Tag Archives: shade

Deer Resistant Drama (usually…)

Who says deer resistant gardens are boring?

Who says deer resistant gardens are boring?

I live in the land of deer. I have more hoof prints through my borders than slug trails and that’s saying something. In fact when my daughter got married in our garden last summer one of the last minute ‘to do’ items wasn’t to check for clean hand towels or ice cubes but to sweep out the deer tracks.

So I have great empathy with gardeners who desperately want a beautiful garden and not just a buffet. My go-to plants may be different from yours by virtue of climate, personal preference or local restrictions but my aim is to encourage you that you CAN have great foliage and that Bambi can simply find his supper elsewhere.

Spiky things

Top left, clockwise; sea holly, Rose Glow barberry, Goshiki Japanese false holly, Orange Rocket barberry

Top left, clockwise; sea holly, Rose Glow barberry, Goshiki Japanese false holly, Orange Rocket barberry

Barberries (Berberis) are invasive in several states but here in Seattle we are fortunate that they are not a problem and we have lots of great colors , shapes and sizes to choose from. Some of my favorites are Red Carpet (groundcover 2′ h x 4′w), Orange Rocket (orange-red, columnar), Concorde (grape-purple , 3′h x 3′ wide and Lime Glow (variegated lime and cream, ~4′ h x 3′w).

Goshiki Japanese false holly (Osmanthus h. ‘Goshiki’) looks like holly and is spiky like holly – but isn’t. Great green and yellow variegated evergreen foliage, this is one of our favorites for containers as well a landscapes.

Ferny things

Top left clockwise; bronze fennel, Himalayan maidenhair fern, Silver Mound wormwood, ostrich fern

Top left , clockwise; bronze fennel, Himalayan maidenhair fern, Silver Mound wormwood, royal fern

There are SO many great ferns for shady areas – some prefer more moisture while others like it dry but as a rule deer leave them alone. Whether you want a groundcover, an evergreen mound or a tall punctuation point you’ll find something with fronds. My favorites include autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora, coppery color, 3′ x 3′), Himalayan maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustem, 3′ x 3′), and royal fern (Osmunda regalis, ~4′ tall)

Smelly things

It’s true – Bambi can smell, and he/she doesn’t enjoy our wonderful aromatic herbs as much as we do. Take advantage of the fact and indulge in lavender, sage, and thyme in the garden. Drifts of bronze fennel or dill can provide culinary  treats while also acting as a barrier.

Silver things

Many silver leaved plants are drought tolerant, have a felted surface and are ignored by deer. Think of lambs ears (Stachys byzantina), wormwood (Artemisia), Jerusalem sage (Phlomis sp.) and the giant cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). Sounds like a great garden to me!

Grassy things

Top left, clockwise; assorted grasses, purple fountain grass with wormwood, Mountain Fire andromeda, dusty miller

Top left, clockwise; assorted grasses, purple fountain grass with wormwood, Mountain Fire andromeda, dusty miller

Surprisingly deer do not generally feast on grasses - maybe they are just too full of my Heuchera. That definitely opens up the design doorway for all sorts of heights, colors and form from the weeping Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) to upright feather reed grass (Calamagrostis sp.).

And bits and bobs…

Top left, clockwise; Olf Fashioned smoke bush, Axminster Gold comfrey, rhubarb, Highland Cream thyme

Top left, clockwise; Old Fashioned smoke bush, Axminster Gold comfrey, rhubarb, Highland Cream thyme

No real category here but I’m pleased to see that they have also ignored andromeda (Pieris japonica), Axminster Gold comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum ) , smoke bushes (Cotinus) and rhubarb.

While this list is far from definitive and indeed only represents a very small percentage of the deer resistant plants in my own garden, I hope it gives you a sense of what is possible. Many of these plants are also drought tolerant (since we are on well water that is an important consideration for me too). Careful selection is key but even then the deer will outwit you occasionally. For example while it is true that they don’t eat spirea – they DO eat the flowers.

Now as for the rabbits……………

What are your favorite deer resistant FOLIAGE plants?

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Ground Cover Collision!

Whether for sun or shade, the last finishing touch most of us plant is our ground cover plants. It’s that ever so important detail that makes a lovely garden design HOLY COW! But, how do you decide which ground covers are going to be best for your light conditions? What if you just simply can’t decide which one neeeeds to come home from the nursery with you? This one or that one, that one or this one?

Sometimes it’s both! If your light conditions, watering needs and soils are in harmony for more than one ground cover, how about a groundcover MASH-UP? A mash-up is when two great things, in our case plants, but it could just as easily be food, music, fabrics, etc. end up snuggling together to make ONE great look, taste or sound. Think peanut butter and chocolate, mint and chocolate, coffee and chocolate, wine and chocolate. Hmmmm, maybe I need chocolate now. ;-)

Acaena 'Purple Haze' with Sedum 'Oreganum' This Sedum oreganum ‘Oregon Stonecrop’ is a wonderful example of a lovely collision with Acaena inermis ‘Purple Sheep’s Burr’ as a flat, hardy and walkable ground cover for light traffic.

Not all ground covers are flat and walkable, some are fluffy and full like this combination of hosta ‘Halcyon’ with ‘Black Scallop’ Ajuga and white variegated Comfrey in the background. The triad of textures and cool colors are lovely in this eastern morning sun exposure.
'Black Scallop' Ajuga, Hosta 'Halcyon' and White Variegated ComfreyThis singular and exotic looking Paris podophylla stands tall above a monochromatic mash-up of ground covers. The hardy Asarum europaeum ‘European wild ginger’ is a glossy textural contrast to the low Adiantum venustum ‘Himalayan maidenhair fern’ in a shady nook.

Paris podophylla, Maidenhair Fern and European GingerWhy not try a ground cover mash-up in your own garden? Snuggle up a plant or two and see what foliage combinations you can create in your very own ground cover collision!

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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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Fine Foliage – What Makes A Spring Sophisticate?

#FineFoliage #Spring SophisicateWhen spring rolls around and we are finally let out of our house to play amongst the plants, we fling ourselves to the garden center and start lolling about the colorful rainbow of flowers. Which ones? Hmmmm, one of each? Yes, Primroses, Pansies, Hyacinths… Yes, you KNOW what’s coming, I have to say it. Ready?

Now repeat after me, “Flowers are fleeting, foliage is forever.” Ahhhhh, now isn’t that better?

A sophisticated container like this that I created for one of my clients is a great alternative to starting out the season with flowers that will only last a short while before the heat of summer is upon us. This shady courtyard entry is dark and contemporary, but I adored the clients choice of the tall, black, column pot for me to create this design.

One of my favorite modern color combinations is ideally suited to this location. Gold or chartreuse and white or white variegation lends itself to coming across as so clean, fresh and textural. I love how the two leaf shapes mirror each other in a way. But, the real star of this container combination is the quirky conifer. I specifically chose it because of its sweet tilt. It gives not only a contrast of texture, but a fresh green distinction from the other palmate shaped leaves.

This refined spring combination will continue to look great well into the growing season. Still think you need a floral based design to feel like its spring? Now repeat after me….. :-)

Key Players:
‘Stoplight’ Foamy Bells, Heucherella- Citrus bold color foliage contrasted with red veins is striking and radiant in the shady nooks and corners of the garden or containers. It’s fluffy foliage stays colorful in part shade to shade from spring to fall. Profuse white flowers are charming in spring and hold for months. 14-16″ tall and wide for zones 4-9

‘Gryphon’ Begonia- Upright, green splashed with silver and white palmate foliage is a full on thriller in a container out in the garden or as a tremendously hardy houseplant. In part shade to shade, it has subtle, blush pink flowers and grows 16-18″ tall and wide for zones 7-11.

Slender Hinoki False Cypress, Chamaecyperis obtusa ‘Gracilis’- This graceful, arching branched conifer is a lovely and narrow small-scale tree in a container or garden. Its open branched, pyramidal form is loaded with sophisticated personality with its tiny, deep green needles and bronze winter color. Slow growing in part shade to full sun maxing out at 8-12 ft. tall by 4-5 ft. wide in zones 4-8.

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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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Click image to zoom

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

Click image to zoom

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

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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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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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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The Bold and the Blissful

Gardens that are fortunate to have shade or part sun, have design options for special effects with foliage colors and textures that the full sun gardens envy. It’s imperative to take notice of the high contrast details from every angle, they’re worth ogling!

This series of photos illustrates some combinations of plants where the bold leaves in all of their drama, meets the delicate, lacy, strappy, exquisite tendrils, fronds, and froth of smaller foliage. Some of the photos are simply pointing out foliage details that ought to be noted!
Slide1Gold variegated Yucca on the left and a white variegated Daylily both rise boldly from the fluff of Ajuga flowers in spring.
Slide2Hosta is a never ending source of options for combinations of both striking and delicate in a small area. Small space gardeners rejoice! On the left, this clean white variegated Hosta is paired with fragrant Sarcococca humulis. On the right is a blue and gold painted Hosta with a fluffy chartreuse fern. Both design companions highlight each plants strength beautifully.

Slide3The old-fashioned lace of this fern, Athyrium n. ‘Ghost’ unfurling in front of the seersucker texture of the Hosta in the background is pure composition bliss.

Slide4Keeping the color palette bright and yet subtle make it impossible to ignore the fine filigree details of the Fern against the Hosta.

Slide5A subtle circle of Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium n. ‘Pictum’) is mesmerizing with its variety of color and textures.

Slide6The Cobra heads on these emerging fern fronds were enough of a detail to stop me in my tracks!

Slide7Variegated Lily of the Valley is the dramatic broad-leaved companion downstage from the tousle of red and bronze foliage of the Astilbe.

Slide8Prominent and pronounced leaves of the Rheum or Ornamental Rhubarb stand tall and proud in the border with machismo. If you bend down and look at the undersides of the foliage on a bright day, you can see through the light bronze and enjoy the more feminine, cinnamon and mauve-pink coloration from underneath.

Slide9The delicate, almost crochet looking leaves of green are in their own contrasting striped jail of golden variegated Iris foliage budding up for spring.

Slide10This Rodgersia may have the texture of Elephant skin but certainly not the color! Milk chocolate foliage is a delicious contrast to the smooth as lemon chiffon pie yellow of the Carex in the background.

Slide12Kirengeshoma palmata or Yellow wax-bells is a late season bloomer with soft butter cream-colored flowers. But, until August, we will need to be thrilled with this fine-cut silvery foliage.

Slide13Bergenia and Hellebore are done blooming and now they become a sturdy green backdrop for the soft grassy texture of Molinia c. Variegata or Variegated Moore Grass.

Slide11This Box Honeysuckle, Lonicera n. ‘Twiggy’ is the perfect golden compliment to the broad-leaved, fresh green foliage surrounding it.

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