It’s common for folks to ask me questions all day long in the nursery where I work, about plants, planting, and maintenance. However, I think there is a psychological shift that happens as fall and winter get under way. The questions get much more “intense”. People suddenly become much more concerned with the “rules” in designing their containers and landscapes. They begin to feel the impending pressure of the weather changing, motivation is more about hurrying, and getting things buttoned up and finished.

October 2012 Foliage and Bloom 091While we all want to be thinking about the common sense parts of design like not putting water plants with succulents, (ahem….. I’ve never done that, noooooo…..head down shuffling dirt) I think in our hurry to get the task done, we forget about having fun and being adventurous.

Try new plants out- what’s the worst that could happen? You could try a plant, whether it’s just something seasonal or a plant that winters over and you find a spot for it at a friend or neighbors house instead. I love that old saying “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not gardening.” I paraphrased that for designs sake, that saying really says “killing plants”.

October 2011 Foliage and Blooms 162Now, granted that those of us up here in the NW are blessed and are fully aware that we live in basically horticultural Mecca, but for those of you in tougher climates, its no excuse to just fall back on boring old standby plants anymore. Live a little, be bold, there is such a thing as happy accidents- I do it ALL the time! Did I plan for that Kale to go with that Cypress? Heck no! But, it turned out awesome.

Slide1Slide2Slide3Plant shopping is a lot like trying on clothes. You have to lay them out together or try them on! If you are not a visual person why not take up some room at the nursery and lay out a mini version of your planting area or pot. Get those leaves snuggling one another just as they do in the garden! Shuffle them about until you have them arranged just so- now don’t assume you will do this exact same arrangement when you get them home, because you might have some brilliant flash of insight OR conversely forget that you can’t plant there because of the cable box. Be flexible – there are no design police.

September 2012 Dump File 125Layering those rich, voluptuous autumn and winter colors and textures together is my own personal drug of choice. Dreaming and scheming ideas to weave together have kept me awake many a night. But, the one thing I DO plan for, I plan to leave room for creative inspiration to strike and change it up. Why can’t that blueberry be in my fall pot? What if I used this non-traditional color scheme in this crazy purple pot? What about a color scheme for this bed that is completely new and different for me?

November 2012 BHG Container Photos 108November 2012 BHG Container Photos 181November 2012 BHG Container Photos 196November 2012 BHG Container Photos 279.CR2November 2012 BHG Container Photos 314November 2012 BHG Container Photos 320Bottom line – get weird with your foliage. You might just find out you’re a design genius!

What design rules have you broken that turned out to be happy accidents?  

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Adding Value to the Landscape for Under $20

You should be lazing around and enjoying the fruits of your labor in August, right? It’s too hot to do much else but water the garden, nap in the hammock and barbecue with friends and family. But, as you’re dozing in the shade with your favorite cool beverage, are you also day dreaming of all of the lovely plants that you 1) Neeeeeeeeeeeeed 2) Really really want 3) Drooling over and plan to make phone orders from far flung nurseries in fall?

IMG_1807Rather than heading to the nursery, I have an alternate proposal for you to ponder. Why not take a wee little bit of that plant budget and put it toward “Fine Foliage”? It will never need to be watered on a hot summer day AND you can take it with you to your favorite nursery OR napping spot and plan, plan, plan your fall garden escapades!
blad page 1 - borderIts perfect to go hand in hand with this blog and our fun Facebook page!
We are so darned proud of our book, its luscious photography and what a great value it is as a beautiful hard cover book that we just want everyone to have one!

Christina and Karen Portrait
Debra Prinzing (The 50 Mile Bouquet) wrote this about Fine Foliage “Fine Foliage is a visual treat that will inspire you with dazzling combinations for containers and gardens. This is a great user-friendly design resource, as Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz explain why each combination works – bringing artistic design within easy reach of all gardeners.”

Just imagine all of the Christmas shopping you can done right now- from your nap spot! :-)

You can buy it today on Amazon OR ask for Fine Foliage at your local independent garden center or find it at many national and independent booksellers.Thanks for all of your unending support and for being our inspiration in the garden!

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